Category Archives for "Dating and Relationships"

Sep 28

How to Get Out of Depression

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships

Our decision making in all areas of life comes from unconscious aspects of our minds. If there’s something you are overly anxious or numb about, there may be an underlying emotion that you’ve repressed or are unconscious about. If you’re constantly unhappy, or constantly in toxic relationships with your friends and family members, then perhaps there’s something there as well.

Or perhaps, you may be facing some form of depression.

Struggling with Depression

I once completely flunked my examinations and got dumped by my ex girlfriend over a text message in a timeframe of a couple of weeks. I was due for military enlistment in a couple of weeks and needless to say those chain of events lead to a minor depressive period.

I looked to friends and family for advice but mostly they ended up giving me superficial or judgmental advice:

‘Just don’t think too much’
‘It’ll need to be more spiritual. That’s the problem with you Marcus’ 
‘You’re over thinking it’. 

I read the research on psychotherapy, I knew the benefits and I jumped straight. I didn’t really cared about what others would think. Stigma? Good. Unconventionality? Even better. I never bought all that unscientific NLP, superficial self help advice, in fact, I hated it. I need something more concrete, something that is based on the scientific method. Okay, psychology isn’t a hard science. I’m aware of that. However, it’s the closest bet.

I checked myself into psychotherapy at the age of 21. However, in hindsight, I didn’t take the benefits of psychotherapy seriously until my third year into it. That was because I went into my sessions with the Mr Know It all attitude:

‘Yeah, I’ve read the research behind it. I know my issues.’

However, intellectualising and/ or verbalising your issues are one thing, but processing them and grieving through them are a different other ball game.

Do You Need Therapy?

Now, if you’re wondering if you need therapy, here is a simple, helpful checklist I stole from Mark Manson’s article.

  • You have emotional or sexual impulses you don’t have control over angry outbursts, fear of intimacy, sexual anxiety, bouts of depression, etc.
  • You come from a difficult childhood, had absent parents or a poor relationship with your parents.
  • You’ve suffered some major traumas in your life (death of loved ones, abuse, major health problems, etc.).
  • You have compulsive behaviors which interfere with other areas of your life: i.e., drug/alcohol abuse, etc.
  • The majority of your relationships in your life are dysfunctional and/or unhealthy (always fighting, lots of blame/guilt, etc.). This includes friendships, significant others, family members.
  • You are overly pre-occupied with one aspect of your life. Common examples include an obsession with being “cool” or popular, obsession with impressing others, a constant need for approval from others, even obsessing about improving yourself (feeling like you’re never good enough), etc.

How to Get out of Depression: The Benefits of Psychotherapy

I’ll argue that many people struggling in different areas of their lives from relationships to personal finance have emotional stories that are out of touch with from their past. They often experienced past traumas, difficult childhoods and negative experiences that they themselves have not confronted and/or are completely unaware of. Yet, they go on years after years of chasing superficial fixes and are oblivious to their own emotional realities.

For example, through the years, I could always be charismatic with girls that I wasn’t emotionally invested in. It didn’t matter if she was hot or not, as long as I wasn’t emotionally invested, I could ‘perform’. However, when it came to a woman I actually felt something for, I would screw it up in the multitude of ways possible.

Through therapy, you’re forced ask better questions:

  • Why do you get nervous around that attractive person who is a complete stranger?
  • Why are you so invested in what others think of you?
  • Why are you avoidant of commitment?
  • Why do you feel unworthy of dating someone you’re genuinely attracted to, but feel completely worthy of dating someone you feel so so about?
  • Why do you measure yourself and base your self-esteem with certain achievements/ sexual conquests?

There’s also a catch 22: If you’re constantly wanting to better yourself, doesn’t that stem from the belief that you aren’t already good enough?

Psychotherapy can help you:

  • Understand how past traumatic events determine your attachment style, that determine the quality of your relationships
  • Why you may be overtly critical or judgment of yourself (could it be because you had an overly critical parent?)
  • The root of your lack of motivation, your anger or apathy in life
  • Help you be aware of your subconscious negative beliefs, the subconscious ways you measure yourself with others, and other unconscious drives
  • How you self sabotage yourself (not studying for exams and partying the night before) This might be rooted in a fear of failure from childhood

There are tons of other benefits, however, these are the main ones that helped me in my life.

Through therapy, you start digging into your past, your emotional development, your childhood. Perhaps you always find yourself in toxic romantic relationships in your life or get uncontrollably angry when someone criticises you on something minor, then perhaps there’s an unresolved emotion or belief there that you aren’t conscious about.

Perhaps, you had an absent father, and you’ve been resentful against him for all these years. That unconscious resentment causes you to be lack in sexual confidence with the opposite sex. Maybe, you’ve avoided commitment throughout your life because your ex girlfriend committed suicide. Maybe you lack confidence in your social life because you’ve been teased and bullied growing up.

There are multiple connected reasons and our psyche doesn’t work like an algorithm, but you get the rough idea.

In my experience, I always thought psychotherapy is a process where you cry it all out on a couch. However, I eventually found out that uncovering and working through negative emotions such as disgust, shame, anger, rage, ice cold bitterness, contempt and hatred is part of the therapeutic process as well. Psychotherapy helps you process the anger and the hurt in a safe environment. When you become more aware of those emotions, you are able to exert a great control over your behaviour.

Psychotherapy and the Stigma in Modern Culture

From personal experience and research, especially in the Asian culture, mental illness, depression is still stigmatized in culture in general. Modern culture stifles open conversations on emotions, depression, isolation, sex and relationships.

Ironically, the things that matter in life.

In fact, the word ‘client’ is often used by psychologists who think of psychological disorders not as illnesses but as problems in living.  

Unfortunately, our culture stigmatises getting help from a clinical professional. I’d even go as far to argue that if I had access to therapy earlier on in my teens, it would do so much better than those boring counselling sessions from the school counsellor (who no one gave a real fuck about her advice anyway).

