Show highlights include:
- Why 99.9% of Men’s Dating Advice keeps you from finding true love (3:15)
- How your competitive drive bleeds into your emotional life and ruins your relationships (6:24)
- Is your self-talk sowing the seeds of conditional love? Here’s why you need to love yourself first (10:45)
- Why always “climbing the ladder” leads to arguments in your love life (14:01)
- How the fear of a “BBD” makes you feel like you’re not good enough and how this fear keeps you from true love (16:55)
- Why pushing yourself to achieve only leads to toxic shame that drives the women you love away (21:08)
- How your desire to be the richest, smartest, or hottest guy always leads to a competition you can never win (26:10)
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in dating, relationships, success, and fulfillment, and explore the psychology of masculinity. Now here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to another episode of the Masculine Psychology Podcast. I’m David Tian, your host, and I am excited to welcome you to Episode 13.
In this and the next few episodes, we’re going to be getting into the pathologies of success and why focusing on success in the wrong way can actually sabotage your success with women and in life, and especially with achieving fulfillment and happiness in life.
If you take to heart what I share with you in this episode and the next couple of episodes, then you’ll actually be able to achieve what is like a holy grail in the men’s development space, especially related to dating, which is an effortless attractiveness, to be able to effortlessly attract the right woman for you in an intimate relationship. [01:08.7]
What that means is you won’t have to do anything extra. You won’t have to do any techniques or strategies, or think about any tactics or copy and paste any text messages, or focus on any step-by-step how-tos. You can just be you, and just by being you, just by you existing as you, you can effortlessly attract the right woman for you for success in a long-term relationship. It’s effortless because you’re not needing to do anything extra. There’s no extra effort involved. It’s just you being you.
What I’m saying here and what I’ll be presenting over the next couple of episodes goes against and undercuts all of the dating advice that you’ll find anywhere, including obviously the internet, because the dating advice will always say you’re not getting the results you want in your dating life and here’s how to do it, Steps 1, 2, 3. Say this, say that. Do this, do that. [02:08.0]
What I’m saying is, if you just take to heart what I’m covering here, you will become attractive and will not need to make any extra effort to attract the right woman for you if you want to succeed in an intimate relationship. Now, how is that? Does that interest you?
If that weren’t enough, then here’s another big why, why you should pay attention to this, why this is important and it’s this. If you take to heart what I’m sharing in this episode, in the next couple of episodes and really this entire podcast, then what will happen for you is that you’ll no longer be trying to get love, or even attraction or connection, based on what you can do for the other person or just based on you can do, period. Instead you’ll finally be loved for you, not for what you can do, not for what you have, but for you. [03:09.5]
Now, again, I can’t emphasize this enough. What I am saying here and what I will be presenting over the next few episodes flies in the face of 99.9 percent—I’m leaving that 0.1 percent just in case, but all I would say, all that I’ve seen—of the men’s development advice on dating and, of course, all of the men’s dating advice that I’ve ever come across, and this is because all of that advice is based on this myth of value-based love, which is that you should try to be loved for the value you offer.
Now, how many times have you heard that before, offer more value, offer her more value, be somebody, a man, who can offer more value? How many times have you heard that phrase? And this phrase, you might have heard a lot in the business context where it’s a capitalist system, so you’re trying to create transactions where you’re exchanging value. [04:15.2]
The problem then is that all of these business guys/dating coaches—and that’s almost always the case. The successful dating coaches are actually internet marketers in disguise—they proffer this advice to offer more value. It’s as if they were talking about their own businesses, offer more value and you’ll get what you want in return.
This can work in the short term when it comes to relationships, especially when it comes to just getting sex, and in fact, if all you’re after is getting sex, then it can simply become a naked exchange of value, money for sex, for instance. But then when it comes to love, it completely falls apart because the problem is it undercuts the entire motivation and not the entire motivational basis for love. [05:05.5]
In this episode and the next few episodes, I’m specifically speaking to achievers, those who not just are successful in life or have worldly success, but who have had to work really hard for it or who have had to strive for it, and who build into part of why they’re doing it as they’re trying to earn their self-worth, that if they can achieve, then they’re of value and then they’re worthy or more worthy than they would have been if they hadn’t achieved.
Okay, so this is primarily or maybe foremost a message to achievers, but it applies to everybody, but it will be felt most acutely by achievers I think and I’ll be addressing them directly in this episode—so, hey, achievers, fellow achievers, what’s up? [05:59.0]
Achievers come to believe that, in order to be loved, we have to be significant. We have to be worthy. We have to be special in some way that makes us stand out from others, special in the sense of comparison, significant when compared to somebody else, so by definition, we can all be special. Right, so we have to be significant in that way. We’ve got to stand out compared to others.
