I have nothing but respect for men who get into self-improvement. It takes a courageous man to refuse to bend to his circumstances, and to do the work to transform his life into one he’s chosen, not keep it one he’s only settled for.
But there’s one unhealthy mindset self-improvement guys often have that keeps them from being their fullest selves.
The mindset that they need to fundamentally CHANGE who they are. The mindset that to be a valuable man, they have to be unique or special or exceptional in some way.
That used to be me for the longest time. I’d look up to certain men – my peers, my mentors, my idols – and think “how do I be more like HIM?”
I’d compartmentalize my self-image. I’d have two selves: Loser Ben and Winner Ben.
I did everything I could to destroy Loser Ben and build up Winner Ben: Putting on muscle mass and improving my athleticism, dressing like a man, diving headfirst into my hobbies and ambitions, putting myself out there into the social world, meeting an abundance of people, dating around, having sex…
Guess where that got me, productive as I made myself.
Frustrated, dissociated, addicted.
I’d regularly have super productive weeks at school and at the gym and with my friends, then every weekend, I’d skip out on parties to drown myself in blackout drunkenness, masturbation, and other escapism.
Even in late 2020, I wasn’t happy. Despite being in the best shape of my life, moving forward with my business and other ventures, making meeting girls a regular part of my life, and prioritizing raising my consciousness, I was internally dying. Trying to measure up to a lofty standard I’d always fall short of.
While it was awesome to be objectively moving forward, I was doing it for painful reasons – EGO. The thought that “maybe today is the day I’ll start measuring up to all my lofty standards”. And I never did. My self-image was a complete FANTASY.
Last few months of 2020, I’d be DRAINED at the prospect of writing a blog post, showing up at the gym, or doing honest self-reflection. My energy didn’t lie. I had to do major inner work, or else happiness would forever be a carrot on a stick for me. Just slightly out of reach.
I still hated part of myself – Loser Ben. The version of me who was the scrawniest, weakest, least athletic guy around. The version of me that was a worldly failure, socially and sexually rejected by his peers. The version of me who was geeky, traumatized, and needy.
Winner Ben’s always been a pretty cool guy. He’s strong and healthy, physically attractive and athletic, not settling for anything less than being a success in life, and he knows everything about gitting gurls. Quite a handsome and capable young gentleman overall.
Sadly for Winner Ben, Loser Ben is immortal within him. He’s never going anywhere, ever. The years I’ve lived as Loser Ben will always be part of my history, always be part of me.
Do you see what’s fucked up about that?
Why do I call part of myself Loser Ben? Why have I got no respect for him?
I’d treat part of myself like garbage. I did NOT have a healthy relationship with myself. Trying to destroy Loser Ben forever… that’s like if I’d befriended someone I was constantly attempting to murder. That’s not what a good friend does, obviously!
I didn’t love 100% of myself.
I’d show Winner Ben to the ladies, but self-sabotage sooner or later as the persona would crack. I was terrified of them seeing beyond Winner Ben to Loser Ben.
And I’m far from the only self-improvement guy who’s had this compartmentalization.
How about this mindset instead?
You’re fine as you are.
Here’s the truth about “Loser Ben”:
He’s actually not such a loser.
Sure, I used to be <120 lbs, socially and sexually clueless and anxious, and let-go physically and spiritually.
But in hindsight, I was happy. I’d let myself be myself, extremely undeveloped as I was. I was okay with being imperfect and flawed.
“Loser Ben” could connect with people. My most genuine, most rewarding relationships in high school were formed when I was that “loser”, before I started aspiring to be “Winner Ben”.
Even when Winner Ben started being my dominant image around others, and I was finally a high-status social success for once in my life…
(seriously, you have no idea how floored I’d get in university when people would so naturally, automatically treat me like a cool, attractive, socially valuable guy when I was so used to feeling like an outsider both socially and sexually)
I never got girls when I swept my rough edges under the rug.
In fact, the part of me I used to consider “Loser Ben” is actually what attracted them in the first place, and made me able to connect with them! Every girl I’ve ever had a genuine, lasting connection with was a girl who saw my flaws, my rough edges, and thought “you know what, I like this guy anyway, I’ll keep him around!”
Quite a paradox, I know. But here’s something to think about:
What if “Winner Ben” wasn’t actually such a winner either?
Not if he didn’t love 100% of himself.
Who really is special?
Sometimes, we get so hung up on who we think we’re supposed to be that we become ashamed of who we actually are.