Whenever I openly discuss therapy with my Asian friends, it gets kind of touchy. I know they’re afraid of how it’s perceived.

If you think about it, it’s similar to getting a personal trainer if you’re serious about getting really good at bodybuilding. You’re just getting one for your mind and emotions. I also have adviced some of my friends and clients who face repeated problems and patterns in their life. The majority of them ignored my advice due to the stigma surrounding it. However, if you look at me, I’m probably a pretty alright individual. I travel regularly, write kickass awesome articles like this. Yet, I work with a psychologist and intend to continue doing so.

Celebrities, multi-millionaires, successful entrepreneurs, athletes, top performing people, musicians, artists and people who are influential in society have used psychotherapy to help them in their lives.

Secondly, if you really are strong, then if you can’t discuss a ‘touchy topic’, that would merely imply that you’re actually weak.

I’ve used therapy for years already in my own life and it’s has helped me in all areas of my life from taking steps towards building a business, bettering my academic performance, fostering better relationships with my parents and to building better self awareness.

There’s no shame about it. If you need it, consult one.

The Different Forms of Psychotherapy

Okay, now let’s get to the different forms of psychotherapy.

When most people think of therapy, they think of going into a room, lying on a couch and crying your heart out after some sort of hypnosis. That’s entirely untrue. The majority of therapies don’t involve hypnosis and it’s often a two-way interaction between the therapist and the client.

Here are the basic forms of therapy that’s most commonly practiced:

  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy

(CBT) is primarily a short term treat that takes involves you challenging your own unhelpful thoughts and beliefs when facing a difficult problem in our day to day life. This is more surface level and it’s often focused on changing the way you think in a situation.

Acceptance commitment therapy (ACT) is a branch off CBT. It’s focused on being mindful, being accepting of your negative thoughts. It does not attempt to directly change or stop unwanted thoughts or feelings but instead encourages you to develop a new compassionate relationship with your negative thoughts and feelings.

  • Psychodynamic Therapy

However, psychodynamic therapy is an insight style of therapy. The focus of it is to reveal unconscious content of your psyche in an effort to alleviate psychological tension. Psychodynamic therapies focus on the client’s motivation, either conscious or unconscious.

  • Humanistic Therapy

Whilst psychodynamic therapy focuses on conflicting motives. The humanistic therapy model believe that mental issues arise from low self esteem, misguided goals and unfulfilling relationships.

College students who seek therapy showed symptoms such as feeling of alienation, failure to achieve all they feel they should, difficult relationships and general dissatisfaction with their lives. Psychologists often refer to these problems as existential crises.

In the view of humanists, someone is motivated by growth and psychological well being. This differed from Freud’s assumption that a personality is divided into conflicting parts, dominated by a selfish id, driven by hedonistic instincts and pressed conflicts.

  • EMDR

EMDR is a form of therapy that emphasize the role of distressing memories in some mental health disorders, particularly (PTSD). The goals of EMDR is to engage the brain’s natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, hence reliving present systems. It’s used to treat both PTSD and trauma.

There are many other form of psychotherapy, however, I’m pointing out the general ones that most psychologists use.

The Limitations of Psychotherapy

Okay, is hiring a therapist a cure all for all of your life problems? No, psychotherapy, isn’t a cure-all. Ultimately, you have to be responsible for your life and problems.

  • Taking Responsibility

Like all life improvement tools, you still have to take full responsibility for our own issues and problems.

Showing up to a psychologist and expecting him or her to just fix your life is not going to work out. Psychotherapy should be seen as a supplement, as opposed to a crutch.

The more people are leaving therapy, the better it is. That means that it’s working. I would also add that your therapy sessions should be challenging and not fall into a comfortable pattern. There was a period where I found myself repeating myself in 2-3 sessions and I requested for a switch of topics just to mix things up.

If you’re looking to better other aspects of your life, then learning conversational skills such as cold reading, making statements and actually taking action are equally if not more important. There isn’t any therapy in the world can get rid of your social or romantic anxiety. You’ll still have to put in the work, go out and take action.

  • Treat it Like Hiring a Trainer

You got to treat hiring a therapist like hiring a trainer for you. He or she is there to spot you, however, you need to do the heavy lifting yourself. They are not there to be your friends or validate your problems. They are for a professional service: to help you better your emotions.

Therapy should challenge you, it should feel uncomfortable.

Closing Thoughts

Finally, there’s research suggesting that the majority of people come out better from therapy. There’s also research suggesting that people that commit to therapy for a longer period of time, 5 years, come out better.

There are influential reads that led me to take psychotherapy a lot more seriously: The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Volk, and Drama of the Gifted Child by Alice Miller. They are written by clinical psychologists. These books both give me insights into how psychoanalytic repercussions can run deep.

It might sound far fetch, but no one is perfect, and I believe everyone, rich famous or successful should get some form of therapy of another. You may be good at academics but shit poor in your relationships. You may be good at fitness but overspend your pay on the weekends. There’s always a behaviour that you can seek to be more in control of. I personally belief that hiring a therapist and using it as a tool is going to be a norm half a century from now. It’s going to be where everybody shows up, work through their issues and get more control over individual behaviour.

In my own life, I’ve seen considerable improvements and I consider myself a successful client.

Works Cited

Campbell LF, Norcross JC, Vasquez MJ, Kaslow NJ (2013). “Recognition of psychotherapy effectiveness: the APA resolution”.

Knekt P, Lindfors O, Sares-Jäske L, Virtala E, Härkänen T (Feb 2013). “Randomized trial on the effectiveness of long- and short-term psychotherapy on psychiatric symptoms and working ability during a 5-year follow-up”.

