Overcoming my drinking problem

I love binge drinking… But I also hate binge drinking.

Something I’ve told almost no one is that I used to have a drinking problem. 

I first began to get an inkling of this on Australia Day, 2012, when I was in my second year of university. I remember very little, but know I made a right arse of myself and ruined the event for a bunch of people. When I woke up the next day, I was naked, on a couch in my friend’s loungeroom, with the worst hangover of my life, whilst my friend woke up and had gotten heat stroke the day before but hadn’t noticed because he was so drunk. I was expecting all this shit in the aftermath… But my drinking buddies actively congratulated me, telling me it was the funniest thing they’d ever seen… Whilst the people I’d ruined the event for sent me abusive messages. I felt uneasy about both reactions and decided that this was the beginning of the end of this bullshit.

It was not an easy, smooth or fast transition.

When i was walking through university and saw a bunch of stalls for an organisation that encouraged people to rethink their drinking habits. Literally as a joke, my friend and I had approached this stall to talk bluntly about just how much we would drink and we laughed when we received our classifications as heavy/problematic drinkers. After Australia Day, when I saw this stall back again, I took it a tad more seriously. “How does your drinking affect your studies?” Very negatively. “How does your drinking affect your health?” Probably doesn’t help. “How does your drinking affect your budget?” It’s one of my biggest expenses. 

The questions went on until something occurred to me.  Although I didn’t drink alone on the toilet at home or wouldn’t get violent on alcohol or wouldn’t drink and drive or wasn’t living on the streets from drinking and didn’t fit the image of an alcoholic I had in my head… I still had drinking problems for sure. I couldn’t recall ever just having one drink when I could have had fifteen. I couldn’t even imagine drinking in moderation, it was like a made up notion. I had regularly quit drinking in the past… For like three days, and it was like I just had no control over the matter. I WAS going to be one of the drunkest people at the party on the weekend, I WAS going to spew up, I WAS going to say something stupid, I WAS going to wake up hungover and embarassed. I thought to myself, whilst standing dumbfounded near this stall, that when I feel like I have no control over my drinking and that it is fucking with my relationships and health and money and studies… That of course it’s a fucking problem. The question wasn’t “do I have a drinking problem?” Because of course I did… The question was “what now?”. Fuck, I thought, and walked home.

I tried not to think about it, I had way too much fun getting drunk and my social life was way too invested in binge drinking to cut it out. But I did think about it.

I thought about how, when walking around campus with a friend, they would remark about how I just seemed to know everyone due to how many people waved at me as we went past, and how I’d had to explain that I only knew who about a third of them were, since I’d met the others likely whilst I was very drunk at a party. Hundreds of people knew me who I didn’t know. Fuck.

I thought about how, at my very poorest during university, I’d bought a cask of wine before going grocery shopping for potatoes and two minute noodles, literally going hungry so that I could still get fucked up. Fuck.

I thought about how often people would have to apologise for me in advance, or brief the host of a party about me before I arrived because of how drunk and bawdy I’d be when I arrived. I was an inconvenience to a group outing at times. Fuck.

And every time I told my drinking buddies that I wasn’t drinking, they would very easily get me to have “just one” when we met up, which would lead to me quickly chugging an entire jug of wine in a drinking game. I was totally defenseless against peer pressure. Fuck.

And every time, the next morning I would wake up and, recently, experience a hangover that lasted two days. I would be completely incapable of doing anything, and think to myself… What if I never got out of this state? What if I felt hungover my whole life? There’s no way I could achieve any of my goals for sure. And in combination with the sickness, which I had tried every hangover cure in the book to solve, I’d feel embarassed about whatever dumb shit I’d done, and how much I lacked a spine for caving to peer-pressure once again. Fuck.

I thought about how easy I succumbed to peer pressure for alcohol and wondered that if there were drugs available, if I’d be as easily pressured into taking those too. I’d never taken hard drugs before… But maybe that’s just because I’d never had the chance to. I didn’t trust myself to even be capable of saying no. Was alcohol only the beginning? Fuck.

I felt weak and I felt stupid.

But… It was just so fun. And so easy. And I had no amazing alternative to getting fucked up anyway. 

