Category Archives for "Self Improvement and Social Skills"

Apr 13

Choosing your Friends Wisely – Be Reliable and Avoid Sloth

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered one of my most negative life experiences as a young 21-year-old. That was when I started studying social dynamics, personality development and self-help. One tenet of attracting women is courage and standing up for yourself (and others). 

Two of my friends were squabbling and told one of them to stop emotionally abusing her. He told me: ‘why didn’t you take my side’. He also happened to be the main social connector in the social group I was part of. He suddenly stopped inviting me out for all events. The rest of the group didn’t care or asked why I stopped showing up for group events. Life just went on. Slowly, in another repeated process, these so-called ‘friends’ started falling off.

In one of my previous business masterminds, I enthusiastically shared strategies and information that I paid thousands of dollars for. I never understood why the so called friends in the mastermind perceived it as being arrogant instead of being inspired and/or appreciative that I was sharing it for free. 

Ouch. These life events taught me a whole deal about friendship. Losing friends can be one of the most difficult things a young man has to deal with when you’re in your twenties. Especially when you’re standing up for your values. However, I embraced pain and put it into improving my dating life. 

Fast forward years later, I’ve had a dating life equivalent to a Chinese lord in ancient China (not at Emperor level yet), I built a profitable business in the dating coach for men industry in Singapore, travelled to many parts of the world and progressively began doing better than these peers around me in  multiple aspects of my life: academic performance, dating life, fitness, personal finances and business. I became well-traveled, well-spoken and had my first taste of business success. I became a lot more reliable and accountable than my teenage years.

Choosing your Friends Wisely: Boundaries

There seems to be a particular boundary issue in Asian culture. To give you an example: you’re ‘supposed’ to just share drinks on the table because someone in the group  decides to order an expensive bottle and you just happened to want to go to the club with friends to chill. If you don’t fit in socially into that particular situation, you’re considered an asshole.

Isn’t being accountable for what you spend and keeping others accountable for what they spend a rational behavior? Or is it a social norm to let minor purchases slight in the name of ‘friendship’.

I’ve NEVER had issues going dutch with women on dates. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for friend. There’s something perverse about the Asian culture that you’re expected to buy someone a meal or a drink, and then he/she treats you back a week later and the cycle repeats itself.

You Want to Associated Yourself with People Better than You: You Want to be Reliable

I knew my success, drive and no-nonsense approach to keep myself and others accountable is going to rub most people the wrong way. I also slowly understood that people do not merely exchange bodily fluids, money with each other, but also self-esteem. People with healthy self esteem are going to understand accountability and responsibility. However by this time I knew I could generate acquaintances and surface-level friendships in almost any social setting through social skills. Hence, I wasn’t too worried when I piss people off by holding them accountable.

Mike, from PickUpAlpha wrote about the importance of smaller social groups and the meaningless of the big Asian social group that permeates Asian culture. He also sees many Asian acting betas in order to fit into a social group. I often tell clients that they are going to go through an identity flux if they desire mastery in this area. If you start stepping up, not many people are going to like it. Especially if you weren’t the popular or cool popular guy in your teenage years.

There seems to a perverse Asian phenomenon where people defer to people with social status, power, authority and monetary influence. When I was growing up, everyone deferred to the rich kid that pays for bottles at the club with his Daddy’s credit card. Secondly, I don’t think it’s solely an Asian problem, however, it’s more prevalent in Asian cultures. There’s no need to defer to some asshole just because he has a big house and uses his Dad’s credit card to pay for bottles at the club. I’m not saying you need to burn bridges either. 

Charlie Munger, a billionaire, has so often wrote: you want to avoid unreliability and sloth. His partner, Mr Buffet, has also mentioned: you want to associate with people with better behaviours than you and you’ll drift in that direction. I can’t advocate the notion of choosing your friends wisely. If your peer group aren’t upwardly mobile and socially punish you for attempting to better your life, then to hell with them.

Apr 11

How to Overcome Anxiety – a Psychologically Research Guide

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered starting my first business when I was 22. I dropped out of accounting school and started a website. In, three months, I gave up and told myself: I’m not cut out for this. This isn’t for me. I had too much anxiety and  froze up, not knowing what to do next. If you see an attractive stranger walk by us on the streets. You look at them, faintly hoping they’ll look at us. They might even you a hint or two and even if so, we freeze dumbfounded there with anxiety running through us, unable to make the next step. Thankfully I red this article explaining how does cbd help anxiety.

Studies show that fears, anxieties, traumas are imprinted on our brains in similar ways that our physical habits are. They are hardwired into us and never disappear. They are our emotional habits, just like all our other physical habits. If you can build a habit to study hard for examinations, it’s the same ability to build an emotional habit to feel less anxious during social or sexual situations.

How to Overcome Anxiety – Understanding Anxiety

Here’s the thing about anxiety. Everyone has a degree of social and sexual anxiety, no matter how rich, handsome or beautiful they are, it’s part of being human. 