Denise D. Ben-Porath, (2002). Stigmatization of Individuals Who Receive Psychotherapy: An Interaction Between Help-seeking Behavior and the Presence of Depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology:

 

 

Sep 28

How to Build Self Esteem – The Psychology of True Self Esteem

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships

I’ve been on both ends of human performance. I’ve been last in class and first in class, in multiple disciplines in my life, from academics, martial arts, business, relationships and pursuits. Through the years, I always wondered what are the key principles of high performance. Is it motivation, is it discipline or is it willpower?

Secondly, I also wanted some research behind it. I didn’t want to be one of those self help writers that write another cheesy post on ’10 Steps to feel better about yourself today’.

How is genuine self-esteem is actually generated? Why do some people feel like fraud and why some people feel like a king? Why some people feel deserving of things in their life, and some people struggle with it? Why do some people boast of things they never did accomplish, and are perfectly fine with not doing so?

Initially, I bought the idea of willpower, after all, with psychological studies that showed that the environment shapes behavior, as opposed to willpower. However, I, later on, bought into the argument of childhood development: The Freudian approach.

I’ll argue that high performance boils down to multiple variables, from the environment and your childhood experiences. I’ll also argue that self-esteem is a key fundamental of all high-performance behavior. Your behaviour boils down to one’s self-esteem. How much you believe you’re worth, deep down. Self-esteem leads to courage and eventually leads to an expanded life.

If you believe you’re worth it, you’ll have higher expectations of both of yourself, and others, you’ll have high boundaries, you do not take shit from anybody, including yourself.

The student who believes he’s smart is going to put in the work, whether he’s really actually smart or not. I found that to be true in my short Summer stint at Berkeley. I traditionally wasn’t a good student in Singapore. However, for someone reason, because I had the freedom to flex my identity in another culture. I ended up performing academically.

In my entrepreneurial career, I quadrupled my price overnight, that’s because I believed that my product and service is worth that price. Yet, it sold. Of course. However, a higher price comes higher pressure, intensity and a willingness to make it work. It goes to show that a of our decisions and success in life is based on self-esteem.

The Freudian Idea: Self Esteem Derived from Childhood

I also buy the idea that your parents fucked you up. It’s as simple as that.

It’s hard not to notice the parallels between self-esteem and childhood experiences. It’s also not uncommon to find people with problematic childhoods growing up with self esteem issues: self-sabotaging in academics, career, and relationships.

The issues also come often in two main spectrums: you either had it too tough or had it too easy. Hence, you lack true self esteem.

It’s also hard not to notice that most parents have high expectations for their children, yet, they didn’t and are unable to replicate similar expectations and behaviours in themselves in the past or present. To quote Dan Pena: ‘children don’t see what you tell them to do, they see what you do.’

This is the similar of leadership, your troops only follow you when you’re able and willing to execute upon similar tasks. If a sales manager isn’t able to make a sales call and only makes his employees do it, he’s not going to be a manager for long!

One of the best things an upwardly mobile individual can do is to leave home. To detach himself from his family and strike out on his own. One can take that rite of passage as building true self esteem.

Love and Friendship

I remembered 8 months ago in my formal employment where I borrowed a couple of books from the little office library and finished it overnight. My superior thought I was bullshitting him. That I couldn’t have possibly finished it in one-night right? Yet on the other hand, in one of my last projects for them, they demanded that I finished 2000 words sales page for them in a short period of time. I managed to produce it within a day.

Other than a couple of quips that they wouldn’t give in to my requests for a more flexible working arrangement, I knew deep down that they didn’t see me the way I perceived myself. Every day that I stayed there was a detriment to my self-esteem.

In an idealistic world, your employers, friends, and family are going to recognize the best virtues in you. However, in the real-world these often pans out in the opposite.

I’m not going to bore you on the cliche that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, it’s true.

To give you an example, your self esteem is going to be compromised if you’re attempting to lose weight and the people around you don’t believe that you are capable of that.

Yet, these are the exact people that you define as ‘friends’. It’s weird that some loosely define friendships as people that subtlety put you down. If you studied the philosophers from Plato to Socrates, friendship to them is defined as a constant open debate, growth and an introspect discussion into their lives.

Over the last couple of years, I have been increasingly ‘tough’ on the people around me. My Mum says I’m too tough on people. Some of my friends say I am too tough on myself. However, let me tell you something about having a sense of self esteem and keeping yourself and others accountable: it works.

  • Love

Self esteem or the lack of can also be expressed in our romantic life. If you choose to be someone because he or she makes you feel confidence, a confidence that you can’t internally generate on your own, then you obviously have a lack of self esteem.

However, if you choose a heroine, a woman who has values that you admire, of intelligence, confidence, and strength, then that says about your security as a man, of a feeling of your own self worth.

The Meaning of Self Esteem

Self esteem is the judgment you pass on yourself, and by the standards by which you judge yourself. If someone lacks self esteem, they will feel driven to fake it, to create the illusion of self esteem.

It has two interrelated aspects: it entails a sense of personal efficacy and a sense of personal worth. It is the conviction that one is competent to live, and worth of living.

The sense of efficacy is defined by an individual choosing his goals and action. That one has to be right in the conclusions one draws and choices and make. However, not demanding or expecting omniscience or infallibility.

What he needs is that which is within his power, the conviction that his method of choosing and making decisions is right in principle.

This can come in the form of sharp mental focus, seeking to bring one’s understanding to an optimal level of precision and clarity as opposed to a focus on the level of blurred approximation, in a state of passive, goalless mental drifting.

This is also through the performance of an independent thinking, independent judgment. You weigh the truth or falsehood of any claim or the right or wrong of any issue with the ability to accept in uncritical passivity and assertions of others.

It isn’t the conviction that one can never make an error. It is the conviction that one is competent to think to, to judge and to know and to correct one’s errors.

One Must Place Values Above Emotions  

The need to be good. That contributes to one’s sense of self esteem. Your character is the sum of the principles and values that guide his actions in the face of moral choices.

