Before we start, I want to acknowledge that by “Inner Game,” I’m specifically referring to the inner game concepts which are popularized and taught within the pick up community and men’s dating advice industry.
When talking about inner game, pick up theory focuses primarily on three areas: raising emotional state, developing an awareness of one’s social value and increasing it, and encouraging delusions of grandeur. In this (long) article I will show how these three factors actually hurt many men, or at least sacrifice long-term life satisfaction for a few short-term results. I will then present the three REAL factors to developing rock-solid “inner game” and how you can start achieving real, long-lasting
improvements in your life.
The False Promises
1. Emotional State – One of the first and easiest inner game concepts taught within pick up theory, emotional state is a simple concept. Emotions are infectious and a man who is feeling good and excited is going to make others feel good and excited around him, thus making him more attractive. The second benefit is that the higher one’s emotional state (i.e., the more awesome you feel), the less anxious and analytical you’ll be. Pick up theory dedicates a lot of time and effort to teaching men how to “pump” their emotional state on demand through physical activities, so-called warm up approaches, music or dancing, affirmations, visualizations, breaking social norms, silly rituals or even some eastern spiritual practices such as “being in the moment,” and meditative practices… yes, while out in a night club.
There are three issues with emotional state and the way in which it is taught. The first is that a high emotional state, although helpful, is not necessary to be successful with women or in social situations. You can go out to a party feeling like crap, not wanting to talk to anyone, and not caring if you talk to any girls, and still meet an amazing person and even have sex. It’s less likely, but it happens all the time. So the first problem is that the utility of state is vastly overrated. It’s not necessary. Less experienced guys overrate state because it’s usually the first tool with which they successfully overcome a lot of their social anxiety and therefore they assume that it’s always necessary to overcome that anxiety.
The second issue with emotional state is that it’s like a drug, every time you “pump it,” you need a little more the next time to get it back. So for instance, the first time you go out, simply talking to a girl for five minutes may be enough to get you feeling excited and amazing. But after a few weeks, suddenly you find yourself needing to dance and do silly things to get that same feeling back and to beat back the anxiety. Then a few months later, those silly things you did with your friend or wing are no longer working, so you need something else. Eventually, nothing will work to get you into state anymore. Or at least nothing will ever work like it used to. And the problem with state is that the more you chase it, the less likely you are to feel it. Eventually you end up becoming a self-conscious mess, bored, standing around bars bummed out that you feel bummed out… which makes you more bummed out. Instead of actually working through your anxiety, you became a state junkie, and eventually ran out of supply.
The final issue with the way emotional state is taught it that it subtly re-affirms a man’s belief that he’s not good enough. If he feels tired or bored, teaching him that he must be in a good emotional state is quietly telling his sub-conscious that he’s insufficient and needs something outside of himself to be attractive to women. Basically any time an action or belief implies that you need something outside of yourself to be attractive to women, it’s a safe bet that that action or belief is going to lower your self-esteem and make you feel worse about yourself, even if you’re not conscious of it. This will be a repeated theme in this article.
2. Social Value – In pick up theory, the concept of social value is described as the root of all attraction. It’s often repeated that you need to “bring value” to every interaction. Techniques are created in order to raise your value and even lower the value of others. Does she see you as a high value male? Are you higher value than your friends? Does telling her that you like computer games lower your value? Does the kind of beer you drink make you higher value or lower value? These questions begin to criss-cross the minds of men as they evaluate all of their actions and behaviors in new terms, and it often drives them to paranoia.
There are two problems with the way social value is taught, and the problems are huge. While the reasoning behind social value is correct (humans are naturally attracted and more interested in people who add value to our lives or that we perceive as important), what’s absolutely damaging is the way this concept is applied to dating advice. I’ve seen it wreck many a man’s self esteem.
The first problem is that social value is taught in pick up theory purely in terms of status, popularity and utility. Emotions are disregarded, when, in fact I would argue that we derive the greatest sense of value from those whom we connect with emotionally. For instance, let’s take my best friend from childhood as an example. We’ve known each other for over 15 years. We grew up together. And we’re completely different now. We have little in common: he rarely goes out and parties, he never travels, he works a fairly standard corporate job, and although he’s not bad with girls, he’s not exactly an all-star either. Why would I value him? He offers me no tangible benefits. He possibly makes me look bad in front of girls. His life is not as exciting or interesting as mine.
