Advice, it is what the older inflict on the younger; it is their attempt to fix their own past, by trying to fix your present. In that spirit, here are some things I realize now, that I wished I realized when younger.
While this advice may be useful to all men, I am aiming it towards a young man between 15 and 25 years of age. It is not profound, and most likely not life changing, but it is the kind of things that I wish I had figured out then.
At some point in his mid-teens a young man begins to get a sense of his place in the world. He begins to make realizations as to whether he is one of the “in” crowd or one of the “out” crowd. I did not have a word for it at that age, but you do; that word is “beta.” The word describes your place on the male hierarchy. Having a word does not change how it feels, but does make discussion easier.
By definition, 80 percent of men will not be in the top 20 percent. Your goal is to balance attempts to rise higher, against satisfaction with your current place. If banging 500 women is not your goal then do not be made to feel bad because you only have one (or even no) steady girlfriend. However, if your desire is to bang 500 women, then do not pretend your failure is because you disdain such debauchery. The same goes for any endeavor. There is no happiness in pretending not to care when you do; you may fool others but not yourself. Likewise, there is no failure in not achieving something that was not a goal.
You may not completely achieve all your goals, you may not be able to turn yourself into quite the person you hoped; you have to be satisfied with that too.
[I used women, as it is likely something at the top of the mind of a 15 to 25 year old.]
At lot of men will tell you, with an air of phony confidence, that “try” is for losers. That is nonsense. No improvement happens with out effort and no improvement is guaranteed. While different individuals may be advantaged with certain traits, none of us is born knowing how to do everything well. Not “trying” is for losers. Telling others that “try” is for losers is the sign of someone that has mistaken luck for virtue.
I am not certain on the question as to whether alphas are born or made. I suspect it is a bit of both. What I outline below, are the kind of attributes that might push a man towards beta. They are the nature given traits that make it harder to express his full confidence and authority. While there may be limits to your full potential, you are certainly not fixed. The worst decision to make is to assume that your starting point defines your ending point. For each of these “betaizing” traits, I outline a possible way to handle them. You may never become the marauding silverback king of the jungle, but you may find greater satisfaction where you are.
You suffer delayed puberty
Hitting puberty later than your peers can be a major setback for the young man. Indeed, the problem is in the very phrase “young man”: while your friends are growing taller, filling out in the shoulders, and their voices deepening, you are left looking like a kid. At a time where status is defined by having those more adult attributes, it represents a major setback. However, you should not let the circumstances of the short term become the habit of a lifetime. You may have heard the phrase “Don’t worry, you will grow out of it.” In this case, it is completely true. Within a few years you will have closed that gap, you really will grow out of it.
Your mission is to use that time wisely. Painful as it is to have attractive girls see you as their little brother, this is your time to practice treating them like your annoying older sister. In the case of the chicks: you have nothing, so have nothing to lose. Do give them back-chat, do hold their eye, never do them favors you would not do for a friend, learn to not become bewitched by the chance of scoring. In two years, you will look more like your friends but you will have internalized powerful habits. Your friends will have coasted on the chance luck of nature, you will have learned habits for a lifetime. At some point, you will notice the young women’s amused annoyance becomes amused interest; your years in the wilderness will start to pay off.
In dealing with other men, the lesson is the same. You may be the smallest and youngest looking, but hold their eye. Their advanced physical maturity implies little extra mental maturity. Express opinions, even if you feel nervous. Study how the most alpha of your group moves and acts, and then seek to internalize those habits. Try to command respect despite your lowly appearance.
You cannot coast on the mere appearance of maturity, so you can use this time to learn the more subtle ways of conveying authority. See if you can notice the body language of swagger, the voice of confidence, the attitude of authority. Do not assume that you are the little guy who can never be Mister Big. Even incorporating some of the habits of the leaders into your own actions can have helpful effects.
If the “big man” dismisses you with a “What would you know?” Hold your ground; make him explain why you are wrong. The point is not to win, but to push back. In this case, it is not the winning that counts, it’s the fight.
At this point, some guys have been given something; you will have to work for it. Remember puberty will hit, and by that time you should have a filled out attitude to match your filled out shoulders; you should be walking tall no matter what your final height.
Many young men peak in their teens, never having had the trials that forge clear understanding. You will not be one of those.
