How thinking about Ethics can increase your Confidence (or decrease it)

Letting go of guilt and shame is an important part of being a confident man. But how do you do that without becoming an asshole?

Aaron was standing by the bar in an upscale pub in Toronto, it was 10:30 and he still hadn’t approached a girl yet. He was sipping a vodka soda (I tell students they can’t drink until they’ve done three sets, but they don’t have to listen to me), staring off into the distance and absent-mindedly wringing his hands.

I’ve seen it a hundred times, so I can recognize it immediately – this was a student who was in the process of psyching himself out. His head was spinning with thoughts and doubts, and as he sat and ruminated on them, they were just getting worse and worse.

As a coach, my job is to unwind him – to help him address the thoughts that are bouncing around his head, and deal with them. Step one is to get him to share what’s bothering him.

“What’s going on man? What are you thinking about?” I asked.

“I don’t know man… I don’t know if this is right. It just feels wrong to hit on women”.

We went over things in a kind of Socratic manner: Do you think it’s wrong to chat with people? No. Do you think it’s wrong to be attracted to women? No. Do you think it’s wrong to express your attraction? No.

Finally, we got to the bottom of it: “I guess I was just taught that it’s wrong to talk to strangers”.

Breakthrough. We talked about it a bit, and Aaron agreed that this belief he had been carrying around with him was counterproductive, and it was holding him back from enjoying his life, without making him a better person in any way. He still felt a bit weird chatting up strangers, but he did it and started feeling more comfortable.

What’s interesting is that for Aaron, his problems with women were ethical problems – he had subscribed, mostly subconsciously, to a rule of ethics that didn’t really make much sense. Yet, because this ethic was internalized in him, and even though it was pointless, he felt wrong breaking it.

…for Aaron, his problems with women were ethical problems – he had subscribed, mostly subconsciously, to a rule of ethics that didn’t really make much sense.

And as the night went on, Aaron changed his attitude towards talking to strangers after he realized that – as long as he was approaching properly, with the right attitude and giving off the right vibe – people really liked talking to him. By the end of the night he felt like he was doing women a favour by coming over and chatting with them, and he probably was.

But what I learned from dealing with Aaron, and with other students like him, is that ethics and confidence can often get in the way of one another, and that being a guy who is ethical, and confident at the same time, isn’t a simple matter.