"Self-pretending" is not as useful as we think

bypwno10y25th Apr 200915 comments


A few weeks ago I made a draft of a post that was originally intended to be about the same issue addressed in MBlume’s post regarding beneficial false beliefs. Coincidentally, my draft included the same exact hypothetical about entering a club believing you’re the most attractive person in the room in order to increase chances of attracting women. There seems to be a general agreement with MBlume’s “it’s ok to pretend because it’s not self-deception and produces similar results” conclusion. I was surprised to see so much agreement considering that when I made my original draft I reached a completely different conclusion.

I do agree, however, that pretending may have some benefits, but those benefits are much more limited than MBlume makes them out to be. He brings up a time where pretending helped him better fit into his character in a play. Unfortunately, his anecdote is not an appropriate example of overcoming vestigial evolutionary impulses by pretending. His mind wasn’t evolutionarily programmed to “be afraid” when pretending to be someone else, it was programmed to “be afraid” when hitting on attractive women. When I am alone in my room I can act like a real alpha male all day long, but put me in front of attractive women (or people in general) and I will retreat back to my stifled self.

The only way false beliefs can overcome your obsolete evolutionary impulses is to truly believe in those false beliefs. And we all know why that would be a bad idea. Furthermore, pretending can be dangerous just like reading fiction can be dangerous. So the small benefit that pretending might give may not even be worth the cost (at times).

But there is something we can learn from these (sometimes beneficial) false beliefs.

Obviously, there is no direct casual chain that goes from self-fulfilling beliefs to real-world success. Beliefs, per se, are not the key variables in causing success; instead, these beliefs give rise to whatever the key variable is. We should figure out what are the key variables that arise and find a systematic way of getting those variables.

With the club example, we should instead figure out what behavior changes may result from believing that every girl is attracted to you. Then, figure out which of those behaviors attract women and find a way to perfect those behaviors. This is the approach the seduction community adopts for learning how to attract women—and it works.

Same goes with public speaking. If you have a fear of public speaking, you can’t expect to pretend your fear away. There are ways of reducing unnecessary emotions; the ways that work, however, don’t depend on pretending.