Yeah I’d like to avoid these fucking hangovers and all this embarrassment and bullshit… But some of my fondest memories I’ve had were whilst drunk at a party. Getting drunk was one of my favourite things to do in life. Did I really have to give that up? There’s just a level you can get to with a person you’re drinking heavily with, that I just didn’t get in any other environment. I could immediately turn a boring event into a fun event with it. I could totally avoid awkward tensions and overcome my nervousness. Surely I didn’t have to give that up.

For probably about two years I had an on-off and rather complicated relationship with alcohol. 

That scene in the movies where the main character has this revelation and then the next thing he’s wearing a suit, has all this money and is a brand new person overnight? Yeah, it didn’t fucking happen like that.

I had never gone to a party sober. Trying it out, for the first few times, just resulted in me eventually getting drunk at the party anyway after I was tired of my “friends” calling me a faggot and speculating that I must have a vagina. But eventually, I had a totally sober night out at a party… And it was actually alright. Then I tried having a sober night out going clubbing… And it was fucking horrible.

Women go clubbing, presumably, to dance and get attention. Men go clubbing, presumably, to get laid. Except only the top percentiles of men actually pull it off, for the rest it’s really just the idea. If you’re drunk you don’t realise just how boring it is if you’re not good enough to pull. And if you’re sober… You see this… And can’t unsee this.

I went to more parties sober to see if I could salvage my social life and didn’t have to abandon it to construct a new one, which was a terrifying prospect. This usually failed as my attempts to weakly and defensively say that I “couldn’t” drink were very easily overpowered. Often when I did remain sober, the abuse I copped negated the fun of the party. And often, the party was just boring, and the people were just boring. This is all fine if you’re hammered, but if you’re not, you need to extract a useful conversation out of the other dull, lifeless, useless party-goers. I was quickly discovering that I didn’t like a lot of people and that I was bored by most. Every single time I just caved and drank more, I enjoyed it more. Every time. It was terrifyingly effective and I knew it, which is why it was such a struggle, but every time the next morning I enjoyed my life less.

It wasn’t until I’d already graduated and was needing a new social circle anyway that I really started to make traction. And each time I went out sober I’d get a little bit better at it. Each month I got a little bit better socially and became a little bit less dependent upon booze. But my life was still dull without it.

About a year after graduating, I’d finally begun to fill my life with hobbies and social outings that didn’t centre around alcohol, and finally, fucking finally, it looked like I was on the home stretch.

Then I left Australia to go travelling and eventually live in Saigon. Here I didn’t have people who knew me as that guy who was always keen for a drink, I could reinvent myself and avoid the pressures… And I did.

I still miss getting fucked up… But I don’t miss it that often and I have other things to do and other people to hang out with that I enjoy too.

Now I just tell people I’m not a big drinker, I don’t make a big deal out of it and I don’t say it defensively and people generally shut the fuck up about it pretty quickly. I’m good enough sober to add value to a party so it’s fine.

Now I really love just having one drink, it’s relaxing and amazing.

Now even when I fall off the wagon and drink a lot, I get about a fifth as drunk as I used to and don’t feel so embarassed.

Now drinking isn’t a problem, it doesn’t make my life worse and I finally have control over it. 

When all your friends are drinking buddies

When I finally decided I need to cut down on my painful drinking habits at university, my social circle was slightly less than helpful. Whilst others could pull off a healthy dose of boozing in their lifestyle, it was increasingly apparent that I couldn’t. The hostility I experienced from them was about equivalent to if I told them I was robbing the homeless or shooting heroine or banging their girlfriends or something. It was a pretty shitty experience, but a pretty insightful one too.

Because I was so fucking socially retarded, getting drunk was an incredibly handy tool… That I had steadily begun to utterly depend upon. It was a massive crutch for me. And when I stopped using this crutch… It was hard to walk without it. I basically had no social life… And very, very few friends. I had gotten so dependent that at parties I had to relearn how to actually socialise, as I couldn’t just immediately start a drinking game. I found myself at parties feeling like I was looking at people through a window… Not a clue how to engage with them sober and feeling like everyone else knew it too… And was judging me.

It took me a long time to figure out why my “friends” were being such dicks to me about this, even going so far as trying to force me to drink and pouring beer over me when I refused. My final conclusion was that my value to the group was in the energy and entertainment I brought whilst drunk. I was so non-judgemental and so open to doing anything that it made them feel at ease too… And I was funny as fuck whilst drunk too. But if I took away the alcohol, their concern was that I’d take away the fun… And that they’d feel judged for not cutting down on their own destructive relationship with alcohol. The whole point of them getting drunk was to forget about how fucked up their lives were… And if I’m not drunk with them… I become a reminder. Very regularly one of us would come back from an exam that they had very thoroughly failed to forget about it… It was a time where they didn’t want to have to think about reality. So I at least understood where they were coming from.