The good news is that although anxieties can’t be removed, it can be replaced with higher order behaviours. You can build a habit of acting against your fears.

The people who perform well in a high pressured situation as compared to those who flunk is not due to the lack of anxiety, but how well they managed their anxiety. They both experience similar anxiety, however, one is trained to harness it rather than to be crippled by it. People who are confident in their abilities become more energised and assertive with their anxieties. Their nervousness even goes to help them perform.

I asked myself: How can I look forward to my days? How can I be excited about going to the examinations, and feeling competent instead of seeing it as something that is a pain in the butt. How can I be excited to head out with friends on a night out to potentially meet a new romantic partner? Can it not be a non – stressful event? Can it not been as something to be competed and fought against, and something that’s collaborated and enjoyed? This is why I looked into research on how anxieties are formed and how to overcome it.

Principle 1) Questioning our Deep Rooted Beliefs

Someone can be rich and popular but still don’t feel any more secure in their day to day confidence. There are deep rooted beliefs about ourselves that we aren’t willing/able to let go of. Our past pains contribute to our present pain and this may hurt us in all areas of our lives. 

One way to overcome anxiety is to understand why you’re feeling anxious in the first place. This is to question our own thoughts and beliefs about ourselves. This requires self awareness. It’s helpful to take a step back and ask yourself whenever you’re feeling anxious about something. You can ask myself if it’s that really true that if you perform X desired behaviour, you’ll get a negative Y result. 

The other thing you can do is to attempt to understand if a past experience or trauma contributed to your current anxiety. If you’re afraid of start business, could it be because you failed with money in the past and you convince yourself that you’re just not cut out to be an entrepreneur. The process peeling one layer back and another can be emotionally painful whilst doing so, but necessary in the long run.

When I lost money in the stock market. I convinced myself for a year that I merely sucked as an investor. However, that wasn’t the case. Bad trades don’t make me a bad investor. That one horrible trade that I made just mean that I failed at a trade when I first started out. It doesn’t say anything about my identity. 

Secondly, instead of believing what’s ‘true’ why not believe in something that’s helpful. Psychological research shows that our human psychology is at most times, biased and unreliable. We often convince ourselves of the ‘truth’ to ourselves and others, whereas, in plain reality, it’s often far from actual reality. So at the end of the day, there’s actually no final ‘truth’. Hence, it’s better to believe what’s helpful, rather than what’s ‘true’, since what’s true is often what we merely convinced ourselves.

Principle 2) Defence Mechanisms

Now, let me get to our excuses. It’s what I call: defence mechanisms. It’s the lies you and I tell ourselves day in and out when you fail to approach that girl, hit the gym or start a business.  You and I all have defense mechanisms that run rampant when it comes to different aspects of life. The common defense mechanisms can morph between apathy, blame, avoidance and procrastination, depending on your life circumstances and different past experiences and upbringing. 

  • The Blame/ Anger

Some of the common ones that I get from myself and people around me: my parents fuck me up, I’m just born like that naturally. I mean, it’s society’s fault, all women are haters. It’s easy to blame something and be angry at someone or something, paint yourself a victim than to take responsibility for something in your life. 

  • Avoidance

When I started improving my dating life, on some nights, I’m completely avoid about social situations by convincing myself that I don’t care. I somehow convinced myself that I don’t want/need to talk to girls and I’m perfectly cool about it. Yeah right Marcus, you’re full of crap, you’ve been talking about this the whole week, now that you’re in the club you’re not going to talk to a single girl?

  • Intellectualization

Intellectualisation is also another form of avoidance. However, in this case, instead of completely avoiding doing that action, you convince yourself that you can learn more about that subject. Hence, instead of actually performing that action, you end up reading, and watching videos or tutorials on how to do that action. 

There’s nothing wrong to get a more insightful perspective on how to approach a girl, how to write a press release, how to build a business. However, if you find yourself reading one book after another without doing anything about, then you’re probably using knowledge as an excuse. 

Sometimes, behind these defense mechanisms are emotional truths and realities that we’re out of touch with. The trick here is spotting the excuses you give yourself, and acting despite these excuses. 

How to Overcome Anxiety Principle 3) Progressive Desensitization

When it comes how to overcome anxiety, many are going to teach you a lot of nonsense. Some say it’s a purely a matter of willpower and hustle. Some say that anxiety isn’t real. Others say to focus on the positive and ignore the negative. Some say: just man up the fuck up, grab your balls and just do it.

This strategies work in the short run. However none of these are sustainable and it can actually harm you more than help you in the long run. These solutions only create short term gains, they don’t create permanent habits over the anxiety. Remember, anxiety is an emotional habit wired into your brain and to overcome it, you must hardwire a different, more positive habit on top of it.

Through my experiences as a dating coach for men, I noticed that many of the guys from the community were hyping themselves up before going into the club to meet women. This isn’t really a sustainable strategy in the long run.

One of the most reliable methods of helping you overcome your anxieties is referred to cognitive behavioural therapy, often known as CBT. CBT is based on the concept of progressive desensitization and gradual exposure to something that makes us afraid.