If you default on the responsibility of thought and reason, hence undercutting your competence to live, you’ll feel unworthy. If you betray your moral convictions, you will not retain your sense of confidence. You can never excuse yourself from making judgments and choosing your behavior.

If you don’t respect yourself, you’ll never be able to respect others. These are the people that constantly show up late, say something, and do otherwise. I once told a friend that if he couldn’t respect a dollar from my pocket, I didn’t give a fuck, I told him I wouldn’t lend it to him. It’s non-negotiable I didn’t. He kicked up a fuss and today we aren’t on speaking terms. Today he’s broke, and I am in a much better financial position.

We have an innate sense to understand to the best of our intellectual capabilities. Some times, this is defaulted in childhood through irrational parents, authority figures and societal norms.

If a person develops healthily, and acquires a set of values, his mind and emotions achieving harmony, he won’t be chronically torn between knowledge and desires.

The difference between a well adjusted individual and avoidance is that one is fleeing from reality, and the other is taking proper cognisance over it.

It feels good to be drunk. They can be said the same for our emotions. However, being drunk on emotions is often followed by the misery of a hangover. When you place values above emotions, emotions are your reward, and not your nemesis.

When you not no values or standards of your own, you accept whatever your values are offered to you by society.

Through setting standards and values of your own, you’re rejecting some values and standards of friends, family, and society around you. You’re building your own boundaries and values.

Life Purpose

Self esteem is also ostensibly tied to one’s purpose. It is the desire to grow in knowledge and skills, in understanding and control. The opposite is stagnant passivity.

On any level of intelligence or ability, one the characteristics of self esteem is a man’s eagerness for the new and the challenging, for which he’s allowed to use his abilities to the fullest extent.

In the realm of his work, the primary desire of an individual of self confidence is to face challenges, to achieve and grow.

The desire to be ‘safe’ is also the man who lacks self confidence. Productive achievement is the cause and not the result of healthy self esteem. People who based their self esteem on existential achievements don’t really have self esteem at all.

The lack of self esteem is often expressed by people who wish to escape consciousness and the ability/need to form rational thought. This is often expressed through sexual pleasure, money for the sake of money and the common vices in our society. It is the pleasure received from temporarily feeling helpless. This pleasure is different from the man who uses his faculties properly, and of actual values in reality.

Self esteem is confidence is one’s ability to achieve values, and not the external achievement of it. One is ‘I Can’, and the other is ‘I Have’.

The rational, self confident man, on the other hand, is motivated by a love of values and a desire to achieve them.

Pseudo Self Esteem

Pseudo self esteem, is an irrational pretense at self value. It is an avoidance of anxiety and it provides a temporary sense of security. To the man of authentic self esteem, there is no clash between his recognition of the facts of reality and the preservation of his self esteem, since he basis his self esteem as his ability to act accordingly with the facts of reality as he understands them.

However, to the man of no self esteem, reality appears to be a threat, as an enemy. It’s always a choice between reality or his self esteem.

The determinant of a man’s self esteem is the motivation between fear and love. You can be motivated by confidence, or you can be motivated by terror. To a man that lacks self esteem, he lives negatively, defensively and extensively.

To the man who devoid of genuine self esteem, his life is always in psychological danger. He is always in anger, psychologically. He never reaches normality.

He takes on the values and judgment of others, and never takes ownership of his own life. He has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.

The terror of a man who assumes ownership of his own life is because he’s had pseudo self esteem. He has always counted on others to solve the problem of his own survival and chooses values appropriate to this manner of existence.

This can take the form of:

  • The man who never makes independent thought or judgment on his own
  • The man who obsessed with being popular, who feels driven to win the approval of everyone he meets
  • The woman who has no sense of personal identity, and who seeks to lose her inner emptiness in the role of a sacrificial martyr for her children, demanding that her children do the same for her.
  • The man who works at being aggressively masculine, whose concerns are entirely subordinated to his role as a woman chaser, who derives less pleasure from the act of sex, as opposed to boasting about it to other men

People That Experience a Crisis of Self Esteem

People experience pathological self esteem crisis’s when their values clash internally. There are often absolutes in this equation: ‘I must not’ and ‘I am willing to’ Hence, this engages your sense (or lack of) self esteem. Thus, one experiences a crisis of self esteem.

This can come in the form of a girl who has been brought up in an over religious childhood. She then finds herself engaging in overtly sexual activities. There’s a clash in values. On one hand, sex feels good. Yet, one the other, she was brought up to feel otherwise.

Freud, in one of his final theories, maintained that anxiety is triggered by forbidden sexual desire that breaks through the barrier of repression and causes the ego to feel overwhelmed and threatened. The unblocking of one anxiety is also known to unblock stir up other conflicts, which are anxiety provoking.

How to Have A Positive Sense of Self Esteem

Ultimately, a positive sense of self esteem is the product of two things: the ability to form independent judgment and thoughts, and the cultivation of an integrated set of values.

For everyone, the responsibility of thought and judgment is different for everyone. The responsibility and judgment required from a child are different from one of an adult. One has to accept one’s responsibility to choose a set at values, pass judgment, define goals, at some point in his life.

The acceptance of responsibility is a choice, and it’s not automatic nor wired into one’s brain by nature. It is a challenge to which you how you can respond, with acceptance or rejection. To be motivated by terror or love.

The result of being motivated by love and challenge is a positive sense of self esteem. The result of running away from responsibility, thought and judgment will be a sense of pain and a lack of self esteem.

It’s a man’s values that determine his values as an extension of himself, as an integral part of his identity.

Your self is a cumulative result of year and years of irrationalities, failures, successes, actions, values and etc. When you have self esteem or the lack of it is the reputation a man acquires with himself.