Our drinking group would occasionally actually broach the topic of how we weren’t really friends with each other, but just “drinking buddies” and laugh about it. This made me uneasy. Because without them, who the fuck are my friends? I had made little to no attempts to meet anyone in my course and I just didn’t care enough to build friendships with the housemates. So of course I just clung to the shitty relationships I had, because they were the only relationships I had. Drinking buddies are fantastic for the purpose they serve, but not so great at facilitating the purpose they didn’t serve… So I decided I’d need some new friends.

I regularly heard it mentioned that you are the average of your five closest friends, because you naturally influence each other a lot and you naturally spend time with them doing what they do. If your friends are business people, you can expect to spend more time talking about business and attending networking events. If your friends are gym-rats, you can expect to spend more time working out and eating egg-whites. I always just shrugged off this idea because it was an uncomfortable reality to confront… If your friends are extremely heavy drinkers, you can expect to spend more time funnelling cheap cask wine and throwing up in the swan river on a Friday afternoon. 

Eventually though, I would confront this uncomfortable reality and ask myself those critical questions. Who did I want to be friends with? Who didn’t I want to be friends with? Who was unencouraging to be around? Who was I still friends with… Just because I had known them a long time? What sort of people would I be proud to call my friends and not have to apologise for at a social event? What sort of people would be supportive of my goals in life? What do I really want in a friend?

I mean, I didn’t really have much choice, I had graduated whilst most of my friends were still at university, and even without the alcohol discrepancy, our lives were decreasingly relatable to each other. Too old for uni but feeling too young for the business world, it was uncomfortable. Another problem was that I loved getting drunk, it was the most fun I ever had, and I missed benefits of it, but not the costs… And also that I didn’t have a suitable replacement for it, so my life was way more boring.

I felt like I was going to be back to first grade and walking up to people in class and asking if they wanted to be my friend. It just felt so lame thinking about this so much. Business people have the right idea, they don’t talk about making “friends”, they talk about mentors and contacts and their network… Although it’s really the same thing… Just doesn’t sound quite so pitiful and prompt quite so much insecurity.

Take away the alcohol… What value can I deliver to people I want to build relationships with? Was I good listener? Could I tell good stories? Could I be insightful? Yes, no, sort of. I had some personal development to do.

When I finally pulled the trigger and left Australia to travel the world and potentially live overseas, i found it was very easy to cut ties. Keeping in touch with people really requires effort to do… So the question became “who do I want to make that effort for?” and that was a very useful question indeed. The people I do bother to keep talking toI really value my relationship with. And the additional time I have that isn’t spent with people on divergent paths in life, has been spent with some fucking amazingly inspirational people I’ve met travelling. Highly intelligent, very creative, motivatingly brave… And really fun, they’re what’s propelled me to stay on this journey by making me believe that I could. 

Books that changed my life: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey

“Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”  ― Stephen R. Covey
“When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective.” ― Stephen R. Covey

Overview

The book is about changing your behaviour to become more effective in you dealings in business as well as life. If excellence is a habit, you’ll want to practice it. That’s the crux of the book.

Stephen Covey did a review of the success literature of the past two hundred years and found a distinct difference in the types of literature put out after the 1920’s which he thought was less useful and more “quick-fix” bullshit. This book was his attempt to get back on track and take all the best, most timeless and universal advice on real solutions and put it in one book.

It has sold more than 15 million copies in 38 languages worldwide. So yeah, it was a pretty big deal and still is now.

How it helped me

I read this in university and got obsessed with it pushing the books into the hands of my friends and raving about it.

I was failing a maths unit and noticed that it was because of some ineffective habits I had allowed to persist, like chronic complaining as opposed to being proactive in discovering and solving problems. I wasn’t really consciously priotising my activities and I had little notion of what I wanted to do with my life either. I was on course for a lot of failure, basically.

The book took ages to fully implement, as it’s a whopper, but I think I now practice most of these habits even today, which is a fucking incredible achievement for any self-help book several years later and not something I can say for many other books.