This is effective on two fronts: 1) It slowly develops our willpower over the course of time instead of overwhelming us at once, and 2) Builds a strong base of confidence in our ability to handle a situation, makes us less likely to freeze up.

If you’re afraid to start a conversation with a stranger at the library, you can start by asking strangers for the time and directions, to build you up, to get some social juices going. Nothing else. Then once you can do that comfortably, you build up to asking strangers for directions and then inserting a compliment. You can get creative with your exercises here. The trick here is this: You continue to progressively push yourself until you’re comfortable with the action.

Willpower is a muscle that can be depleted, and also can be built. If it’s not exercised, it becomes weak. The longer someone becomes a couch potato, the harder it is for them to get up and hit the gym. On the other hand, people who have a lot of discipline and positive habits are able to adopt new habits and push through uncomfortable situations much easier.

Principle 4) Self Acceptance

What you resist, persists. When it comes to fear and anxiety, don’t you notice that the more you focus on it or fight it, the stronger it becomes.

When I was in an academic setting, the more I was afraid of failing my exams, the more I was afraid of picking up my pen and doing some practices to score. Hence, I ended up failing, despite investing an enormous amount of mental effort stressing out over the examinations. It almost felt as if I put in the effort, and yet had no results. 

The times where you accepted that the fear is there, and things may not go how you’d like them to go, you decided that you were okay with whichever outcome that is going to occur, you relaxed and performed fine.

Instead of focusing and spending a huge amount of mental effort on how to beat your anxiety, you can just say to yourself: “You know what, I’m a nervous guy, and this isn’t going to go away or get any easier. I am just going to live with it and act despite it.” This relieves the pressure of not forcing yourself to not feeling anxious.

Till this day I still feel anxious when speaking to someone new. On some days, I still convince myself that I don’t want it, or I don’t need it. Despite writing hundreds of blog posts, I still feel anxious or avoidant when publishing an article. Our emotional habits don’t go away, they merely get replaced by higher order behaviours and habits.

Self development, at the end of the day is changing how you feel about others, and yourself. It ties into concepts such as anxiety, our attachment system, self esteem and etc. The bedrock of acceptance commitment therapy is to go with, instead of against your negative feelings and thoughts as opposed to challenge it.

On the other hand, taking the ACT approach, If I were to just accept these negative thoughts, and be non judgmental about it, I wouldn’t spend the mental energy ruminating over those thoughts in my head.

The Art of Defusing From Your Thoughts

In acceptance commitment therapy, whether a thought is true or not is not that important. It’s far more important if that thought is helpful or not.

Thoughts are also stories we tell ourselves. The mind never stops telling stories, not even when you’re asleep. It is constantly comparing, judying, evaluating, critizing, planning, pontificating and fantasizing.

We all have beliefs, the more we tightly hold on to them, the more inflexible we come in our attitudes and behaviours. 

Fusion happens when you’re blending with your thoughts.In a state of fusion, it seems as if our thoughts are our reality. What we’re thinking is actually happening, here and now. Our thoughts become the truth, the truth of our reality. 

Now, how do we defuse from this ‘self created truth’ to the actual reality of things? 

To defuse your thoughts, it’s first to bring to awareness an upsetting thought that takes in the form of ‘I am X’. For EG. ‘I’m not good enough’, or I’m incompetent’. Preferably a thought that often recurs and that usually bothers or upsets you.

Now, take that thought and insert this phrase in front of it: ‘I’m having the thought that….’ 

Now, this time, phrase it longer ‘I notice I’m having the thought I am X’.

This practice gave you distance from the actual thought as if you “Stepped Back” from it.

You’re no longer making your thoughts your identity, you’re no longer making it your truth. 

Principle 5) Taking Valued Based Action

One part of acceptance and commitment therapy is to take valued based action. Your values are different from goals. A value is a direction we desire to keep moving in, an ongoing process that never reaches an end. You can make the analogy that a value is akin to heading west, no matter how far you travel there’s always farther west you can go. Getting married is a goal. Being loving, honest and empathetic. These are values.

One of the revelations in the book man’s Search for Meaning, written by Viktor Frankl, who was a Jewish psychiatrist who survived years of unspeakable horror in Nazi concentration camps reported that the people who survived longest in the death camps are those who are connected with a deeper purpose in life. The deeper purpose if often rooted in values. One of Viktor Frankl’s values is in helping others, and so, throughout his time in concentration camps. he consistently helped other prisoners to cope despite the atrocious conditions. He also helped them to connect to their deepest values. Taking values based action gives our lives meaning and a powerful antidote to give your life purpose.

Principle 6) The Struggle Switch

The more we struggle with or against these feelings, the more trouble we create for ourselves. When these negative emotions show up, the thing is not to struggle against it, but to just let it be. Our anxiety levels are free to rise and fall. Some times, they’re high, some times, low, more important, you’re not wasting your time and energy struggling against it. Initially, you can willpower through your issues. However, willpower is going to run out.