As achievers, our curse is the belief that we have to earn love, and as achievers or men in dating, single men and dating especially, we take the same limiting, toxic, false belief into the dating realm and we then also believe that we have to earn whatever we want from the woman, whether it’s attention, attraction, affection, adoration, devotion, loyalty, etc., and ultimately it’s because the thing that we want the most is being love. We have this belief around love, and then, of course, downstream or the lesser things would obviously also have to be earned. [07:06.8]
However, with love, any love you have to earn is not love by definition. Love by its very definition is unconditional. Any love that is conditional is, by definition, not love, but something else, some other feeling or state. The very definition of love precludes the earning of it. If you have to earn love through achieving, then what the other is saying to you is “I love you because of your achievement, and once you stop achieving, well, I’ll stop loving you.” Thus, what that person loves is actually you yourself. It’s you achieving or it’s you having achieved. That person who loves conditionally actually doesn’t love you for you at all, not for you yourself. [07:55.0]
Everyone finds it easy to love those who are lovable, to be attracted to those who are attractive, to admire those who are admirable. You’re not listening to this because you crave to be loved for your achievements or accomplishments, or diplomas or trophies, or even that six pack you’ve worked so hard for. It’s no mystery why someone who is significant is loved.
That’s not why you’re still listening to this, for at some level you recognize that love that is earned isn’t going to satisfy that deep need. You want to be loved for you, not for your six pack or your diplomas or your trophies. You want to be loved even if you lose your six pack or lose your money, or your cars or houses or your fame, or you fall on bad times or you get into an accident and lose your limbs. You want to be loved for you. That’s because from the moment we were born, we’ve craved this love, unconditional love, which is really the only kind of love. All other loves are conditional loves and I’ve already explained why that’s not really love. [09:02.5]
Now let me quote here from Erich Fromm in the book, Art of Loving:
“Unconditional love corresponds to one of the deepest longings, not only of the child, but of every human being; on the other hand, to be loved because of one’s merit, because one deserves it, always leaves doubt; maybe I did not please the person whom I want to love me, maybe this, or that—there is always a fear that love could disappear. Furthermore, “deserved” love easily leaves a bitter feeling that one is not loved for oneself, that one is loved only because one pleases, that one is, in the last analysis, not loved at all but used.”
Okay, that’s from Eric Fromm, Art of Loving. What we want is to know that it’s not all the stuff we’ve achieved, but who we are deep down inside. That’s what we want to be loved for. That’s what you want to be loved for, you yourself. You don’t want to have to do anything in order to be loved. You want to be loved unconditionally. All you have to do is to be. This love need not be earned. It need not be deserved. It need not be achieved. We are all born worthy of unconditional love. [10:17.8]
This myth of value-based love is connected to a distinction I’ve made earlier in other episodes, between performance-based self-esteem and being-based self-esteem. Achievers, sadly, base their self-esteem, their self-worth, on what they can do, their performance or their achievements, their accomplishments, maybe even what they have, and they say to themselves consciously or unconsciously, Because I have these achievements or I have these skills, or maybe these qualities, therefore, I am worthy. I’m good enough and that’s what I should be loved based on.
Unfortunately, that means that they are inviting and creating for themselves, and they’re loving themselves conditionally and they’re inviting conditional relationships, which will always preclude love, because love, by its definition, is unconditional. [11:15.4]
The opposite of performance-based self-esteem is being-based self-esteem. That is, your self-esteem and self-worth is based on your very being, that you are. Now, this is incredibly hard for achievers to wrap their minds around because, very often, in order for them to be so driven to strive, they would have internalized at a very deep level a value system that precludes love and it’s a value system that requires earning love. Often, they’ve never even considered this or reflected on it and aren’t even aware of it, but that is this background belief operating in their system. [11:53.3]
In this episode, in the next couple of episodes, I’m going to be directly speaking to that and, hopefully, after a few episodes, it will sink in, after a few weeks, and they will finally get a big part of the messages of my content over the past few years. A lot of that has been directly and often indirectly counteracting this belief that you have to earn love and that you have to earn your self-worth.
Okay, I’m going to start by pointing out how you can know if you’re suffering from this problem, from this pathology of success, and I’ve got three points for this. Let’s just dive in.