I’m now proactive as fuck, I do absolutely begin with the end in mind by considering first how any project, business or otherwise, fits in with my chief desired goal, with my morning routine and classification of Most Important Tasks I do put first things first, I became a much better listener by first seeking to understand and I sharpen the shit out of my saw.

The goal-setting exercise in habit 2 where he gets you to consider what you’d want to say at your own funeral… And what sort of life you’d want to be able to say you’d lived… Was one of the first actually useful goal-setting exercises I’d encountered.

I didn’t apply all the habits the precise way he teaches, but I was able to easily apply the general ideas. Which is fucking awesome.

The book got my life way more organised and introduced me to this different form of self-help literature that was actually effective.

Content

Habit 1: Be Proactive

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood

Habit 6: Synergize

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

(I’ve listed some awesome summaries of the content at the bottom you can quickly link to)

Where in your journey this fits

‌The book is kind of a business-success book… But not really. I’d say it would make you more effective at really any personal project, and so as such it would be a useful one to read if you’re having difficulty achieving some of your goals and projects and would like to be more organised.

If you keep reading shitty self-help books that really excite you for a month but never deliver lasting impact, do yourself a favour and at least skim read the book or read the summaries to familiarise yourself with what an actually useful self-help book is like.

The book does give you a great exercise on how to choose your goals and increase your sense of direction in life, so perhaps focus in on chapter two if that’s something that you have a pressing desire for.

I’d recommend that you check out the links for further reading at the bottom of this post and then if the content is relevant to you right now, get the book and skip or skim the less relevant chapters to you, focusing on the exercises and revisiting it regularly.

Style of the book

Most other self-improvement books just amp you up and make you feel good about yourself… Whilst being totally fucking impractical. This is not one of those books.

The book certainly doesn’t provide quick-fixes, to implement all of the habits it will take a lot of time and dedication. It’s well worth it of course, but it would be foolish to expect overnight miracles to occur. Many other personal development books would probably be able to make a book out of literally just one of his chapters and just keep giving alternative examples and descriptions to build up the page count. This book is meaty and the ideas are excellent.

The examples he uses to explore each habits are typically to do with family or business.

Criticism of the book

It really shouldn’t be a criticism that something important will take time to implement, should just be a given, but yeah, that. All of these different habits took me a long time to implement and I had to do them one at a time to really focus on them properly.

Some also complained that, like most personal-development books, and particular to those that are a bit more “business-y” it can get boring and repetitive at times.

Some also complained that the advice given isn’t stuff that would make you say “Holy Fuck batman, I’ve never even heard of that concept before!” The “secret” keys to success are usually bullshit, the ones that have been known about for hundreds of years and have endured are often far more reliable. And whilst some of these ideas aren’t new to you, unless you’re actively applying them to your life, this book will help encourage and educate you on how to apply them.

Key chapters

Chapter one was a fucking revelation to me.

Similar texts

The stuff which Leo writes about at Zen Habits is often quite similar to this… Because Leo copies the content and admits it.

Because the book was so incredibly popular, you may have read other books which sound similar since they copied his, but none come to mind.

Links to learn more

Six minute animated video that summarises the content of the book quite well: http://youtu.be/ktlTxC4QG8g

Summary of each habit by the author’s own website: https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits-habit1.php

Comprehensive summary from quickmba: http://www.quickmba.com/mgmt/7hab/

What it means to be solution-oriented

Most people aren’t solution oriented, they’re problem oriented, in that they see a problem and freak out over it… But don’t really take responsibility for solving it.

Most people do this because solving problems is hard and having problems is scary… And in a lot of cultures people are given every excuse in the universe to not take responsibility for anything ever.

But do you want to be most people?

I was super-duper problem-oriented at university. I had this real prick of a lecturer who taught mathematics for economists, I hated this fucking guy… But he taught a unit I had to pass… And one third of students would fail this class each semester. The lecturer was just shit at teaching and he didn’t seem to care about this fact either. You know the type, they make you scratch your head and wonder just why the fuck they are still employed. As exams approached me and my classmates just kept complaining about how the curriculum ought to be this way, the lecturer ought to be that way and so on. And it was looking like I was probably going to have to repeat this fucking unit and I was freaking out and even woke up regularly to nightmares of failing the exam and I would have to rush to the bathroom to throw up in the toilet. It was not a fun time. Then I read a book that made me see things differently.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey. As it turned out, my endless complaining was not very effective, go figure, and I decided to really focus on the first of these seven habits, which was basically about being solution-oriented.

