Getting dumped by a woman is a complete shock to one’s psychological and emotional systems. Not only does it bring one down and create a sense of longing for ‘better’ times, it can also raise doubts internally, about a man’s self-worth or how confident he should feel in his dating life going forward. Obviously, there are differing levels of impact on confidence. For some guys, it’s just a mere setback, while others experience complete destruction. A guy can also experience different hits to his confidence based on what girl in particular broke up with him and how long the relationship lasted. So, while we all know how it feels to have our confidence devastated post-breakup, how does a man begin to have confidence again? Does one need to start from scratch and build it back up or is there another way?
The absolutely fundamental problem that most men have with their confidence is that it is almost entirely based on external factors.
What this means is that, when things are going well in life or when you had success or gotten a woman, you feel great. Really, you should feel great, as there are certainly pleasant experiences in life.
The problem comes into play when we tend to tie in these positive emotions into who we are (or more precisely, who we perceive ourselves to be). So, if we have social or business success, we feel good and then identify that positive boost to our self-esteem with being successful. Obviously, this creates a cycle of needing positive events or external validation to continue to have this level of confidence. Plus, whenever we get a negative experience (like being dumped), it immediately crushes us.
So, our lives then become this roller coaster of self-image. We ascend during the perceived good times and then come down with the full force of gravity during the perceived bad times.
If you get stuck in this paradigm, the only way out of it (and create confidence), is by chasing positive experiences. But as we’ve all experienced, it’s not a very stable way of going about things, and the lows can be extraordinary tough to get through.
Coming Off of a Crash
It’s getting closer to 10 years now, since I had my last major crash in confidence. In fact, it was the worst one I ever experienced, and forced me to have to change the way I dealt with confidence, self-image, etc.
There was no other way around it. I was highly depressed, could barely function in life, and began thinking of ending it all. I wrote about this experience in my book, Game without Games, and detailed how things fell apart for me.
I had grown up without very high self-esteem, which also meant few social and romantic opportunities, which fed into the low self-esteem. Later, I learned game (how to pick up women), and started to experience a lot of success. For a while, I felt amazing, my confidence got this huge boost based almost entirely on getting positive external validation from women.
Naturally, this wasn’t sustainable confidence. It was in fact, a complete fraud, there was no actual confidence. I learned this the hard way during the crash, when I had gotten dumped by two consecutive women, was broke, had no real future, and was almost flunking out of college.
For months, I sunk lower and lower, until I completely bottomed out during winter break that year. It was during these dark times, that I began to understand the problems with the popular notions of what confidence is.
Reading Stoic philosophy books, eventually allowed me to pull out of the negativity spiral and sort of reset my brain. The depression/sadness really wasn’t there anymore but for over a year, I felt very little emotion, and essentially rebuilt every aspect of my life. This metamorphosis shaped how I now approach confidence and has allowed me to let go of all of that old emotional baggage.
The False Internal Confidence
So, chasing external validation in order to gain confidence is a constant up and down experience. In fact, this is what gets us to this low point after a break up. This then leads to the other common aspect of trying to boost one’s confidence: having a high opinion of oneself in your own mind.
Now, while having a positive view of yourself is obviously a better option than having a low opinion, it is still flawed and can become quite out of touch with reality. I’m fairly sure that each of us has encountered someone, who has utterly convinced themselves of their own ‘greatness’.
They’ve amped up their own self-worth in their mind to unreal heights and then export that to the external world…which gets labeled as confidence, arrogance, egotism, etc. This method leads to a delusional sort of interaction with the world, in which any negative feedback or criticism is dismissed or ignored.
To me, basing your confidence on external sources is like constructing your confidence into a class mirror. It is easily shattered and difficult to pick up the pieces. Going the internal delusion route is like building a brick wall of confidence. Sure, it’s harder to penetrate, but it can still be busted through if the feedback you’re experiencing is bad enough.