There’s No Such thing as ‘High Self Esteem’ or ‘High Confidence’

One other idea I got out of the research is that there’s no such thing as ‘high self esteem’ or ‘high confidence’.

Self-esteem is basically an opinion about the person you are. Ultimately, self esteem is a mere bunch of thoughts about whether or not you’re a ‘good person’. It’s NOT a fact, it’s just an opinion.

The problem comes in is when you constantly have to justify and prove to yourself that you’re a good person or that you have high self esteem. You constantly have to justify the ‘you’re good enough’ opinion. All these proving and justifying of these takes a huge amount of time and effort.

If you stopped exercising for a few days, your mind says: See? I know you wouldn’t last. If you lose your temper with a friend or make a slight mistake at work, there goes your ‘high self esteem’.

During my early, immature pick up artist days, I was constantly worried about how confident I was on a day to day basis. The truth is that some days I feel confident, and some days I don’t. It’s just human to do so.

The more you try to justify your high self esteem, the need for perfection. The more it kills you inside. The better approach is to let go of the idea of high self esteem altogether. You don’t need high self esteem.

What you need is merely: Self esteem. Plain, and simple. That’s all.

How to Build Self Esteem: Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, competence and feeling in control of your life have a lot to do with feeling good about yourself.

Your expectations and standards for yourself are going to largely fall to the quality of people around you. In simple terms, a lot of your self esteem and self image is going to be determined by the people around you. For a lot of us, you spend most of your time with your family and close friends.

You may find that your friendships come and go in accordance with the current 1) social setting and your 2) current self-image.

If you feel like you ‘lack self esteem’ here may be why: 1) you probably lack standards for yourself 2) the people around probably lack standards and expectations in themselves and standards and expectations for you.

This is why mentoring can be a possible solution. Some that you look up to and potentially a role model. This can come in the form of a formal paid relationship, a friend, an older brother or perhaps your boss.

Self-esteem is the foundation of all success, and also for one to become a better human being. He or she first must respect him or herself, build fundamental self-esteem, which leads to personal integrity and accountability.

Works Cited

Branden, N. The Psychology of Self Esteem – a Revolutionary Approach to Self-Understanding That Launched a New Era in Modern Psychology.

Harris, R. The Happiness Trap

Aug 16

How to Change Your Peer Group and Construct Your Ideal Life

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships

One of the biggest things that people do not talk about is peer group, community and support. For someone that values constant improvement in all aspects of my life from business, fitness and relationships… it can get quite isolating to the outside world.

I was having a midnight movie just a couple of days ago with an old friend I knew 7-8 years a go. Back then I was an army enlistee and we would go out, hang out late and break some rules like walk into places we should not be walking into.

Friendship and Personal Growth

Since then, I have changed from a counter cultural individual to a pretty much well adjusted individual. I no longer spend too much time hanging out late. I don’t smoke as much as I did before (just a little if there’s whiskey involved). I am well travelled, read a gazillion books from philosophy to literature, created revenue in my business as a dating coach and multiple industries… the list goes on.

I was looking forward to hang out, discuss our lives and goals looking forward. However, we ended up breaking the rules as much as we did 7-8 years ago. If you asked the 20-year-old me, I’ll gleefully took pride in my actions, however, this time, I instantly felt a disconnect. I instantly knew that we’re on different ‘wavelengths’. He was still trying to break the rules as much as he did 7-8 years ago. Trying to ‘get by’ or ‘cheat’ society.

Everyone that I know of that is obsessed with growth has almost always said that is a somewhat lonely journey.

When I was hitting the clubs weekly 6-7 years ago as a mentee to a dating coach in Singapore at that point of time, all my friends thought I was being weird.

When I started treated my business seriously, started having a lot more personal boundaries after leaving my last formal job, my around me reacted negatively.

Birds of the Same Feather Flock Together

 Interestingly, it was the people who were more successful than I was that wasn’t just more empathetic, but also more encouraging to the process.

When I hit my first $10,000 net profit in my business in a month, it was my business coach at that point of time that was doing $20,000 a month that reached out to me and said: ‘good job’ Marcus. He and I continued hanging out and today we’re friends.

It’s interesting how our relationships with the outside world evolves as we grow.

7 years ago, I was an arrogant, rebellious and angry NSF. My friends who around me were also arrogant, rebellious and angry.

I started on my self development journey and met a couple of friends that were also attempting to improve their dating lives with women. Some of them are still friends with me today.

When I took a couple of gap years to dip my toes in business. There wasn’t a single friend in University that could resonate with what I was attempting to do. Their values were different. Nothing against them, it was just different values.

I am 27 years of age as I write this blog post. The majority of my friends are in the corporate world. Unfortunately, that was my peer group. I always half jokingly say that I am the weirdest JC kid. The majority of entrepreneurs I meet didn’t take the JC route.

I’ve been to multiple parts of the world, created revenue in multiple industries, had a dating life that an average man can dream of, and of course some of these values aren’t exactly adopted by the average person out there, much less my peers.

How to Build Your Ideal Lifestyle?

Even though I am pretty damned good at doing things by myself, and I haven’t had a business partner for years. However, it can be quite isolating at times.

These days, I find myself asking myself, who are the people I’ll like to hang out with at this point of my life?

Here are some ideas:

  • Young and driven entrepreneurs
  • Young and driven professionals
  • People that dress well and carry themselves well.

How can I connect with people from such demographics? Where do these people spend their time hanging out? They aren’t certainly hanging out at heartland malls at 12am on a Sunday night (which was what I was doing with a long time friend of mine).

They are probably attending business events, doing Yoga classes, doing martial arts classes or partying at the hottest parties on the weekend. They aren’t 19 year old pick up artists trying to get a free entry into clubs.

So as I teach my clients: draft out the characteristics of the people you’ll like to connect with, find out where they spend their time, invest my time in these demographics, and then connect with them.