This was a revelation for me at the time, and it totally changed my approach to dealing with issues. Now as soon as I would notice myself complaining, I would stop, identify the problem, define the cause of it, then brainstorm a number of possible solutions and if it was solvable then I’d choose a solution to implement. And that was it. The whining voice in the back of my head just sort of got cut off from his endless rant.

I can’t remember today how to do partial differentiation… But I passed that God-awful fucking piece of shit unit, even got a distinction for it which surprised the hell out of me, by gritting my teeth and focusing on how I could solve the problems I was having. Which were namely that I wasn’t very good at maths and had difficulty studying by myself, so I ended up getting free tutoring from older maths students and would study before and after and during my sessions with them. Fuck that unit though, seriously. I still have the occasional nightmare about failing an exam where after I wake up I have to remind myself that I already graduated, this is probably because of that class.

I carried this incredibly practical approach with me to my first “real” job, and as a consequence was put in meetings for making decisions that were actually outside my department… Just because they wanted my problem-solving focus to guide the process. I couldn’t tell them what the solutions were… Because I was like 20 years old and inexperienced as hell… But I could sure as hell help them get on course with finding it. This gave me way more power in the company than I otherwise would have, and in combination with a few other things, meant that I basically played by my own rules whilst I worked there. It was pretty sweet.

It feels good to complain and you’ll usually find a sympathetic audience to your complaints which feels doubly good… But I mean… It’s not super helpful IF it’s not followed up by actions to solve the problem, right?

And yet, so many of our complaints aren’t followed up at all… And we become one of those people that just defines themselves as a victim of their circumstances and doesn’t even bother to solve their problems. You probably know a few of these people. It can be quite sad.

Solution-orientation didn’t mean that I never complained or never said that the situation was shit or unjust or total bullshit… Because it often was. Solution-orientation just meant when I noticed a problem, I would identity it, look for the cause of it, generate alternatives to solve it and if it was solvable then pick a solution to implement. That’s all. So I’d have a good long bitch about something that would irk me to my mates… Then DO something about it. Getting the best of both worlds really.

Whilst working at this company a common problem was that, basically, the clients were “stupid” (in the words of the developers). But… Short of sending them to some brain-training camp and having them get pissed off and fire us… That they’re “stupid” isn’t really anything we could change if it were true… And so this sort of generalisation, whilst fun, was really unhelpful. 

Focusing on things totally outside of your “locus of control”, totally outside your sphere of influence… Isn’t productive. Because after you finish your delicious rant… You CANT do anything to solve it even if you intended to, even if you were the most solution-oriented person in the world. So thus you just gotta focus on the stuff you CAN control, because at least after your good-long whinge… You can DO something about it. And this became my advice. Assuming that it’s the clients that are stupid… And not just the developer’s inability to live in reality and see the glaring flaws in their programs… The only useful thing we can focus on would be the stuff we could change. So instead of lamenting a clients IQ level, we would focus on more clear communication between ourselves and the clients, more detailed analysis of their requirements to avoid fucking it up and so on. The approach predictably worked wonders, and once again whilst everyone else was staying back to work late and work weekends… I went home on time and never worked a single weekend despite glaring looks from my colleagues… because I knew my mindset made me indisposable. Oh to be 20 and drunk with power.

Solution-orientation spread to all other areas of my life and the results were awesome.

Gripes about my health, friends, sex-life and career quickly turned into projects and goals. For the first time in… My whole life actually, I was propelled forwards at all times, never stagnant, always controlling the direction of my life.

How might your life change if you were a little more solution-oriented?

Do you think your peers and employer and partner would have greater respect for your focus on getting shit done and being part of the solution? And do you think it would build a greater level of self-respect too? And do you think that greater level of self-respect could make you feel better about yourself which would increase your confidence? 

Absolutely.

Suicidially unconfident 

It’s eight oh five in the morning and something’s wrong.

I received a message from my friend Jeremy that I needed to come around. His housemate’s friend was on the brink of killing himself and they had spent the whole night with him trying to cheer him up.

The friend, Kevin, was not the type to want to talk to any sort of hotline, and I was the closest thing to a psychologist any of them knew, so I got dressed and came over.