We create a narcissistic persona we masturbate our egos to – a cool dominant manly man, a hot high-status model of a girl, the exceptionally smart guy, the exceptionally victimized girl, a lover and a giver who isn’t returned the affection and commitment they seek, trying to be the strongest, wisest, best-looking, most fucked up, most amazing, most unique, most righteous person in the room.
We don’t feel appreciated for who we truly are. So we assume that’s right. We assume that since we perceive the world to be against us, we should follow suit and also be against ourselves.
But we pedestalize our mortal idols, and as we do that, also pedestalize who we could be… If we were more like our idols.
I tried so hard to destroy “Loser Ben”, but I never questioned my assumption that he needed to be destroyed, or that he was even a loser in the first place. My younger self needed love and direction, not to be shamed and swept under the rug.
I used to tell myself all sorts of stories about myself – that I’m a social failure, that I’m uniquely destined to die alone, to never make any real friends, to never be a success in anything… Because that’s how the world was treating me.
But what if the world was wrong about me? After all, Ben Foth is the world’s leading expert on Ben Foth, and all those people only saw certain dimensions of me, not the whole picture.
My childhood/teenage self wasn’t innately broken or flawed. He only perceived that other people were treating him that way, and followed suit for self-preservation.
Looking back on old texts from high school, people liked me and wanted to get to know me! Even when I was a quote, unquote “loser”.
My expectation that I was uniquely flawed, uniquely socially disadvantaged was programmed NARCISSISM.
As I’ve gone down this rabbit hole of inner work and self-understanding, one truth I’ve realized literally in the middle of writing this article is:
Few people ever held space for me growing up.
No one ever encouraged me to be my fullest self. Everyone – my family, teachers, peers, friends – would project expectations onto me, assuming they knew what’s right for me better than I for myself. People would typecast me as a geek, a smart guy, a creative, a socially awkward weirdo, an addict… And I’d go along with it because no one had ever taught me how to stand up for myself, my wants, and my needs, or that I even should.
When I finally grew some balls and rebelled against that typecasting, I rebelled… With more typecasting. A gymbro, a tough guy, a party boy, a highly ambitious man, a uniquely masculine, uniquely resilient, uniquely enlivening, uniquely experienced, uniquely powerful, uniquely challenged guy. Anything that would paint me as a strong, capable, interesting, masculine guy.
I felt like I had to be as special, as unique, as exceptional as my idealizations of my idols to be worth being.
That’s a shitty way to treat yourself – constantly telling yourself you’re not good enough. That you’re not a person.
But for the longest time, that’s the story I’d tell myself – I’m not a person.
Do you tell yourself that too?
Stop fucking treating yourself like garbage.
You’re already someone. You’re already YOURSELF.
And you’ll never change.
You haven’t lived your idols’ experiences. You’ve lived yours. Own them. Be truthful about them. Because your stories, your life lived, your rough edges… May nor be the ones you idealize or fantasize about, but they’re real. They’re the fire that, once embraced, will forge you into an unshakeable, unperturbable man: Your highest self.
It’s an interesting paradox. You’re a unique, irreplaceable individual… And yet you aren’t anything special. You’re just a person like all the rest.
All you can do is own yourself, own where you’re at, own where you’re going and what you truly want out of life, and live based on the truth. Not on lies or dissociations, or on anything the world’s programmed into you that inspires you to serve false idols rather than dedicating yourself to the highest good.
But look brother, exceptional people do exist. You already know that. I’m not denying that. Life is full of individuals who’ve made it big – in sports, in business and work, in the creative domains, in absolutely everything, in absolutely every world…
But you’re not them. If you were destined to be like them, you would already be on their path. Don’t force a life that isn’t for you.
So what’s your path in life supposed to be?
Allow yourself to be yourself. Your fullest self.
Everything about you that makes you awesome, lovable, capable and competent, worth getting to know, and attractive to the ladies who are the greatest fits for you…
It’s already there. It’s always been there, right within you.
You may only be blind to it. At a certain point, self-improvement isn’t about self-improvement. It’s about SELF-ALLOWING. Shedding the deadwood of your protective shells, and allowing your truest self to shamelessly, unapologetically move through the world.
Lifting weights, making money, creating and adding value to the world, building up a social network and a rewarding lifestyle are all good things. But remember that these are always expressions of YOU, expressions of who you genuinely are. The people you admire and look up to are only mirrors to the value in yourself.
You don’t have to become them. You only have to become more aware of who you already are, and let that move you forward.
Keep dreaming of someone else’s life, you’ll end up missing out on your own.
Let’s take many steps above the self-improvement dogma.
For a big shebang of dating/relationship/sexual energy coaching, including deep psychological work that’ll get you uncovering your most masculine, most aware, most present, most aligned self…