When we beat ourselves up over our own thoughts and emotions, then that’s when the struggle switch is on.

‘This can’t be good for me.’ ‘I’m such a crappy friend’ ‘I shouldn’t be doing this.’ ‘I’m acting like a child’.

You end up feeling guilty about being angry. You might feel angry about feeling anxious. There are secondary emotions that might come a long with the primary emotion. It’s a vicious cycle. There’s no avoiding discomfort. However, there’s no need for additional suffering. This struggle switch is like an emotional amplifier. When you switch it on, we can have multi layer emotions such as anger about our anxiety. You can feel guilty about our your depression.

When it’s turned on, we’re completely unwilling to accept the presence of these uncomfortable emotions. Not only you’re unable to get rid of them but you’ll also do whatever it takes to get rid of them: this may be through pornography, binge eating and etc.

These are control strategies. Instead of avoiding or struggling against these feelings, it’s better to ‘expand into it’. Expanding into your negative emotions is similar to the defusing technique. It is to step aside from your thoughts and observe your emotions. By allowing these sensations to be there, two things might happen. Either your feelings will change, or they don’t. It doesn’t matter either way because this technique is not about changing your feelings but accepting them.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no fool proof technique to overcome anxiety. It’s going to take practice and effort to practice. Now, I believe that not all negative emotions or thoughts should be merely ‘accepted’. Negative emotions can push us towards value based actions during times of need. Furthermore, it’s not enough to just accept all your negative thoughts or negative feedback. If you see a clear pattern in your life and you’re feeling upset about it, then perhaps you got to do something different. 

Lastly, these techniques shouldn’t be used as control strategies. When you’re throwing your arms in the air and being frustrated and pissed off at why ‘defusing your thoughts’ isn’t working as it should be. You’re probably using it as a control strategy. There’s nothing to control here. Just a plain awareness of your thoughts, accepting them, nodding at them. With no judgement. Our anxieties don’t go away, you merely form better habits on top of them.     

Mar 27

How to Stop Watching Porn – It Can Ruin Your Life

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

I remembered that I had a Windows 95, a dial up connection, and that was all I need. I was one resourceful kid. I caught on the hard core stuff really fast. BDSM, lesbians and foot fetishes, you name it, I watched it. It was only when I started in reading up on psychology that I was exposed to the effects of pornography that I started limiting my intake.

In the men’s dating advice community, there are also many positive reports from guys who are going through the ‘no fap’ diet. If you’re masturbating too much, watching too much porn and not getting much out of your sex life, then it’s a problem. So, can reducing pornographic intake help in multiple areas of your life? If so, how can you stop watching porn in an effective manner?

The Science of Pornography

The intake of pornography is researched to be a supra normal stimulus to our brains. This means, it’s way more pleasurable than the average arousing stimulus. Our brains aren’t ready to take in those kind stimulus and hence develop a need for higher forms of stimuli and arousal. This is why you become desensitised and develop a need for more novel stimuli through fancier or more hard core pornography.

Ultimately, pornography paints an unrealistic picture of sexuality. This skews our perception of what beauty is and gives us unreasonable standards for sex with the people we meet. In my younger days, I used to think that having sex with a porn star in multiple crazy positions would define my masculinity.

That can’t be further from reality. The majority of partners you meet aren’t going to live up to the unrealistic narratives in pornography films. Sex is an intimate act for both partners. When it actually happens, it’s usually nothing like you see on computer screens. Sex is actually an activity where either parties may feel unsure about themselves. Everyone get’s a little nervous before an intimate act. It’s nothing like the hard core bravado you watch on pornographic sites.

Shame, Guilt, Addiction and Pornography

Okay, if you’re wondering if pornography is an actual addiction. It’s debatable. Whilst it isn’t a ‘real addiction’, you can’t ignore the data that shows many people do experience real life problems with it. It has been linked to issues such as unhappy and unsatisfied partners, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

Whilst pornography ‘addiction’ isn’t validated as a clinical form of addiction, I’m guessing that there is some correlation between toxic shame and pornography overuse. I suggest that because there’s research that suggests that clinical addiction is used to cope with shame, to soothe out their feelings of inadequacy. They just do it through alcohol, drugs and etc.

There’s research suggesting that toxic shame is related to pornography usage. It also suggested that people that had shame were less motivated to alter their behaviours. I’m not going to go on about the differences between guilt and shame int his article, however they found the exact opposite when it came to feelings of guilt. There are other factors leading to compulsive and addictive pornographic usage as well: namely: depression and anxiety. In my personal experience, healing shame through the means of hiring a professional therapist can be a useful way of dealing with overconsumption of pornography, not to mention therapy offers insights into depression and anxiety as well.

How to Stop Watching Porn

Now, let’s get serious here. It’s not only your dating life or your relationships you’re talking about. It’s your entire life. This will not only determine your success with women, but also determine your ability to hand up work on time, increase your productivity, cure cancer or send someone to Mars. It’s life changing stuff.

I’ll share with you some methods that have helped me over the years.