Connecting with someone can be as easy as listen to their stories. Successful people often have untold stories that’ll like to share. You can learn a lot from sitting for 1 hour over coffee with someone. Or even so, just connect as a human being. This is how you ‘be of value’ in a social sense.

If your current peer group isn’t ‘resonating’ with you, then you have to be proactive about making steps to connect with new people. Admittedly, I have been pretty lazy in this area. ‘Tiny success’ can get into your head. I started thinking I was ‘too good’ for others after making some headway into my business and my own dating life.

Valu-ing Community and Support

Quality relationships contribute a lot to our happiness and emotional health. I can’t stress this enough. Take this from someone that enjoys working alone and is quite a lone wolf in how he works.

This is why I value community and support. This is why I also created an in person monthly support meet up group for all my clients not only for them, but also myself. The majority of my clients become my friends after awhile (if they continually show up for the meet up sessions).

Since I teach social skills, I should really take my own advice sometimes. Community and like minded peers are PRICELESS. It’s no wonder that a huge part of my clientele are skewed towards people who also entrepreneurial, looking to better their dating and relationship lives.

Question is, how are you going to construct your ideal life? Who are the people you’ll like to spend time with, what are they characteristics and where do they spend their time? How are you going to connect with them?

Aug 08

How to Text a Girl – The Definitive Guide

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships

I remembered pouring through heaps of books, theories on how to text a girl, analysed text messages and even went as far as to get my friend to text a girl for me. Understanding how to text a girl was one of the biggest problems I had when I first started out.

I don’t enjoy texting as a means of communication. I often lament that I am much more confident in person than behind a mobile screen and tend to say something obnoxious over text. I also don’t enjoy texting as it’s time-consuming.

When you’re facing the screen, you can’t read expressions. You can’t figure out what she’s feeling, whether she’s shy, interested or bored. Or if my joke has come off the wrong way. This doesn’t help for someone who enjoys dark, sarcastic humour that can come off the wrong way.

However, in certain cultures such as the Singapore dating culture, texting is part and parcel of everyone’s social life. Through the years I accepted the fact that texting is a staple in modern dating life and that everybody does it.

How to Get Her Number/ Ask Her Out: The Art of the Soft Close

Getting her number shouldn’t be a big deal and should ONLY be done after you built a genuine connection. This is part of having standards, and being more optimal. I try to set up specific plans during the first interaction. This helps her to differentiate you from a stranger to a friend. The goal of getting a girl’s number is to re-initiate mutual contact, demonstrate that you’re not a creep whilst texting her and go for the meetup.

You need to also pay attention to the context you’re in when going for her number. Sometimes, asking a girl out for coffee in front of her friends works well in Western cultures, whereas, in Singapore, it’s going to put a lot of social pressure on the girl.

I recommend going for the soft close when asking for her number and asking her out through text.

‘Hey, are you adventurous’.
‘How do you feel about drinks or coffee with a cute a Singapore boy?’
‘What’s your schedule like?’
‘You seem like a nice/interesting person to talk to (insert your qualifier), let’s grab coffee sometime next week.’

The Psychology of Texting

If you’re constantly worried about her not texting, you back. You should ask yourself this: what would an attractive man have done?

He wouldn’t feel the need to be texting all the time. He’ll only text back when he has the time to. He’s living life on his own values. He is living life based on his own values, not on how the other person responds to him. He doesn’t worry so much about what the other person is going to think, or reply, or respond.

One of the core tenets of attracting women is to be self-invested. Being self-invested means valuing your time, having a life, working and filling your days with stuff that you care about and being too hung up if some cute lass isn’t texting you back.

It’s said that a character of a person defined when no one is looking. You shouldn’t be too hung up if a girl isn’t texting you back. If you have shit to do, you won’t be too hung up on her replies.

How to Start a Conversation and Flirt with Her on Text

Here’s a general rule of thumb: your texts should where the social interaction was left off.

If you’re rushing to work, approached her and only had a two minutes’ interaction, then you’re expected to text a little bit more before asking her out for coffee. If you’ve already built a great connection with her during the first time you met her, then it’s not expected for you to text a lot.

Questions to ask yourself: Is she attracted to you already? How well do you know each other? Which part of the interaction are you at? What are the underlying assumptions in your interaction?

  • Call Back Humour

You can stand out through your first text by referring to something funny you had during your initial interaction with her when you first met. It commonly referred to as the call back humour.

“Rachel the Chinese teacher! Don’t stay out too late, you have more Sun Tze philosophies to brainwash unwilling teenagers.’

  • How to Flirt and Tease

Check out my guide on flirting, you should be able to get creative with roleplays, push-pull and misinterpretations.

  • General Rule of Thumb 

In your text messages, you need to keep it playful, light-hearted in the beginning and see how things flow from there. You should not try to make plans too early on, avoid going into interview mode, such as asking logical questions. Only go for the meetups using the soft close if there’s she’s flirting with you to and fro on the phone.

One important philosophy when it comes to texting is to keep in mind that time is your ally. One mistake I often make is to go to the meet up too early. This might work in Westernized cultures. However, in some cultures, especially Asian ones, girls love to text and going for it is merely going to get you rejected.

You also need to calibrate in accordance to context, a lot of the material you find online can be quite ‘Westernized’ and you can come un-calibrated in an Asian setting.

To Text Her or Not to Text Her and How many Hours/ Days?

Is there a right way to text? What about the length of the text? The time of the text? How about the fucking number of blue ticks?

I’ve had tons of interactions that seemed to go well in real life but didn’t turn out into anything. It is something that is out of your control. Ever made out with a girl in the club and she ignores the exact next day? You start worrying and start thinking to yourself if she’s playing mind games. You then start playing mind games on your end… and she doesn’t reply once again… and you think she’s still playing mind games.

There’s no need the play mind games through text. I’m not a huge fan of waiting X number of hours/days to text You’re pursuing girls from your own values.