You are shy
Shyness and introversion are not always the same. Shyness is the fear of, or at least extreme discomfort in, social situations. [see notes]
This is another painful situation for a young man. Most grow out of it to some degree, but you can speed the process up with conscious practice. The reason most grow out of it is, that over time they realize social situations do not provide a real threat. You can speed the process up by conscious awareness of the need for practice.
The first, and most important, step is to lose any shame over this. I am not sure how shyness develops, but it does not matter. Shyness is not a reflection on your masculinity nor a mark of some defect. Most likely, it is the unhappy coincidence of brain chemistry and unneeded internalization of bad experiences. In any case, it is something you can train yourself out of (or at least reduce greatly).
The second step is to acknowledge the feelings. Accept them as a current part of your self, but also seek to describe them. Ask your self: what is shyness? How do I know I am feeling shy? What is it that I experience when I feel shy? Focusing on the, presumably uncomfortable, feelings can start to blunt their emotional effect. Do not fight them, but make the decision that you will try to plow on despite the discomfort. A headache is uncomfortable, yet you can acknowledge it and carry on. Aching muscles are uncomfortable, yet you can exercise despite knowing the cost in discomfort. It is the same with shyness, at the best the feeling may subside or disappear, at worst you will learn to function with them (your results will be most likely closer to the first).
The third step is practice. The simple rule here is that if you think you might want to say something then do say something. Do this even if, especially if, you feel a bit awkward saying it. If you see someone reading a book you are interested in, ask him about it. If you see someone getting into a nice car, tell him, “nice car!” If you see a man in a great outfit ask “Love your jacket, where did you get it.” It is true that it may not always be appropriate to talk (e.g., they are in conversation with another, or on the phone) but if you feel you have an opening (e.g., some eye contact, not distracted) then speak.
This is not about forcing conversation; it is about not halting it. It is about not letting feelings of discomfort stop you. If you have nothing to say it is fine not to say it. Even if you are not feeling talkative you can still greet people you pass on the sidewalk or corridor. You have no requirement to indulge in extensive chit-chat, a simple “Hi!” delivered with a smile will suffice.
It is not always about you. You may not always receive friendly responses, this could be for a number of reasons: The other person was distracted or preoccupied, they are shy themselves, they are just unfriendly, etc. The important point is to rate yourself on the actions you took (and do control) not the actions others took (and you do not control).
You are introvert
This is not the same as shy. [see notes] You may not “grow out of it.” It is a preference, or style, that will likely live with you for the rest of your life. Despite the extravert assumption, it is a preference shared by a large number of people.
As with shyness, the first step is to lose any shame for not being part of the “cooler” louder set. It is true that many social options, especially related to pickup, veer towards the extravert assumption and there is not a lot you can do about that. Ideally, you should seek social avenues that match your style, or you can work to build your tolerance for the more extravert venues. In the second case, look on it as a disciplined act to achieve and end, rather than a rejection of your own natural style.
Try to build your confidence around your natural style. There are many advantages, in this social world, to extraversion, but a man can carry an introverted manner with confidence and dignity
Potential Role models: Russell Crowe, Bruce Willis, and George Clooney. These may not be introverted but are certainly a model an introvert could use. Crowe may have partaken in some wild antics, but some of his screen roles appear more introverted in style. The point is that, you do not need a highly expressive style to convey confidence and authority, or even humor and style. Look for those on around you who seem confident while matching your introvert energy.
[Perhaps younger readers could provide me with more age appropriate suggestions than mine.]
PA suggested Simon Cowell (Celebrity Types thinks Cowell may be an ISTP). Whether you believe him to be introvert or not, his style could be adopted by an introverted person.
You are short
OK, puberty has done everything it should, but it forgot about the growth spurt. A terrible thing, right? Actually, it is probably not so bad.
Unless you are significantly shorter than average, you will still be taller than the majority of women. In any case, it is far less of a problem than most assume. A woman might state a preference for a taller man, but when you hit her with your charm and confidence, she will not notice the vertical lack. Of all the things a man needs to worry about this is the least.
Given the choice between six-four and five-four, I would choose six-four, but given the choice between confidence and charm and six-four, I would choose confidence and charm. Indeed if you lack any of the latter, all the height in the world will not help you.
[I would put height as a greater advantage in dealing with other men, than in dealing with women. Height may make it easier to win status battles. In fact I think it makes more sense for a 5′ 10″ man to buy lifts than a 5′ 6″ one – the second is still a short guy (but dorky enough to buy lifts), the first becomes taller than a majority of other men.]
