Be yourself, no matter what they say

5 Jan

One of the deepest contradictions about dating advice is that there’s so much of it, yet women are constantly complaining about men not “being themselves”. What did your date mean when she told you, “Just be yourself”? Obviously she didn’t mean, “I like you the way you are.” If she’s found you attractive by “being yourself”, what’s she complaining about?

On the surface, "Be yourself" runs contrary with the reality that many men really need to polish up their social skills. Going deeper, however, it’s talking about a truth that many men need to learn.

If, "Manners maketh man" as someone said,

Then he’s the hero of the day,

It takes a man to suffer ignorance and smile,

Be yourself no matter what they say,

– Sting, "An Englishman in New York"

It’s really easy to go about taking dating advice the wrong way. So many men take on advice given by Pick Up Artists (pretty much the only type of detailed dating advice for men out there), only to run into smack into setback after setback. They’re then told that success will take time, that it’ll take lots of practice before they can feel comfortable using the techniques and the memorised scripts.

I, too, agree that success will come with time and practice. But I also think that, in most cases, it’s time wasted. Given enough time, it’s true anyone following such advice successfully take on a more attractive persona, or at least become comfortable being someone else. But this is a long, long way about it. What’s keeping these men from meaningful interactions with women isn’t their lack of technique. It’s their deep-seated belief that they won’t be accepted by others if they don’t become someone else.

To put it plainly, being told to “Be yourself” is not a comment on your social skills, and you won’t get better at women by getting better. It’s about holding the belief that you can attract women as you are now, if you’re willing to stop judging and start accepting yourself.

What does it mean, then, when you’re told you’re "not being yourself?"

You’re not being yourself when:

  • You hang out at nightspots and clubs to talk to girls, even though you hate the noise and the booze, and you dance with two left feet.
  • You try to be “cocky and funny” in your conversation, believing it will relieve or disguise your anxiety.
  • When your date tells you about her great relationship with her parents, you choose to hide your pain over your parents’ divorce twenty years ago, and talk about the importance of family values.
  • Instead of admitting, "No, I haven’t read Jodi Picoult. What does she write about?", you say, "Yeah she’s one of my favourite authors. I love romantic novels too!"
  • The date’s going great, and you think really like the girl, yet you choose to hang back and let your date call you first lest you’re seen as being too interested.

When you’re afraid of saying the wrong thing at dates, you’re not being yourself. When you’re afraid to say what you really feel, you’re not being yourself. When you let your date state her preference first so that you can choose a most favourable response, you’re not being yourself. Whenever you hide your true thoughts, opinions or feelings, you’re not being yourself. Not "being yourself" runs contrary to the intent of dates–to know each other better–and the very foundation of relationships–honesty, vulnerability, and trust.

It’s amazing how many horror stories I hear about people who can’t be themselves with women. Some are amusing: A guy couldn’t handle spicy food, but went along with his date’s suggestion to go Thai for dinner. (Hilarity ensued.) Some are not so amusing: the guy who joined her girlfriend at church for weeks, only to have her discover later that he secretly thought all Christians are hypocrites.

Women are not stupid. Many of them are far more sensitive than you can imagine. Most of them will detect your camouflage early, and–you guessed it–tell you to be yourself. But it’s far worse when they don’t. You can’t keep up the charade or avoid her questions forever. One day she’ll find out your real person. She will feel deceived and hurt.

How, then, do you "be yourself?"

For starters, "Being yourself" means not blindly following advice, and asking the right questions.

Should you give flowers on a first date? Don’t just ask: would she like flowers? Ask yourself: are you a flowers person? Should you make jokes? Don’t ask: would jokes make her like me more? Ask instead: Do I feel like joking? Does she need cheering up?

“Being yourself” is the opposite of “You must be a funny person” (because women appreciate humour) and “You must be a romantic person” (because women love romance). First ask yourself: are you a funny person? Are you a romantic person? Some people will have no idea. That’s fine. Let your date be the one to judge whether you’re a funny or serious person. Don’t worry about fitting yourself into a box, thinking that box is what women are after.

Others will believe they are not romantic by nature, and conclude that they are doomed. To these people, I say: Stop judging yourself. Everyone is romantic and funny in their own way. You simply have to respond honestly to your feelings and thoughts, and react to your date and the situation. You don’t have to plan everything in order for things to work. (Because women love spontanaeity. 😉 )

"Being yourself" is not a technique. It starts from knowing yourself. It starts from a decision to be emotionally honest to yourself and others at all times, even if you risk rejection. It starts from the choice to have no agenda with women, other than enjoying the moment and each others’ company.

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