The first point is if you are under the burden of a toxic achievement mindset, then you will often find yourself restless. It’s what I call “the restlessness of unworthiness”, and you’ll find it hard to be present, especially in your personal life. You might have seen people like this who are high achievers or they seem to have worldly success on the outside, and when you’re with them in a social setting—I’ve seen this very often in the nightclubs—where this guy is really well-dressed, knows a lot of people, and can never seem to settle. [13:10.3]
His eyes are always darting to and fro, looking, scanning, looking for where the hottest girls are or the coolest guys are, or the richest guys or the most high-status people, who the VIPs are, and when the Dom train comes through with the sparklers and the row of girls, he’s always looking, Oh, who’s getting this order and how do I fall in the status hierarchy? Constantly scanning, he’s restless.
No matter how much he achieves, he feels like he’s not yet good enough to be the top dog, and even if he is the top dog, he’s constantly scanning to see if there’s someone coming in that he didn’t know who was going to topple him from that top position. He will discover that it’s very hard to be present in the moment in his personal life, and he might have discovered this because, after the initial honeymoon period of three to six months, his girlfriend starts to act out. [14:05.7]
Maybe she starts to feel ignored and neglected, needs more attention, because even when she’s with him and it’s just the two of them, his mind is not fully there with her and, instead, he’s thinking about what he needs to do to keep running the rat race in his head—and that might be business. It could be fitness. He could be thinking about how to get the next raise at the job or break through the next plateau in his business or whatever. Whatever it is that he’s basing his significance on, he’s constantly churning in his mind about how to get that and he can never really be at peace and calm. He’ll find this especially obvious when there’s nothing else going on in the room and he’s one-on-one with somebody, but he can’t be fully present with them … [14:49.0]
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… Or if he is, it can only be for short times, and if you’re sensing this from the inside—in other words, maybe you are that way. Maybe you have found that it’s hard for you to be fully present with your spouse, your girlfriend, your family members, maybe your nephews or nieces, and instead your mind is elsewhere thinking about the next big score that you need to, that you have to make in order to keep ahead of the game and you’re never quite there, you’re never fully there—if that’s you and you have this restlessness, this is a big sign that you’re laboring under the weight, you are living under the burden of this pathology of success, this what I call “the achievers curse”, and this is what I call also “the restlessness of unworthiness.” [16:17.6]
You actually feel unworthy of love and affection and significance and so on, but until you earn it, and even when you earn it, you have to keep earning it, so you can never really rest. You can’t really settle down. You can’t really be at peace, because just around the corner is the next competitor or just around the corner is the next challenge that you have to also overcome. You have to continually, each day or each moment, overcome the next challenge and win. You have to keep winning in order for you to feel worthy. Is that you? Do you sense in yourself a restlessness of unworthiness?
Okay, that moves right into the second point. What is the basis of this? It’s fear, the fear that you’re not good enough, and one way that I often teach this is the BBD, the bigger, better deal, when I first started teaching this in the context of dating. [17:06.3]
I’ll tell you about how I personally discovered this in just a little bit, but I want to point out what it is. The fear that you’re not good enough, even when you’re really, really good, even when you’re a great achiever, even in when you’ve won a lot, even when you are quite significant in most other people’s eyes, you’re still laboring under this kind of restlessness of unworthiness because it’s never enough, because just around the corner might be the bigger, better deal.
When it comes to dating, the bigger, better deal is easy to spot. It would just be the hotter guy, the funnier guy, the higher-status guy, the richer guy, the more well-connected guy, the sexier guy. Whatever it is that you’re counting on in order to attract her or to keep her attracted, there could be somebody else who has more of that or who scores higher on that than you, or you might actually backslide and become worse at it over time and then make yourself susceptible to being beaten in this competition, this never ending competition of worthiness for love, sex, connection, whatever it is—and this restlessness is actually born, first and foremost, out of this fear, this fear that you’re not good enough. [18:17.6]
That’s a really important one just to pause on for a second because most achievers have quite a lot of pride and they’ve got a big ego. I know, I count myself in that category, and saying, hey, it’s actually fear is supposed to be a little bit triggering, supposed to be a little activating, because there’s another way to put it and that’s in the language or category of stress.
All achievers are very proud of the stress they have in their lives. The more stress, the more significant they are, because that means they’re taking on more responsibility and challenges and they’re thinking big. Okay, so stress is actually the achiever’s word for fear.
All stress goes back to some fear that, if you don’t follow through, or if you don’t make it somehow, if you don’t make the deadline or if you don’t win or something along those lines, if you don’t get the goal, then something bad is going to happen. [19:06.0]
Ultimately, if you trace it back far enough, the thing that they fear the most is, at the end of it, if they don’t succeed. Then that means they’re not good enough, but specifically not good enough for what? Not good enough to be loved.