They had been drinking all night and during the course of it, Kevin had broken down and admitted that his life was shit and he’d tried to hang himself recently. That he’d written a suicide note, gotten rope, tied a noose and gone out to his backyard at home to tie it to his tree… But that his sister, who he didn’t know was home, had come outside at the same time. Kevin had frantically hid the noose and note behind the couch… But the desire lingered.

When I got there, Jeremy, his housemate and Kevin were on a couch in the garage, surrounded by empty beers and with music blaring. The vibe of the room was strange. I knew what had happened, they knew what had happened, Kevin knew what had happened, and yet we didn’t directly talk about IT. But we did talk.

We got to talking about how when Jeremy went out with Kevin, Kevin looked at him like he was some sort of God for just being able to talk to girls he didn’t know. Kevin made good money, was funny and decent-looking… But he told us that he just had sex with prostitutes instead. He’d slept with probably over two hundred and fifty prositutes, usually going for the girlfriend experience with them. And that the money he made each year, over a hundred thousand dollars, largely went to fund this. The owner of a local brothel knew him by name and would ask him to be the first client of new prostitutes they had working there, since they trusted him and knew he was gentle. The mere idea of going up to talk to a girl in a club was unfathomable to kevin, and he paid a high price to avoid it.

Kevin’s girlfriend, who he had been with for a number of years and who he was going to marry, had recently been exposed to have had a couple of kids from previous relationships, which is where a lot of the money he’d been sending her had been going. And that she had lied to him this whole time. He told us that she was the bartender at a brothel that he’d go to in the Phillipines… But Jeremy told me that this was probably a lie. She was a prostitute. When you’re terrified of rejection you have very few options for relationship partners. For a guy who was already lonely and afraid of rejection… This girl… Who represented his soul-mate and his solution to all his fear and frustrations, someone for him to love and trust… Had lied to him. He was a cuckold. He had been made a fool. And he didn’t want to be alive anymore.

We all shared stories of shit we had been through, and Kevin began to really open up. He began to smile and tell us repeatedly that this was the best day of his life.

He told us about how his father, whilst drunk, had once stabbed him, because of a silly argument, and never apologised about it. We were beginning to discover the underlying problems which would have led to this crippling lack of confidence that he’d want to directly address to overcome. The event had happened years ago, but he still regularly thought about it and was bothered by it.

We steered him towards coming up with solutions to his crappy life and he started talking about the things he’d need to change, and that it had been far too long since he’d hung out like this. He started to see hope. He made commitments which we were going to hold him to, and it seemed his long rut of stagnation was ending.

And yet, his solution was that he would simply forgive this girl… He still wasn’t willing to explore the world of possible rejection… Because a conversation isn’t enough to equip someone with confidence, it takes time. When this girl came by later on, she was fat and unconcerned. She was playing him for sure. But… How do you tell that to a guy who just nearly killed himself? 

Hundreds of thousands of dollars… Years and years of doubt, frustration and shame… Settling with a fat, lying whore who had two kids that were not his own… These were the costs of his lack of confidence.

I eventually lost touch with Kevin, was afraid of what I’d discover. I hope he’s turned over a new leaf. But I just don’t know. The path he was on, if he didn’t deal with his issues, had a predictable destination.

(The characters in this story have had their names changed for privacy purposes)

Self esteem: an overview

One of the very few conventional wisdoms regarding women that is actually true is that they’re attracted to confidence. This is fantastic, because there is plenty of research on what influences confidence and how to improve it. It’s also fantastic because the factors which improve it also directly lead to greater life satisfaction, so it’s like killing two birds with one stone, except unless you’re a psychopath you probably don’t murder animals randomly. This is also horrible, because for some reason, the conventional wisdoms on improving confidence have often NOTHING to do with any of this research. Thus we are once again inclined to leave the comforts of the very stupid herd to go our own way.

When we talk about confidence and improving it, we’re often really talking about our self-esteem, of which our confidence is a component and an outcome by the increase in self-esteem.