Texting a girl is a two-way dance. If you’re always pushing from one side and she’s replying plain, boring and dry responses, she’s just not interested. There should be some sort of reciprocation or qualification from the girl.

Closing Thoughts: Do The Heavy Lifting in a Real Life

In general, you should just ask her out as soon as possible. I usually ask a girl out after I get some sort of a to and fro interaction going. If she’s not willing to go out with me there and then, she’s probably not interested.  I much prefer to do the heavy lifting in person. You should be much stronger in a face to face interactions. However, being poor on the phone is something is going to hurt your results. For some reason, girls need to know that you’re a cool guy over text.

It’s noted that some demographic of girls do react positively to cutesy lines you come up with over text. It’s just something I don’t bother putting too much effort into. It usually also doesn’t work out well for me if I get too creative with it.

Then there’s the last question: if she agrees, do you still continue texting her over the phone, to keep yourself in the loop. Of course, you do, however, you don’t need to text as much since plans are set up. I also find that dates that actually go through are dates set up no longer than a week after she agrees.

I’m not a huge fan of building a connection over the phone. There are more important things in life than being her text buddy. There’s a rarity that a girl’s schedule is so packed that she can’t squeeze a date in. If she mentions a packed schedule, then I’m sorry, she just doesn’t like you enough to put you a priority in her life.

 

Jun 17

Why You Fail: Self Esteem as the Fundamental of all High Performance

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships

I’ve been on both ends of human performance. I’ve been last in class and first in class, in multiple disciplines in my life, from academics, martial arts, business, relationships and pursuits. Through the years, I always wondered what are the key principles of high performance. Is it motivation, is it discipline or is it willpower?

Initially, I bought the idea of willpower, after all, with psychological studies that showed that the environment shapes behaviour, as opposed to willpower. I also looked into argument taking into account of childhood development: The Freudian approach.

I’ll argue that high performance boils down to multiple variables, from the environment and your childhood experiences. Dan Pena makes an argument in his content that self-esteem is the key fundamental of all high-performance behaviour.

Ultimately, your behaviour boils down to your self-esteem. How much you believe you’re worth, deep down. If you believe you’re worth it, you’ll have higher expectations of both of yourself, and others, you’ll have high boundaries, you do not take shit form anybody, including yourself.

I currently run a dating consulting business and manage advertising projects for a couple of companies and individuals. In this small sample size of pursuits, it’s hard not to notice some of the self-sabotaging behaviours and lack of accountability of individuals that come through my way.

Self-esteem is how you perceive yourself and how the world perceives you.

In an idealistic world, everyone is going to see the best virtues in you. However, that’s not to be, in fact, real-world often pans out in the opposite of our ideals.

I remembered 8 months ago in my formal employment where I borrowed a couple of books from the little office library and finished it overnight. My superior thought I was bullshitting him. That I couldn’t have possibly finished it in one-night right? Yet on the other hand, in one of my last projects for them, they demanded that I finished 2000 words sales page for them in a short period of time. I managed to produce it within a day.

Other than a couple of quips that they wouldn’t give in to my requests for a more flexible working arrangement, I knew deep down that they didn’t see me the way I perceived myself. Every day that I stayed there was a detriment to my self-esteem.

You could say this is true for all of friends and family.

Your self esteem is going to be compromised if you attempting to lose weight and the people around you don’t believe that you are capable of that.

In my entrepreneurial career, I quadrupled my price overnight, that’s because I believed that my product and service is worth that price. Yet, it sold. Of course. However, a higher price comes higher pressure, intensity and a willingness to make it work. It goes to show that a of our decisions and success in life is based on self-esteem.

The student who believes he’s smart is going to put in the work, whether he’s really actually smart or not. I found that to be true in my short stint in America. I traditionally wasn’t a good student in Singapore. However, for someone reason, I had the freedom to flex my identity in another culture. I ended up performing.

Your Parents Fucked You Up

Unlike 99% of personal development material that’ll try to play nice. I’ll give it straight. In fact, my thoughts are a lot influenced by Dan Pena and psychology itself.

Your parents fucked you up. It’s as simple as that.

It’s hard not to notice the parallels between self-esteem and your childhood experiences.

The issues also come often in two main spectrums: you either had it too tough or had it too easy. Hence, you lack true self esteem.

It’s also hard not to notice that most parents have high expectations for their children, yet, they didn’t and are unable to replicate similar expectations and behaviours in themselves in the past or present. To quote Dan, children don’t see what you tell them to do, they see what you do. This is the similar of leadership, your troops only follow you when you’re able and willing to execute upon similar tasks. If a sales manager isn’t able to make a sales call and only makes his employees do it, he’s not going to be a manager for long!

I truly believe that one of the best things an upwardly mobile individual can do is to leave home. To detach himself from his family and strike out on his own. It’s one of my priority within the next 12 months (assuming I do not fall into default behaviour).

Your ‘Friends’

First, your family is your detriment, second, it’s your friends. I’m not going to bore you on the cliche that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, it’s true.

It’s weird that the majority loosely define friendships as people that subtlely put you down, or let step over you. If you studied the philosophers from Plato to Socrates, friendship to them is defined as a constant open debate, growth and an introspect discussion into their lives.

There’s one occasion where I took part in a football match where there’s one bully that has gotten away with unruly behaviour in the group for years: physical and verbal. Yet, that group defined themselves as ‘friends’. It took an outsider (me) to set him straight. It took a couple of scuffles, but I do think there’s mutual respect after those!

Over the last couple of years, I have been increasingly tough on the people around me. My Mum says I’m too tough on people. Some of my friends say I am too tough on myself. However, let me tell you something about being tough: it works.

I have single-handedly travelled to multiple cultures all over the world solo, built profitable ventures and am armed with multiple real-life skillsets. I did it all as a one-man team. How did I do it? I was tough on myself.