Okay, and that brings us to the final point of the three. How can you tell whether you are laboring under the pathology of success, whether you are suffering from the achiever’s curse? Is your achieving part tired? Is it overworked? Is it burnt out?
Is the meaning behind what you’re doing in order to feel significant and to keep being significant good enough, whether it’s good enough at your career or your big ambitious goals for your money-making schemes, or for your relationship or to attract the women in your life?
Are you burnt out just trying to keep up, just trying to continually prove your worth by achieving or even just trying to maintain? Maybe you’re at the top of your heap and now you’ve just got to keep maintaining it. Are you tired? [20:09.5]
Here’s another way to ask that question. When will it be enough? When will it be enough for you to rest, for you to have peace and calm and to feel your self-worth just in you being you, not all the things you can do or have done or have, but just in you being you? When will it ever be enough for you to achieve that? Because the way I’ve asked it and it’s the way the achiever would put it, that you’d have to achieve that, which is the oxymoronic part of it that would actually undercut actually having it or, if you have it, enjoying it because you are trying to achieve it. You don’t actually have to achieve it. You just need to realize it. [20:52.4]
When will it be enough? Because even when you attain success in this kind of tortured manner, by this obsessive drive or beating yourself up to get there, or relying on willpower and discipline solely or primarily, this kind of torture to success, even when you get it, you’re actually just feeding your own narcissism, which will eventually hit reality and you will be forced to confront the shame that underlies all narcissism, the shame in yourself that you’re not enough.
Because you’re ashamed of yourself that you’re not enough just in who you are, in order to cover up that shame, you’ve got to do all of this stuff to achieve it, to earn it, to prove your worth and your significance, and this actually just feeds the narcissism that is so painful.
On the outside, narcissism looks like, Oh, you’ve got lots of self-esteem. You have high self-esteem because you think very highly of yourself. Actually, real narcissism or anything that approaches it is actually just a compensating mechanism. They’re compensating for the toxic shame that they’re not enough. [22:00.0]
When will it be enough? If you are a true achiever or an experienced achiever, you will know that the honest answer is never. But if you’re an early achiever or if you’re just young, you might actually have a number in mind. “It will be enough when I reach 10 million or when I exit at a billion-dollar company.”
I’ll tell you this. I’ve worked with and I am continuing to work with plenty of people who have founded and exited from billion-dollar companies and others who have founded and exited from nine-figure, multiple nine-figure companies. It’s never enough to feel like your self-worth can rest in that accomplishment.
You might go on vacation for a while, for months, maybe for a couple of years looking for something deeper, but unless you experience and see at an experiential level your self-worth and your being, you’re just going to go back to the way you used to earn it because that’s what’s familiar. That’s the only thing you know—and for us, achievers, that’s actually built into our operating system, so to speak. [23:07.3]
Just as a reminder, what I’m referring to as an achiever here is not simply someone who succeeds. As I’ve already pointed out, you could be really good at something without working at it, maybe just because you have a talent for it or maybe because you love doing it so much that you do it so much that you naturally become good at it while hardly even realizing it until later. That’s not the achiever I’ve been referring to.
Achievements as a childhood coping strategy to get, keep, or win back the admiration, love, or connection of, or even just to placate our parent figures, this is the adaptive option that I’ve been focusing on so far. This achiever grows up with this method as his primary way of getting respect, connection, love, and he ends up approaching his dating life and intimate relationship with the same mentality, that he has to earn it. This makes so much intuitive sense to him that it’s incredibly difficult for him to imagine life lived without this underlying guiding assumption. [24:06.3]
In the next few episodes, I’m going to be speaking directly to this, so that maybe over time in a kind of war of attrition, we’ll wear down the achiever’s defenses, so that you can come to see a new way of viewing himself and his value.
Okay, so let me share with you how I personally came to this realization in my own life and I’ll start with the bigger, better deal, which I shared in Point 2 here.
When it came to my dating life, way back, this was, I guess, 17 years ago now, over 17 years ago, I was coming out of a bad marriage and we were at the separation and then later divorce stage, and I was just trying to figure things out, being newly single. When I found out back then that you could study and that people have studied dating and mating and brought it down to a science, and you could study it and you could master it, and I had to come up with lots of innovative ways of applying the science, but once I discovered you could actually get better at it, I applied my achiever mindset to it. [25:09.2]
Just as I did to my PhD studies and all of the different subspecialties I had to master for it, I just saw this as another field that I had to master, and this was a very practical field that involves field work in the real world, but it was just like many anthropologists would, just perfecting these techniques and bringing that achiever’s mindset to it.