Self esteem has a long and complicated definition which, paraphrased, comes down to being your perceived ability to succeed combined with your perceived worthiness of that success. And it’s based largely on the reputation you have with yourself. Now this is critical because it’s at this juncture that most people fuck it up. It’s not JUST your perceived ability to succeed. If you’re this awesomely bombastic fantastic guy who wins at everything… None of that is worth shit IF it isn’t accompanied by a perception that you’re worthy of those successes. If you have your mother’s voice in the back of your head telling you that you don’t deserve this, that you’re a fraud and that you’ve forgotten where you came from…. You may as well have not succeeded in the first place. Fortunaly, these limiting beliefs CAN be worked on, and indeed I’ve done it myself. It’s perhaps for this reason of unworthiness so many famous people are miserable. Especially when they come from nothing or have an overbearing parent, they never overcome this or escape it. But they could if they dealt directly with the emotional issues, rather than just trying to be EVEN MORE rich and famous, which was never the problem to begin with.

Self esteem = perceived ability to succeed x perceived worthiness of success

The benefits of self-esteem are nearly endless, one of my favourites is the sense of pride it provides you from having this great reputation with yourself. I also like how much having an internally built, stable foundation for self esteem is able to turn down the music for what’s happening around you. Lose a business deal, be rejected by a woman, get stood up on a date… These things are not a reflection of who I am as a person. I already know I’m the shit, I’m not so easily manipulated by external events. You become a rock, unaffected and capable of weathering the storms of assaults upon your self esteem with ease. It’s like developing armour for your self worth. Situations which might lead you to feel bad about yourself if they go the wrong way are less scary, like running into battle with an adamantium chest-piece. You become fearless. It’s awesome.

The average miserable dickhead tends to be attracted to solutions that are as easy as possible, and blames someone else when they don’t work out. I am not the average miserable dickhead and so the solutions I found aren’t extremely tedious, but they do require SOME effort, like all things that yield a worth-while result. Thus praying for an improved self-esteem or looking in the mirror and lying to yourself about how great you are… Are off the table. Sorry.

There are many factors which influence your self esteem that are out of your control, but they don’t really matter if you build up the factors that are within your control. The unsatisfied man bemoans his circumstances and wails at the world for the hand he’s been dealt. He cries to an increasingly small audience about his problems and forges his shitty identity in victim hood. Not being a incompetent pile of shit, we will grant ourselves one sigh of sadness about the difficulties we may have faced that led to damage to our self-worth, and then we’ll roll up our sleeves, grit out teeth and begin focusing on what we can control and building that up internally.

The satisfied man with an excellent self-esteem must be doing the following:

– take Responsibility for his life

– live with Acceptance

– act Assertively

– gain a sense of Direction in life

– live with Integrity

Again we find ourselves fortunate that these factors that have been demonstrated to directly contribute to our self-esteem are also factors which would contribute to our successes in other regions anyway.

Taking responsibility for your life. Because no one else is going to fucking do it. Your problems are your problems and you either cry about them like a useless bitch, or you man the fuck up and take care of your shit. If something goes wrong, you own it and take steps to correct it. If something isn’t happening the right way, you step up and change it. One of the things I hate so much about the typical ordinary fuck wit who falsely claims the title of “man” is that they don’t do this. They sit as passive victims and spectators to their own lives. I respect other men who do this and so I respect myself more when I do this.

Live with acceptance. Not living with contentment, that means something totally different. Just acceptance. Acceptance is the opposite of denial, and it’s the first step alcoholics need to take to overcome their drinking problem, just like its the first step anyone needs to take to solve their problems. First you deny you have any problems, then you accept that those problems actually exist, and then and only then are you able to look for solutions. When people talk about “fat acceptance” what these truly disgusting and shameful creatures really mean is fat denial. They try and deny that there is any problem. If you live with acceptance, you live in reality. Reality is a seriously underpopulated area, as most people live in denial in their own ridiculous fantasy lands. Problems don’t get solved in fantasy land. You just look like a fucking dickhead and your problems escalate and spiral until you hopefully get hit by a bus and remove yourself from the gene pool. It is tempting to give into pleasant lies and shy away from salty truths, but you’ve got no choice if you want your life to actually improve. Again, I respect men who live in reality and who aren’t full of shit and in denial, so to do I respect myself more for living in reality and living with acceptance as opposed to denial.

Acting assertively. This may shock you, but your desires ARE actually important. Your happiness IS actually important. But just like how Alexander the Great wasn’t just handed his empire, so to are you not just going to be handed your dream lifestyle. You need to pursue it, and do so with a tenancity and confidence. In modern western cultures, assertiveness has become a dirty word, as it means that a person pursues what they actually want, prioritises their own happiness, and goes for things, without regard for the status quo or what others will think. This element many people have the most difficulty ingraining because it’s just such a radical departure from the unempowering, senseless bullshit they’ve been raised to believe. However, it’s the element which also contributes the most to your attractiveness to women, so with greater work comes greater reward.