1) If you can’t quit porn overnight, leave it to the last activity of the day. You can use pornography as a reward for the productive work you’ve accomplished during the day. You’re using this to rewire the pleasure reward mechanism in your brain. Ideally, you want to land yourself in a position where you have accomplished so much work in the day, that you don’t really want to jerk off to ‘spoil the track record’.

2) Psychological research shows that building habits in a small way is the only sustainable way to do it rather than flooding yourself with too many habits at one go. Habits are built small and then compounded over time. Starting small such as keeping masturbation and pornographic intake the last activity of the day is a small step that anyone can start applying in their lives.

3) If all else fails, fly to another country for a week or two. Travel can be used as an effective means to break and build habits. Whenever I’m out of the country, I’m much more productive and I don’t jerk off that much. Furthermore, staying in a hostel means that you can’t really watch pornography right?

4) Create an environment of inevitable success. When I was studying in the United States, I was stressed out of my head, behind time on academics and had a ton of assignments to finish. On top of that, I had personal responsibilities such as laundry, phone bills, making friends, making sure I go out on dates. I suddenly had better priorities than jerking off to porn.

5) Take a step back and ask yourself: Why are you watching pornography? Are you’re using pornography to cope reduce stress, to relief oneself from boredom, used to cope with negative feelings or situations, or simply avoiding withdrawal symptoms. People with maladaptive coping skills are much more vulnerable to using pornography as an outlet. So, are you merely using porn as a coping strategy?

6) When you do masturbate, think of women you’ve met in real life. Don’t fantasize about the girls you see in pornography clips. Let’s say you met a girl last week in the club and you’re aroused by her. Instead of relying on pornography, you can fantasize about her. It’ll hugely re-wire your mind to help you be more sensitive with real life girls.

7) Change your environmental to cues that leads you to watch pornography. Habit researchers found that in order to create new habits to break the old ones, you should not focus on the behavior but the cue itself. You can do this by installing pornographic blockers, restricting your computer and etc. Clinicians have also recommended this method.

8) Therapy. If nothing else works and you find your life being interrupt by your intake of pornography. I recommend working with a clinical psychologist. Cognitive behavioural and acceptance commitment therapy has been researched to potentially help with pornography addiction.

The Positive Effects of Not Watching Porn

Going out a masturbation diet and limiting pornography is one of the methods dished out to be more sexually motivated. Self development books such as Think and Grow Rich talks about the ability to transmute sexual desire into creative pursuits such as productive work or art, instead of it depleting one’s energy and motivation. Successful personalities such as Steve Jobs  are known to withhold from having sex just to get a creative boost at work.

If you’re overusing pornography, you may also have found yourself desensitised in your dating and relationships life from the years of using pornography. You may find yourself numbed to a real woman’s touch. This is because you are desensitised to all the unrealistic portrayals of pornography. On top of that, a female touch is completely different from the tight grip of your hand.

It was only when I started being serious about getting my dating life handled that I consciously chose to limit pornography and masturbation that I felt more motivated and confident. I also made sure that whenever I’m seeing someone, I would also limit pornography intake as well. (Read: This is to also ensure performance)

Over the years, I’ve never really quit cold turkey or completely. However, the times that I consciously limited my pornography intake, I’ve felt the positive side effects of it. I used to worry and get nervous about not being able to finish and the girl being sore and tired. I’m happy to report that I’m facing less of these problems these days.

Cutting down pornographic intake has also helped me performed better in other areas of my life from academics, sports, be more sexually aggressive in my dating life. The women I notice on a day to day basis became more beautiful and I started appreciating their physical imperfections, instead of fake pornographic displays. There’s also a noticeable improvement in general motivation and sense of well being.

When I find myself watching pornography on a more frequent basis, I find myself a lot more judgmental of the women I’m willing to approach. There’ll be a perfectly beautiful girl who walks past me and I’ll put it off and give myself the excuse that she isn’t hot enough. I also notice a difference in general anxiety. I feel more grounded and centered going about my day to day activities when I’m not on pornography.

Relapse and Should You Quit Pornography Completely?

Through the years, I didn’t see a need to quit pornography completely, I’ve attempted a couple of times  and I found myself unable to focus after awhile. I’m also sure that I’m not addicted to it. There are many periods when I’m feeling the urge and if I’m not dating someone, I’ll ‘relapse’ and use pornography there and then.

Here’s my verdict: it’s different strategies for different people. Personally, I belief by keeping pornography intake to a minimum is sufficient and there are clear benefits. If you work a lot trying to balance out academic commitments, business commitments and personal relationships, it can get stressful. Sometimes, you just need to get one out there. That’s fine. Just make sure it’s done in moderate dosages that don’t affect your day to day productivity.

It’s ultimately up to you to figure out what works for you. I don’t see it as an all or nothing thing. If pornography isn’t interfering with your day to day life, there’s no reason to be super strict on that no fap rule. There’s no hard and fast rule on this, however, I do encourage limiting pornography intake on the whole.