You are nice
I am talking about one that is generally agreeable and not a supplicating drone. If you are the second, I have simple advice: Stop. Stop it Now.
Agreeableness is a trait that differs across individuals; it likely has a hereditary component. We all like nice people, so what is the problem? The problem is that agreeableness tends to be opposed to dominance. That is, more agreeableness means less dominance. Dominance is a useful trait; it is especially useful for man. While every woman claims to like nice guys, we know that deep down they love a least a bit of assholery (dominance). Men tend to hate dominance (assholes) precisely because it is such a potent weapon in status fights. However, it would be wrong to follow the advice to act like an asshole. The entire utility of high dominance/low agreeableness is that acting like an asshole has no cost for the dominant individual; they are truly being themselves. For you, though, there is a cost. You are acting outside your natural zone; it takes effort and will likely look awkward.
None of the above means that you cannot practice gentle assertion. This is less about been an asshole and more about not being a pushover. Learn to say “no” and learn to hear “no.” You have a right to express your preference; they have a right to say “no.” They have a right to express a preference; you have the right to say “no.”
What is most important is to know when you are agreeing because you agree (or really do not care) and when you are agreeing to avoid conflict. In the second case, you must express your disagreement. It would be wonderful to be a natural asshole and love conflict; it is a pain to dislike conflict, but you have to discipline yourself to face it anyway. No doubt you complete many things that you would rather avoid (e.g., work, exercise), this is one of those things.
Girls, Girls, Girls
If you can achieve only one thing with your efforts then make it breaking the grip of feminine mystique. Whether you become a pick up artist or not, you have to break the grip that female sexuality has on you. Too many young men project too much fantasy onto young women. They see them as something special and magical. They are not. They are fallen human creatures just like you, just like your friends. As with men they differ in temperament, but they are no more inherently gentle, loyal, or supportive than your friends. Never, ever, do anything for a woman that you would not do for a male friend. If you are unable (and this is likely the case) to control the feelings of attraction that swamp your brain, at least be aware when women are using their sexuality to manipulate you. Never act on the hint of sex in a way you would not in the absence of such hint. While you do not want to become cynical, always remember many others are.
Ultimately I believe it is best for a young man to lose his virginity as early as possible and as often (as it were) as possible. Not every man wants this, and not every man is capable of this, but if he can, it is the best way to break the grip of the feminine. In the absence of such success you have to realize that the sex drive is just a drive, no different than hunger or thirst. Indeed, you can survive without sex but cannot survive without water.
Virginity may be prized in women, but it is reviled in men. However those are societal attitudes, they should not be your personal attitude to your personal situation. You must reject whatever shame society tries to heap upon you. You may lie to others (as they no doubt lie to you) but you should reject all feelings of shame. Losing your virginity is just one of the many milestones of life. Linked, as it is, to the sex drive, it seems so much more important than it is. Whatever you say to others, you have to be able to say to yourself that you are a virgin, would prefer that were not the case, but will not let it ruin your life. Feelings of shame will creep into the rest of your life, they will probably make changing your status that much harder. Before losing your virginity, you have to lose your shame.
Chivalry and Grrl Power
I suffered under chivalry, you more likely have been beaten down by Girl Power. This is one of the more loathsome trends of recent times. You cannot watch a movie or TV program without seeing some aggressive dominant woman barking orders at men. Every time you see that crap you must consciously negate it in your mind. This is toxic crap, and you must treat it as such. Just as bad are the supplicating men and dumb doofus caricatures that permeate the screens. Again, you must consciously negate this garbage in your mind. You should consciously be aware of what the men are doing wrong, while realizing that they are acting unnatural and wrongheaded roles.
However, you can be aware of good role models (they do appear); be conscious of those times when the man seems comfortably and in charge. Study his body language, how he speaks, how he moves. Be aware of what he is doing right.
Chivalry may be less prominent, but still exists. It is a logical contradiction to girl power, based, as it was, on the premise of weaker females willing to submit to male authority. Of course, such deference is a laughable concept today. Your attitude to chivalry should be the same. There is nothing wrong with politeness; indeed, it makes the world work so much better. The simple rule is, if you would not to it for a man, do not do it for a woman.