Moving to Acceptance and True Confidence
I think that many people misconstrue self-confidence or social confidence with that of a skill based activity. We say that you must ‘build’ self-confidence, as if it is something that needs to be constructed, instead of being inherent in who we are.
For instance, if someone were to hand me a bow and arrow and told me to hit a target, I would not be confident in the outcome of that event. I might get lucky and pull off a positive result but I don’t have the requisite skills to have a high level of confidence. However, this use of the word confidence is not the same, as the one we are discussing here. As such, the prescription for improving confidence should not be entirely the same.
Technique training and practice would solve my archery practice, but not help me be at ease with my internal self. This is true at least past a certain point, as their may be some learning and practice required to truly internalize and make a shift on how self-confidence is viewed.
For me, I boiled down my lack of self-confidence to a non-acceptance of what is. Meaning, I was always chasing or trying to live up to a narrative of what me and my life needed to be instead of just allowing it to be. So, if I didn’t have a girlfriend, I felt like a loser or like I wasn’t ‘enough’.
I realized more and more how approaching my life in this way was having absolutely terrible results. Why in the hell did I need to become something in order to feel normal? Why was it that when I reached a certain level of social or financial success, I could still feel inadequate? Why should I keep believing this narrative in my mind about what I need to do to feel confidence, if it keeps leading me astray? What if I were to stop following these old ideas and just accept the fact that I am enough as is and don’t need to keep chasing some vague ideal self?
Learning to accept each moment of my life as it came about was a huge and life altering shift in perspective. I no longer needed anything to feel confident because I just trusted that I was already enough. Sure, I could make my life more enjoyable and pleasurable by having a girlfriend or getting a lot of dates or making money or whatever…but they were no longer requirements that I had to fulfill in order to be content with my self.
It’s a freeing experience because once you accept that you’re enough, you become free to explore the world around you without reservation. Criticism and rejection don’t make you feel low or terrible about life because there isn’t an attachment to some narrative in your head about what you’re ‘supposed’ to be.
You simply exist and can determine whether criticism is legit or if it is simply someone projecting their problems on to you or trying to hurt your feelings. You no longer internalize these supposed negative experiences, as there isn’t a self-image or narrative that you need to protect.
And, no, it doesn’t make you lazy or stop striving in life. On the contrary, I’ve gotten better results in every area of my life since the shift, because I can be completely honest with myself. I don’t have to deny reality in order to spare my feelings. If things aren’t going well with women or in social interactions, I can make adjustments to how I approach things, and not fly into a depressive episode because “nobody likes me”. It’s more of an “Oh, I should probably speak slower and more clearly in future conversations” or “Try to listen more and be more empathetic with others”.
It’s an amazing way to live because you start to get good at the things you do at a much faster rate.
The unique part of the time period after getting dumped, is having to deal with the strong emotions. These are going to be there no matter what, since our brain likes to develop an addiction like attachment to our girlfriends, and so we experience these intense withdrawals.
While the physical sensations will still be there, we don’t have to follow the negative thought patterns that seem to accompany the intense emotions. I always like to disrupt the negative thought as it arises and then question its validity. Why am I thinking this way? What purpose it is serving? Is it only reinforcing this low confidence narrative?
Things can become much easier to deal with once you can recognize thoughts as simply thoughts and not take them as some sort of gospel truth. Our mind can lead us down rabbit holes and have us endlessly repeat the past, even when it serves no actual learning purpose…it’s like a TV show playing on a loop, at some point it’s been enough and time to move on.
Here are some posts about the post-breakup period:
Where to Start?
In order to let go and accept things as they are, one has to be able to constantly recognize and let go of the thought patterns which help cause poor confidence. Daily meditation is the best way that I have found to pull myself out of the internal narrative and view things from a more objective point of view.
The daily shift in my mindset is what allowed me to really make the change in perspective permanent and then no longer need the constant validation to derive some confidence. There are plenty of guided meditations on YouTube and other platforms that can get you started. It can take some time to fully take hold and shift one’s perspective, but it can be totally worth it in the long-term.