What we do have is a lifetime of shared experience and emotional investment in one another. I love the guy like a brother and if I was in a hospital room somewhere dying, he’d be one of the first people to drop everything and come. That is value.
Yet pick up theory would recommend that I drop my friend because he was “holding me back,” and “lowering my value” around girls. They would tell me that part of becoming a high value male is leaving my low value friends behind.
Framing value in this manner literally dehumanizes interactions and sucks all of the joy and pleasure out of meeting and connecting with people. It leaves only an empty shell of validation, which you can then excitedly go on a forum and post about to all of your lair buddies. You will become superficial and therefore only attract other superficial people to you: people who only see you in terms of increasing their popularity, their status or using you to gain something — which is, of course, the way you see them.
And that’s not even the biggest problem with relying on social value! The worst part of focusing on value in all of your interactions is that it encourages you to change all of your desires, behaviors and actions to fit in line with what others want from you, particularly women. This makes you needy and destroys what little sense of self worth you have to begin with. No matter how much you mask it behind awesome clothes, club connections, catchy lines, and unbridled fake excitement, the behavior is inauthentic and you will eventually be exposed for the needy and unattractive man that you are.
And this is assuming that you’re even good enough at playing the social value game to get laid in the first place. If you’re like most men and NOT good enough at inflating your perceived value around others, then you’ll spend most of your social interactions obsessing and calculating what your “value” is in any given moment. This will sky-rocket your anxiety and repeatedly bash into your sub-conscious: “I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough, I’m not good enough.”
3. Delusions of Grandeur – A lot of pick up theory encourages men to begin fashioning themselves as “the man” or as a player or to “lord the club” or whatever other bizarre over-compensatory visualization people talk about these days. This advice basically amounts to the classic “fake it until you make it” advice. You take a nerdy, insecure guy, tell him to pretend that he’s a massive pimp daddy, and then he’s more likely to run around and behave in such a manner. Ideally, he’ll receive some positive reference experiences until the belief actually begins to sink in and he then embodies said pimp, player, lord or whatever the hell he is.
Although the “fake it until you make it” advice works in many situations, my main issue isn’t so much the method as much as the absurd idealization they’re trying to become. Rather than envisioning themselves as calm, in-control, principled and powerful men who are charming yet stern with those around them; men are instead encouraged to be “the life of the party,” to be a “fucking pimp,” to “live like a rock star,” etc., etc.
Take a quirky, 38-year-old, overweight software engineer, and get him to pretend that he’s a player and the living like a rock star, and you can see how things could easily get awkward.
Even if the men do manage to end up embodying these idealizations, these are superficial endpoints and lifestyles with no real meaning, and are unlikely to make them any happier. Sure, he’ll have some exciting experiences along the way, and he may impress some people. But deep down, he will go from being a lonely and depressed nerd, to a lonely and depressed party animal who has stuck his dick inside 20 or 30 vaginas. Not exactly the bastion of self-actualization everybody talks so much about.
But again, fate is crueler to the men who fail to embody their idealization. And most of the men do fail. No matter how long they try, they cannot keep up the farce in their head that they’re a bad ass player who parties like rock star and who fucks like a porn star, when they go out every night for a year straight and barely have anything to show for it. When it all does come crashing down (and it always does), it only reaffirms his original deep belief that he’s not good enough, that he has to fake being someone else for anyone to like him, and that he’ll never be loved or appreciated.
The Real Solutions
So what are the real ways to increase long-term confidence and happiness in someone, particularly with women? There are three major ways which I see: raise one’s self esteem, lower one’s social anxieties, and become comfortable with one’s emotions.
1. Raise Your Self Esteem – This should be the cornerstone of any self improvement teaching or program. A man’s self esteem is his base line of happiness and success. No matter what kind of short-term results or boosts you’re able to produce in his behavior, his low self-esteem will interpret these results in poor ways and his beliefs will soon drag him back to where he started.
How does one raise his self esteem? I’ll be writing a lot about this in the coming year, but here’s the short answer: commit to goals for no one else but yourself and accomplish them, take responsibility for everything that happens in your life, seek out activities and actions based on passion for the activity and not for approval or validation from others.