People ultimately do not lack knowledge, they lack accountability and self-esteem. The majority of my friends are much more formally qualified than me. They have master degrees from finance to technology. I am currently a private Diploma graduate from a private University.

Yet, I have actual skin in the game through a real-life stock portfolio (unlike many financial ‘advisors’) and am able to be profitable in most business pursuits I get into (proven by my track record inexperience in the financial education industry, dating advice industry and music industry).

I have also approached hundreds of women in cultures all over the world. I’ve had a dating life that the average man can dream about. I’m not writing this to boast, I’m writing as a reminder myself and impress upon you that self-esteem leads to courage and eventually leads to an expanded life.

The Solution: Mentors

Your expectations and standards for yourself are going to largely fall to the quality of people around you. For a Singaporean, you spend most of your time with your family and close friends. Unless you have high-performance parents and friends, the majority of them are also going to be your detriment.

If your family and friends feel like a detriment, then drop them and go off by yourself. Eagles fly alone. To quote Dan Pena: ‘Buffet only has one friend: Charlie Munger. Gates only has one friend: Melinda.’

I did it by myself for the first 6 years, from 21 years of age. I spent my first year mostly by myself writing articles like this one attempting to figure digital marketing out whilst everyone was with University.

I also understood one major principle about most friendships. They come and go in accordance with the current 1) social setting and your 2) current self-image.

That’s why I am able to hit the gym by myself, fly to countries by myself, run the business by myself. I learned the business skillsets from web design, copywriting, paid to advertise, SEO all by myself. I learned from people who were more experienced than me, but not ‘friends’.

If you feel like you’re stagnating here’s why: 1) you probably lack standards for yourself 2) the people around probably lack standards and expectations in themselves and this bleeds through their social interactions with you.

The best person you can have around is a mentor, someone who is upwardly mobile. You either are lucky to have one or pay up for one. Through the years, I’ve procured mentors both online and offline, by PAYING THE FUCK UP for it. Ridiculously, I have met entrepreneurs who aren’t profitable AND REFUSING to pay for knowledge or guidance. Yet they proudly brand themselves as ‘CEO’ on their social media profiles.

Better Human Being

If you don’t respect yourself, you’ll never be able to respect others. These are the people that constantly show up late, say something, and do otherwise. I once told a friend that if he couldn’t respect a dollar from my pocket, I didn’t give a fuck, I told him I wouldn’t lend it to him. It’s non-negotiable I didn’t. He kicked up a fuss and today we aren’t on speaking terms. Today he’s broke, and I am in a much better financial position.

Self-esteem is the foundation of all success, and also for one to become a better human being. I truly believe that he or she first must respect him or herself, build fundamental self-esteem, that leads to integrity and then accountability.

Emotions and Dating as a Skillset - a Philosophical Rant
Apr 28

Emotions and Dating as a Skillset – a Philosophical Rant

By Marcus Neo | Dating and Relationships , Journals

I get many different kinds of clients coming to me, attempting to better their dating life. Some have even taken programs from mainstream big names companies overseas. Some of them even attempt to give me dating advice during my free consult sessions. Some request for only a specific area of coaching. Some disregard theory. Some are committed and some are not.

Here’s my take on clients that eventually get results. They are humble enough to put in the work and learn all aspects of social dynamics. I recently had a client go out cold approaching almost every single day. He’s only a month old into the program, and he has gone out on two dates. That’s a good outcome, considering he’s completely new, and he’s tackling the completely cold market. I have clients that don’t come for classes or are inconsistent in making this a priority in their life. To get good at shit, you need to stretch yourself.

It’s no different for me either. I had to stretch myself to grow the business. I had to stretch myself in school to get the grades I desired.

The Value of Social Dynamics – Philosophical Rant

Teaching dating dynamics in Singapore is a weird thing. I think I’m one of the only guys that might have successfully normalized it. I’m not a pick-up artist. I don’t label myself like that. I’m just a guy that is able to talk to strangers if I found her attractive. That’s it. In fact, recently, I’m a lot more open in stating that I’m a dating consultant in Singapore in my personal life.

I get clients that perceive me as a pick-up artist. They are usually obsessed about mass approaching. I can usually figure out a couple of minutes through the phone. I guess the quantity problem is larger than I expected. That’s because they aren’t able (or willing) to use other aspects of their life to meet women. I can empathize with that.

Now, I’m not disregarding that approaching isn’t a skillet to get down, or that you should not be technical in how you approach dating as a skillset. There are certain concepts such as a frame that is extremely useful to understand where you are at in any interaction. However these days, I don’t put too much value on trying to objectify every single interaction. There’s a ton of value in getting other areas such as self-esteem, emotional issues sorted out. It also saddens me when clients aren’t taking exactly the holistic approach in getting figured this area of their life figured out.

Philosophical Rant

Getting good at dating as a skillset is getting good at your emotions. I recently adjusted to a more technical approach in my own dating life. However, I quickly found out it’s pretty exhausting if you’re always putting up a front or if you’re trying to say something in order to be smart or witty. This is where vulnerability comes it. There are no more smart or witty things to say, just emotions to express through actions. This requires you to be good at pushing through despite feeling the fear of rejection. Trust me, no amount of money, achievements or good looks is going to help you in this area.

This is why it’s difficult. This is why it’s also a life long process or getting good at emotions. This is why most people don’t do it.

To sum up this short rant, I am at a strange point in my life. I desire to be a 100% open with my profession and not have it perceived as a negative thing. I don’t do so because of the possibility of ridiculous expectations that come along with this industry. The guru business especially. I am not a guru. I am not a master. I hate to be called either. In fact, I’m the most anti-guru guy you might come across. I don’t identify or hate to perceived as a player or pick up artist. So don’t call me that. I’m just an average guy that rationally figured out how to get more choice and control in your dating life if you’re not in some extra privileged position.

I’m just human.