Gaining a greater sense of direction in your life. For many years I struggled with this. In my second year of university I was finally coming to terms with the notion that I’d have to make some life-altering decisions about what career I wanted to pursue. Up until then I’d just been following the advice of my father pretty much, I hadn’t thought much about it because I didn’t have to. The result of these years of mental anguish fortunately yielded an ultimate insight grounded completely in logic, free of magical thinking, which has guided my every major decision for every day since then. It’s perhaps the best thing that’s ever happened to me and the sense of calm it provides, to know that you’re on track and you know what you’re doing with your life, is tremendous. And thus I feel much more highly of myself for having and pursuing the clear, life-long goals I have.

Living with integrity. You can lie to everyone, but you can’t lie to yourself, because deep down you know. Acting in a way that goes against your beliefs inevitably produces a feeling of shame that no amount of drink or drugs can smother. There is no workaround. Identifying and evaluating and living actively in accordance with these beliefs is freeing. It provides a greater sense of identity and you care much less what others think. You know who you are and what you are and what you stand for, which is what really matters. It’s developing your own code and living in congruency with that which is perhaps ultimately the most rewarding of all these traits, it certainly has been for me.

Just like everything else you’ve ever worked for in your entire life, a greater level of self confidence, self respect and self esteem won’t just happen. I can only show you the path, you must walk it. And as you begin that walk with a growing confidence it shall reinforce itself until it snowballs into a powerful sense of being and purpose that exudes authority and demands and commands respect.

Books that changed my life: “The Way of Men” by Jack Donovan

The Way of Men is a challenging, straight-forward and intriguing book. It seeks to answer the questions of what the nature of masculinity is, how masculinity is affected by our society and how one can become more masculine.

Masculinity is Amoral

Jack says masculinity as being about what makes a man good at being a man, rather than what makes a man a good man, thus masculinity has nothing to do with morality. Darth Vadar was still masculine despite his immoral nature. It’s like asking what makes a man good at playing baseball vs asking what makes a baseball player a good role-model, they’re important questions, but they’re separate questions, they’re two different conversations. Often when you read about masculinity, you’re actually reading about morality, so this distinction really helps declutter the conversation.

Masculinity aids survival

What makes a man good at being a man, at it’s most primary, primal level, is what makes a man useful in a survival situation, as until security can be maintained, all other functions of a man will likely get him killed. Poets and authors and musicians will die without security, so security is the first order of business. Also, men have evolved to live in solely survival situations in hunter-gatherer tribes, so what made a man good at being a man, until the relatively “recent” change from our hunter-gatherer origins, was always about assisting survival in a very dangerous world. And masculinity is what distinguishes a man from a women, which is about survival, rather than replication.

Masculine traits

Specifically, what makes a man good at being a man and hence the traits of a masculine man and an alpha male are:

– Strength, both literally and figuratively, the ability to exert one’s will upon another (Power)

– Courage, the willingness to exercise power when doing so could lead to harm (Risk-tolerant)

– Mastery, the capacity to build power through learning skills and tech that would make you more powerful

– Honour, your concern for your reputation amongst your gang and others (Perception-conscious)

A masculine man is willing and able to have, build and use power to further the interests of himself and his gang.

What is the way of men?

The same way that men behave in survival situations: gang-life. (think, the Walking Dead or the Expendables or the Godfather)

Masculine gang traits

What are the important characteristics of a gang?

– Geographical Proximity

– Group-identity (what makes “us”, “us”)

– Fraternity (like a sense of fraternity between the members)

– No women (because when they are around, men act differently)

– Trust (which can be developed through bonding activities, presumably manly activities)

How do you become more masculine?

– Increase testosterone (diet, exercise, supplements and other methods, natural or otherwise)

– Form a gang with masculine men (you need not shoot up the block or anything though)

– Do manly things (drink cosmopolitans and bitch about celebrities perhaps?)

– Increase physical strength

– Increase power-base

– Master survival skills

– Increase risk-tolerance

If you’re interested in masculinity and/or want to become more sexually attractive as a man (by being more masculine) I’d recommend giving the book a read, it’s thoroughly lacking in bullshit, which seems a rare delight in the genre of masculinity.