Works Cited

Hilton, D. L. (2013). Pornography addiction – a supranormal stimulus considered in the context of neuroplasticity. Socioaffective Neuroscience & Psychology, 3, 20767

Koukounas, E., & Over, R. (2000). Changes in the magnitude of the eyeblink startle response during habituation of sexual arousal. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 38(6), 573–584

Stewart, D. N., & Szymanski, D. M. (2012). Young Adult Women’s Reports of Their Male Romantic Partner’s Pornography Use as a Correlate of Their Self-Esteem, Relationship Quality, and Sexual Satisfaction. Sex Roles, 67(5-6), 257–271.

Schneider, J. P. (2000). A Qualitative Study of Cybersex Participants: Gender Differences, Recovery Issues, and Implications for Therapists.Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 7(4), 249–278.

 

Sep 28

How to Get out of Depression – a Guide to Psychotherapy

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

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.

The Struggle with Depression and Mental Health

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 their financial lives 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 in my relationships, I could always be charismatic with women that I wasn’t that 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’ll go on to 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?

Here’s 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 and your childhood. Perhaps you always find yourself in toxic romantic relationships 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 broke up with you over one text message. Maybe you lack confidence in your social life because you’ve been teased and bullied growing up. There may be 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 stigmatizes in culture in general. Modern culture stifles open conversations on emotions, depression, isolation, sex and relationships.

Ironically, the things that matter in life.

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 really cared about her advice anyway). There’s a difference between being  labelled a ‘patient’ or a ‘client’. The word ‘client’ is often used by psychologists who think of psychological disorders not as illnesses but as problems in living.  

Whenever I attempt to openly discuss therapy with my Asian friends, it gets kind of touchy. They are afraid of how it’s perceived.

If you think about it, seeking help from a therapist is 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 or masculine, 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 gave me insights into how psychoanalytic repercussions can run deep. You can’t ignore it.

This may sound far fetch, but I believe that everyone, rich, famous, successful or not can benefit from 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. MY personal belief is that hiring a therapist and using it as a tool is going to be the norm half a century from now. 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 Guide to Healthy Confidence

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

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 a 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 behaviour, 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 stronger 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 explore another aspect of my identity in another culture. I ended up performing academically.

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

The Freudian Idea: Self Esteem Derived from Childhood

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 behaviors in themselves in the past or present. 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!

Self Esteem and Relationships

Self-esteem or the lack of can also be expressed in our relationships. If you choose to be with someone because he or she makes you feel confident, a sense of comfort or confidence that you can’t internally generate on your own, then you may lack genuine self-esteem.

However, if you choose a partner who has personal values that you admire, for example, intelligence, confidence, and strength, then that says about your security as an individual, of a feeling of your own self-worth.

In an idealistic world, your employers, friends, and family are going to recognize the best virtues in you. However, in the real world, it often pans out in the opposite. I’m not going to bore you on the cliché that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. However, it’s true.

To name an example: your self-esteem maybe 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 many 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.

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 colleague 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, he demanded that I finished a 2000 words sales page for them in a short period of time. I managed to produce it within a day.

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.

How to Build Genuine 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 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.

You Must Place Values Above Emotions  

You can argue that his or her 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 in living, you’ll feel unworthy. If you betray your moral convictions, you will not retain your sense of confidence.

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.

Every individual has an innate sense to understand to the best of our intellectual capabilities. Sometimes, this defaults in childhood through irrational parenting, 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 cognizance over it.

For example, 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. However, when you place values above emotions, emotions are your reward and not your nemesis. However, if you do not have values or standards of your own, you accept whatever values offered to you by society.

Through setting standards and values of your own, you’re rejecting other values and standards. You’re building your own personal boundaries and values.

Develop a Sense of Life Purpose

Self-esteem is also ostensibly tied to one’s feeling of 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 of the characteristics of self-esteem is an individual’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 productivity, a primary desire of an individual of self-confidence is to face challenges, to achieve and grow. 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.

False and Pseudo Self Esteem

The lack of self-esteem is often expressed by people who desire to escape consciousness and the ability or need to form rational thought. This is often expressed through sexual pleasure, money for the sake of money and common vices in society such as drugs or alcoholism: 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. The former 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 is an irrational pretense at self-value. It is an avoidance of anxiety and it provides a temporary sense of security. To the individual of authentic self-esteem, there is no clash between his recognition of the facts of reality and the preservation of one’s 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. 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. 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 is 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 crises 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) 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 internal values. On one hand, sex feels good. Yet, one the other, she was brought up to belief otherwise.

Sigmund 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 Build 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. The individual’s 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’

Finally, 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’.’

Early on, during more immature 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, some days I don’t. It’s just human to feel that way. You’re already enough, as I commonly mention to my clients as a dating coach.

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. Here’s what you need is mere: self-esteem. Plain, and simple.

How to Build Self Esteem: Closing Thoughts

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.

Ultimately, your expectations and standards you set for yourself is going to largely fall to the quality of people around you. For a lot of us, you’re going to spend most of your time with your family and close friends.