As mentioned earlier, any time one adopts an action or behavior solely to impress others or to receive some sort of validation from them, they are unconsciously signalling to themselves that they are not good enough to be loved and will reinforce their low self esteem. Even though they may experience short-term results, they are only hurting themselves in the long run. The reliance on emotional state does this. The obsession with social value does this (a lot). And trying to achieve some fake and superficial persona does this as well.
2. Lower Social Anxiety – I’m pretty certain that most of the men in pick up community suffer from some degree of social anxiety disorder. People afflicted with this condition over-analyze social interactions, become extremely nervous around others, believe they must impress others at all times, and attempt to plan or calculate their social interactions ahead of time. Sound familiar?
The most prescribed remedy for social anxiety in the pick up industry is upping one’s emotional state. This is not the most effective means. Emotional state is a by-product of overcoming social anxiety, not a cause. In my opinion the best way to overcome social anxiety is through a combination of relaxation techniques and then progressively desensitize oneself to the source of fear and anxiety. So instead of going out and doing stupid things in front of 20 girls in one night, it’s more useful to approach five girls a day for five days in a row, with very simple and basic questions and conversations. This is the foundation of my approach program which helps men overcome their fears in this manner.
But social anxiety applies to more than approaching or meeting new people. Anxiety is what leads us try to hard to impress others, to pretend to be something we’re not to gain approval, and to over-analyze our interactions and many other unhelpful behaviors.
3. Become Comfortable with One’s Emotions – If you peruse the pick up community you’ll regularly stumble across posts from men saying things such as, “How do I stop feeling so excited when she calls?” or “How do I stop getting nervous when I kiss her?” or “How do I stop getting mad when she teases me?”
Notice these questions are all framed as “How do I avoid my emotions?” rather than “How do I respond well to this emotion?” You can’t control how you feel. But you can control how you respond to how you feel.
Most men grow up conditioned to deny and avoid their emotions, and pick up theory reinforces this tendency by encouraging men to disconnect and detach from feeling anything for the women they get involved with.
But here’s the thing. You SHOULD feel butterflies in your stomach when you kiss a girl you like. You SHOULD get frustrated when she says something disrespectful. You SHOULD be excited when she calls you. That’s called having emotions. Welcome to humanity. The problem is not the emotions. The problem is the behavior. As they say, “Love the sinner, hate the sin.” Well, love the emotions, hate the behavior that results from those emotions.
Instead of trying to stop being excited to see a girl you like, focus on stopping the needy behavior you do when you feel excited. Most needy behavior stems from being uncomfortable experiencing one’s emotions. Once you get accustomed at accepting the emotions and still controlling your behavior despite them, then you will no longer be controlled by them. You’ll be free to experience and feel them without flinching or hiding from them. This will often necessitate an uncomfortable pain period, but the long term result will be that of a healthy, mature man who enjoys amazing relationships with amazing women.
I’m not claiming that pick up’s version of inner game makes everyone worse or doesn’t work for anyone. It works for some. My argument is simply that when it does work, it works indirectly and/or works for men who already have high self esteem but simply need to build situational confidence. Much of it is a placebo effect. And I think men could achieve quicker and more efficient results by focusing on the three solutions above instead.
Most of pick up’s inner game is adapted from self help writers such as Tony Robbins and Eckhart Tolle. There’s value in Robbin’s writings about personal power. But as soon as you apply personal power into a context of social value, you bastardize it and turn it into a toxic farce. Tolle’s writings about being present and detaching oneself from their ego are very powerful. But pick up undermines these teachings by using them to receive more validation from women. When you’re achieving personal power only to get something from someone else, then you’re not really achieving personal power. When your silencing your ego so that you can get validation from others, you’re not really silencing your ego.
Pick up limits its scope and only adopts mindsets and behaviors for the singular purpose of getting laid. And not getting laid for the joy of sex, or the joy of being with an amazing person, but for validation. For a notch. For a sweet LR, bro. And if you’re adopting behaviors and mindsets solely to achieve some form of external validation, even if they are the best mindsets and behaviors in the world, you will undermine your own self esteem and hurt yourself in the long run.
Improve yourself for you. Be who you want to be, not what you think some blond in a short skirt at Rave Tuesdays wants you to be. Sure sex can be a great motivator, but at the end of the day, the changes to your life need to be enacted by you, for no one but you. And the paradox, like many in life, is that once you quit worrying about impressing others and instead focus on impressing yourself, that’s when you begin to impress others. And yes, even women.