While holding on to girl power privileges, the women around you may attempt to hold you hold you to your chivalrous duties; you must resist this. Offering aid and assistance is a good thing, but you have no manly duty to comply just because the requestor is a female.
Chivalrous actions are fine for those women explicitly under your care and protection (e.g., your mother, a younger sister, girlfriend/wife) otherwise, you should feel no particular chivalrous duty.
Compare against yourself, not others
It is fine to attempt to model the success of others. It is fine to admire others for their success. But never, never, compare yourself to them.
Always compare your current self with your previous self. You probably will not become James Bond or George Clooney, even if you draw closer. You should only measure if you have moved nearer to your goal. Have you improved on those things that are important to you? Success for you might mean approaching a cute girl. You do not even need to score, get a number, or even get a smile. If you have never approached before, and you do today, that is success. As you walk away disappointed, some guy is looking at you thinking, “I wish I had the nerve to approach her.” Sadly, failure is an option, but it is also a state of mind.
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
It happens us all; we realize what we should have done a little too late after the event. It is frustrating to have the witty reply or the non-reactive attitude come to you after the moment has past. You can rest assured this will always be a feature of life.
The trick is how to handle it. The normal response is to berate yourself and carry on. You internalize the bad feeling and forget the lesson. The correct thing to do is to re-imagine the event with your correct response. Imagine as clearly as you can, you acting in the correct manner. Internalize the lesson then shrug your shoulders and forget about the bad feeling.
[cue croaky voice]I tell you son, in my day it was very different . . . It is true though. A young man today has a wealth of information about seduction. If nothing else, it shows that seduction might have a method rather than being something magical and mysterious.
There is so much free stuff that you should not bother paying any so-called PUA gurus for their advice. If you are going to go the route of wearing feather boas, dildos on your head, or ski goggles, view it as a way of losing social shame and building confidence; please do not make it part of your life. My suggestion to achieve the same would be to try acting classes, take part in a political rally (you are not going to change the world, you might change yourself), proudly fail at karaoke. You are not building status; you are building confidence.
You probably are aware of these already, but here are a few PU related sites:
Heartiste (was formerly “Roissy” and “Citizen Renegade”). Sharp and cynical. Watch carefully though, he does balance this with more romantic ideas, and discussions of love.
[This is an example of what you should aim for: do not be so sappy that you are made a fool of, do not be so cynical that you miss something wonderful.]
RooshV A little too utilitarian for my taste, but there is probably no better place to find out about the challenges and rewards of the PUA lifestyle. He is honest about the downsides of PUA living. His advice is practical and useful.
Willy Wonka Discusses his journey to PU mastery. He gives honest reports of his successes and failures (something missing from many others).
Of course, there are many other sites but these might get you started. In all cases, the comments can be as helpful as the main post. However, take everything with a grain of salt. Roissy especially, may present valid topics but in a humorous and exaggerated form. You should always be clear on the meaning (sub-text) of an action, line, or piece of advice, and not just follow the literal description.
Addendum May 7, 2011
Hawaiian Libertarian has a very good post on social dominance. I suggest that you read it.
Citizen Renegade published a post on a whipped man. Resolve never to be that guy.
The Spearhead has a warning on the high burden of child support and alimony. It is worth reading if only to understand what some men go through with family court.
Introversion versus Shyness
While the two often go together and may even feed on each other, they are not the same thing. Introversion is finding social activity draining, while shyness is finding social activity uncomfortable.
Because such events are draining, introverts may dread social events in much the same manner as the shy. It may be hard to tell which you are. Indeed you may be a bit of both.
One possible test is to ask yourself which is worse: a meeting at a coffee shop where you will discuss a project with three new people, or a large gathering of friends and family whom you all know well. A shy person would probably dislike the first, while the introvert would dislike the second. I am definitely more introvert than shy, although like most introverts suffer a little (very little) shyness. Some of that, I believe, comes from the strain of socializing itself (and relative lack of practice).
A third factor might be social ease (the ability to make small talk). While related to the other two, it is something that could act on its own to create anxiety.
As with the introversion/shyness comparison, I suspect there may be two ways towards unassertiveness. The first is the type that is feels they are not worth it; they feel undeserving. The second type (perhaps related to introversion) find the process draining; that is the will stand up for themselves but find the process draining.
As chance would have it, Φ (Delenda est Carthago) had a post on a similar theme on musings about a younger self.