One of the things that I had come up with at the time was this concept of the bigger, better deal, and this idea that in order to avoid having to compete with the bigger, better deal, that is the hotter guy, the richer guy, the higher-status guy or whatever, to undercut that social arms race, I would just be better at socializing. I would make social arts and charm and seduction, and all of the research that I had been working on in this area of seducing women, seduction and attraction, and making that my specialty there and that would be the way that I would undercut the typical social arms race, which is the hottest guy, the richest guy, whatever, the typical, conventional, traditional standards and metrics by which men competed with each other in order to attract women. [26:22.0]
There’s a whole science around this. This is just standard evolutionary psychology and it had all of these different metrics in the order in which women generally preferred them or prioritize them, and the more of these you had, the better you would do in the mating world than the next guy who doesn’t have these or isn’t as good at these other things.
The one set of metrics that wasn’t included the studies was just your skill with socializing or, when it came to women, with seduction, with being able to generate and create sexual tension and flirting and all of that, and that would be the way that I would undercut the bigger, better deal. [26:57.1]
It only occurred to me many years later that that is completely false because you’re still competing. You’re still competing on those metrics of the social arts or whatever you want to call it, the charisma, and it was just a matter of time before the next guy who had more charisma or who was better at flirting or whatever it was that you were counting on, and had maybe beaten you on all of these other metrics—hotter, sexier, had more money, more access to resources, status, etc.—and then you’d be vulnerable to losing out to that guy.
You could be in a relationship and this new guy could saunter in with his superior skill sets in social arts, plus, maybe higher scores on all of these other metrics, and you would legitimately lose. You’re actually setting yourself up for this, no matter what you do, if you’re banking on some kind of achievement in order to be worthy of love, you are setting yourself up for long-term failure—and I discovered this the hard way, being cheated on several years into a relationship and then having to go into psychotherapy myself. [28:03.0]
I was so transformed by it that I ended up devoting many years to studying it and training it, and I now do this primarily as the modality of my work and finally being able to see why that whole strategy of undercutting the bigger, better deal with social arts totally didn’t work. It just shifted the grounds of debate or shifted the grounds of competition, or enlarged it, but it didn’t actually stop the competition from happening. It was still performance-based self-esteem and you did not want this to be you.
I wasted several years of my life. See, in hindsight, I realize all of the pain for those several years and the underlying sort of nagging pain of narcissism, of never being settled, never being able to relax truly or not for very long, this restlessness of unworthiness I was living with, sort of like this chronic pain in the background, this chronic stress where these parts that were working so hard were just constantly tired and overworked and burnt out. [29:03.1]
To the question, When will it be enough? it was really, honestly never. Even when you get it, you have to keep working at it to keep it that it took several years of this painful state of existence—and, in fact, that had just applied to the dating world before that my whole entire life. It was applied to all these other areas of my life, the typical achiever areas of career in school and all of that—and you don’t want that to be you.
If you are an achiever and you are tired, you are burnt out, and you’re answering to the question, When will it be enough? and your answer is never, and you’re actually very stressed and you also feel this restlessness of unworthiness, you do not want this to continue because there’s no way out in using the current operating system that you’re laboring under. You’ve got to have a paradigm shift and see everything yourself and the world, and your place in the world and your relations to other people in a completely new way. [29:58.8]
There is a way to do this. If you invest in yourself in this way, in this war of attrition, I’ve been calling it, just slowly chewing away or chipping away at the toxic shield of the achiever and eventually get to that tender core underneath it, then you will be able to experience a lifetime of gains and it will result in you being effortlessly attractive to the right women for you to succeed in a long-term relationship with, and for you finally being loved for you, not for what you can do or what you have, or what qualities you’ve earned or have developed. It’s just for you, just in you being you.
This is an incredibly hard concept for achievers to really understand, and I get it. It might sound really foreign and you might actually have a resistance to it and I welcome that, because in the next episode, I’m going to be getting into what to do about it and also I’m going to be going deeper into the whys, the sources for this, so we can uproot it from the origins. [31:03.8]
Okay, so that’s all coming up in the next episode. If you like this one, definitely show up for the next one—and if you like this, please share it with your friends and anyone you think would benefit from it.
Please leave us a rating on Apple Podcasts. It really helps us out, and I appreciate all the feedback that you’ve been sending in. Thank you so much and I look forward to hearing from you and to seeing you and welcoming you in the next episode. Thanks so much. David Tian, signing out.
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