This is why getting a role model 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

 

Jan 14

What Are Personal Values? – Develop Integrity and Purpose

By Marcus Neo | Self Improvement and Social Skills

What are personal values and why are they important in dating, relationships or just life at large? When I was 19 or so, a friend of mine came to me complaining that she was being emotionally bullied by a close friend of mine. I softly persuaded him to stop it, despite him being a close friend of mine. I didn’t like bullies, for I was in a somewhat similar position once.

You could argue that by me standing up to my friend, I was acting out of my values. I stood up for my values regardless of external circumstances, whether he’s my good friend or not. I behaved according to my values and persuaded him otherwise, risking a potential loss of friendship with him.

So, What Are Values?

Values can be said to be internal compasses. They are the judgment about how important something is to us. There are principles that are held internally regardless of external circumstances. Sometimes, they are principles and judgments that you may even sacrifice and die for. They can comprise of intangibles such as authenticity, accountability, empathy and respect.

Why are Values Important?

In modern society, you may find yourself in a constant struggle to stick to your values as opposed to sacrifice them for an extrinsic result.

For example, authenticity and expressing yourself honestly is a value in itself. Honesty, however, sometimes is uncomfortable, especially when expressed negatively to friends or superiors. Your honesty may not be appreciated. It may involve telling your boss something that he might disagree with but might be better for the company. This may put you at risk of offending him (or losing your job). This can be difficult at times, especially so in the Asian culture.

In your relationships, what if your date you’re interested in treats you badly? What if he or she’s a no show for three dates straight and cancels on you last minute every single time? Are you going stick up for yourself and perhaps call them out? Or are you going smile, and pretend nothing happened?

Can you uphold the value of self-respect? Perhaps through calling her out for her negative behaviour, risk upsetting her and losing the potential benefit of dating someone you’re interested in?

What if your friends are always showing up late and disrespectful of your time? What if you valued your time, and made efforts to be on time for meetups? Do you hold back calling the person out to avoid the possibility of not offending him or her?

Values are researched to higher self-esteem, in the long run, makes you more attractive to women, increase work creativity, and make you a happier person. Positive values are also usually ensued by strong boundaries.

In short, they’re awesome.

Ironically, it’s people that do not have any values going for them that are unattractive and mediocre. They don’t stand for anything. They are people pleasers. Their craving for attention, affection from the world around them at the cost of their personal integrity and values. They’ll never build a strong identity. Counter-intuitively, it’s this constant need for a false sense of acceptance is what repels people away.

In our relationships, it’s the sacrifice of their own personal values that drive needy and unattractive behaviour.

So Marcus, without sounding like your high school counsellor, how can you instil this thing called values in your life then?

Ironing Out Your Values

Ironing out your values can be simple as taking out a piece of paper and writing down what you will and will not accept in your life. This can range from business decisions, relationship values to all other areas of your life. The second step is to commit and be disciplined about it. Note, no one is perfect and it’s OKAY to falter and be flexible. However, just like habits, you just go back to work on it.

  • Your Dating and Relationship Values

So, a couple of years ago, when I started learning how to attract women. The first step was to iron out my dating and relationship values. This means what I will, and will not accept from women, or people in general. This not only helped my self-esteem, but it also made my dating choices much easier.

In my own life today, and in my client’s life as a dating coach for men. You can start with a couple of simple values.

I stopped texting girls who didn’t want to text me back, I stopped worrying about girls who didn’t want to go out on dates with me. Yeah, I get rejected, however, it saved me the heartache, the smokes and games that people play. I decided I’ll not hang out with people who don’t want to hang out with me. I’ll not date a girl who doesn’t want to date me. I’ll not text a girl who doesn’t want to text me. I’ll express interest to women only that I’m interested in.

These values played an important role when on a date. Instead of constantly worrying if I match up to her, I’m going to see if there’s a right fit of values. I’m not looking to impress her.

If you’re wondering what I value in women, physical beauty (I can’t lie), empathy, intellectual curiosity, honesty, nurturance and accountability. From personal experience, I’m a lot more motivated, willing to sacrifice a lot more time and effort and to pursue a girl who’s more physically aesthetic If she’s hot but has selfie problem, sure, I’ll be more tolerant of it. If she’s hot but is slightly emotionally erratic, sure, I’ll be patient. I’m willing to give up many superficial nuances that tick me off.

However, I’m not willing to give up my personal boundaries just to pursue someone who is physically attractive. There are values that are non-negotiable. If she constantly disrespects me or is rude, I am going to call her out on it. If she doesn’t alter her behaviour, then I’ll simply drop her.

Note, I hold these values true for all other relationships as well. I also can’t be bothered by people who don’t respect my time or money. If you don’t respect my time or money, there isn’t a friendship in place anymore in the first place.

Business Values

I once worked for a traditional company in Singapore. Whilst the potential monetary prospects were good, I hated it. Why so? That’s because the way the business was conducted went against my values of providing a competitive and ethical service to society.

The business deals were done over drinks, karaoke pubs and mind games with everyone. Everyone was attempting to look rich, attempting to blow smoke up each other asses, instead of actually discussing rational business.

It forced me to iron out my business values. Through the years I decided that I’ll only make an income through ethical products or service to consumers that don’t hurt society. The systems and products have to work without any overt form of bootlicking. I’m not going to work with or for anyone who uses his network or relationships as a ‘stronghold’. I don’t give two fucks if you tell me your father is a billionaire. I don’t want to rely on ‘Guan Xi’ to do business.

Ironing out these values made a lot of business choices down the road much simpler.  Out went the scammy products that prey on delusional or people that are in a bad spot in life, out went the nights of drinking just for the sake of clinching a deal. Since I had these values in place, it freed me up to learn how to do marketing ethically, branding and ethical business practices.

Helpful and UnHelpful Values 

It’s said if you pursue negative values such as popularity and fame, it’s ‘negative’. However, I don’t entirely see it this way and I think negative values can be a good motivator for positive values. I didn’t desire to be with hot women, I’ll not have undertaken this self-improvement process. If not for the desire to be financially free, I’ll not have attempted to be an entrepreneur. This blog wouldn’t exist. I also think everyone is motivated by different intrinsic and extrinsic motivators at a certain point of time.

Negative values are superstitious, immediately controllable and socially destructive. If you value popularity or fame, and how much you’re liked or accepted by everyone that’s not immediately controllable. That’s because you can’t control how people think of you.

If you measured yourself and valued a million dollars in a bank, that’s an external value that isn’t controllable. It’s merely going to drive you crazy daily. Negative values are reliant on an external event such as flying in a private jet, getting threesomes or travelling the world in pursuit of a hedonistic lifestyle (guilty).

Arguably, negative values can be good motivators initially. You didn’t get into self-development if you didn’t want to fuck more girls, make more money and look really awesome amongst your friends right? Negative values can give you a good start, however, for long term happiness, you’ll need to prioritize internal values in the long run.

Positive values are reality-based, immediately controllable, self-generated and are socially constructive. Positive values such as innovation, honesty and vulnerability are immediately controllable and can be self-generated right this moment.

For example, instead of valuing popularity or how much I’m liked by people, I can make an internal value of improving my dating/ social life. That way, just by going out to a bar to meet more women is a win for me, regardless of their reaction to me.

Positive values are always internally achieved and there’s no completion to them. They are also process oriented. Honesty and vulnerability are internal values that can be practised right now and in every social interaction for the rest of your life.

How to Establish Your Values Without Being an Asshole?

So the one thing about values that people get confused is that you got to be somewhat of an asshole when expressing your values.

Having strong values doesn’t mean that you go around calling others out on their ‘poor values’ or ‘lack of values’. It just means recognising that you have different values than them and sometimes it’s just a lack of compatibility. The first step to establish your values is to express it in a matured manner. If the girl you’re dating shows up late, you don’t have to scream at her for showing up late. Just making it known and calling her out on it is enough.

You can always say: “Hey, I hope you won’t be this late the next time we meet.”

In a respectful and assertive manner.

I also want to note that your values should be flexible and based on context. If you have an amazing friendship with someone who’s always fucking late who has many other merits, then it’s perfectly fine to just accept that flaw in that person.

What Happens When You Change Your Values?

When you change your values, it’s normal for your old relationships to blow up in your face. This can be demonstrated by calling out certain behaviours from old friends and possibly ticking them off the wrong way. In my own personal growth, I started valuing my time and I started being serious about my business and my work. If you cancel on me without letting me know, I’m sorry, that’s non-negotiable. I’m calling you out.

The friendships you made through your life probably supported and confirmed the values of yours. However, when you begin to shift your values, you’re going to inevitably experience a lot of friction amongst those old relationships.

In my experience, long term relationships and friendships are the hardest. You may find yourself in a place where your closest relationships no longer understand you anymore. However, do these friendships have to have to go? I don’t think necessarily so. There’s no need to cut out a person because of a difference in values, that’s because, despite a difference in values, there may be overlap in values.

However, if you are constantly bickering over petty behaviours. That merely goes to show that you have different fundamental life values and have completely different priorities completely, then perhaps some time off that particular relationship might not be a completely negative thing.

In my experience, I found out the hard way that people around you are going to have different values from you do at the different point of their lives in multiple areas of their life from relationships to careers.

This is true of your relationship with to your parents, your childhood best friends, your boss, your pet goldfish, and your colleagues. You may have a childhood friend that has conflicting values at some point of his or her life and a loss of friendship is inevitable.

It’s values that ultimately bring people together and tear people apart. You’re going to be what you value. Choose your values wisely.

Works Cited

J, Z., S, S., J, C., & Z, Z. (2009). Social networks, personal values, and creativity: Evidence for curvilinear and interaction effects. Journal of Applied Psychology, 94(4), 1544-1552.

W, M. M. (2007). Happiness and Virtue in Positive Psychology. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 89-103.