You thumb through Instagram, and it isn’t long until you see photos of buxom bikini girls jumping up and down by a hot tub in a Balinese resort, or an impossibly proportioned Greek god of a man with shaved pectorals and a torso straight off the cover of a steamy romance novel.
Then you sit back and look down at your body.
I don’t look like that.
You see selfies of people flying business class (their smug grin now mercifully sheathed in a mask), humble-bragging about their company sales figures this month. You see photos of wannabe entrepreneurs and fashionistas vying to not-so-subtly display their success, and how #blessed they are to have it. (but of course, not really, it’s because they hustled, but really they’re blessed, but really it’s hustle, but they’re so #blessed, etc. etc…)
Then you sit back and look at your bank balance.
I don’t have that lifestyle.
And now you go out on a date. He’s nice. You have a good time. But in your mind you say to yourself:
“There are so many people out there – on Tinder, Bumble – every dating app a shop window of people with airbrushed photos laying on beaches with sunsets and coconut cocktails. How can I hold anyone’s attention for long? Won’t they be tempted to keep returning to the buffet available on their phone in any idle moment?”
“What if he/she is scrolling through their newsfeed, seeing the glamorous life they could have, all the while stuck with me in my mediocrity, my normal life of buying groceries and watching Amazon Prime on a Saturday night, of dealing with family issues and trying to keep myself above water, of not being sure of my direction and working on myself inch by inch, struggling to juggle my priorities and…”
If you’re stuck in this mindset, you are already losing the battle.
And it’s because you still think you’re trying to “win”.
The Game You Don’t Need To Win
In his book Zero To One, the venture capitalist and entrepreneur Peter Thiel famously says: “Competition is for losers”.
Whether you are running a business, deciding what to do with your life, looking for a relationship – if you worry about what everyone else is doing, you’ll end up chasing the wrong thing.
Why? Because you’ll conform.
People like to copy people. It’s our nature. We can’t help it. The philosopher Rene Girard called this “mimetic theory” – the idea that all our desires come from what other people desire. So if we see people telling us that buying a yacht, starting a million-dollar company, or wearing tiny bikinis in a hot tub in Bali is the way to happiness, we’ll want that too. And then we get lost in a hyper-competitive mindset: How do I measure up to everyone else? Am I good enough? Do I live up to the perfect image of what a good life looks like?
The problem of competition here is twofold:
- It makes you miserable
- It makes you over-estimate the importance of whatever you focus on
You only have to read frustrated Reddit forums to see guys fixated with the idea that all their romantic problems would be solved if they earned $50k, $100k, $500k more per year. Or people who believe that being under 6 ft and not having abs makes finding love impossible, or women who believe that every single man is 100% visual and only cares about looks and isn’t interested in any other serious qualities in his partner.
I’m not here to say life isn’t easier if you’re beautiful, fit, and rich.
But if you make these things the only game in town, you’ll attract people for whom these things are all that matters. You’ll also get stuck in a game you can never win: someone will always have a larger salary, be better looking, younger, or have more Instagram followers.
And then you’ll wonder why your relationship feels insecure and miserable.
Of course looks matter. Of course being in great shape will make you attractive to wider range of people. Of course having an appealing lifestyle and confidence are qualities that are seductive in a partner. But is trying to “win” all of these games, obsessing over your stats like a top trump playing card, and worrying that falling short along one dimension will suddenly mean your partner could run to someone else at any moment going to help you?
The feeling that you’re in competition with everyone else, hell, anyone else, is a losing mindset. It’s a game you will never, ever, ever win.
It puts you in a state of insecurity. It makes you believe that your appeal is limited to a few key things you offer, and without those, you’re suddenly no longer a catch. It makes you insecure, fragile, and prey to feelings of sudden worthlessness if those things are taken away.
And worst of all: you’ll attract people who only value superficial success.
What Makes You Irreplaceable = Your Unique Monopoly
The only way to escape competition, and feel deeply confident to your soul, is to have your own unique monopoly.
You don’t need to win at everything to get a great relationship – you only need to build your unique monopoly in a way that makes you irreplaceable for the right person.
This takes work two levels: work towards who you want to be, but accept who you already are. Think about who you want to attract, and what qualities they will be attracted to. Move towards that.
Then forget about the rest.
If you want someone intellectual who loves talking about art and is passionate about education who also runs marathons, ask yourself: Do I embody those qualities? Does my dating profile reflect those things? Am I at least moving in that direction? If you want someone who is kind and generous and loves family: is your life a beacon for someone with those personality traits?
Maybe taken on their own your qualities feel normal. But when you combine them all together, they make something uniquely YOU.
What makes you a a great partner is some mix of the following:
– How you make someone feel – bringing a great mood, being kind, saying things that make people feel noticed
– Whether you live in congruence with your values – showing self-actualization, discipline, and the courage and determination to live up to your principles
– Being a great teammate – being someone they can trust, being on their side, thinking of their needs, showing compromise, including them in future planning
– Sexual chemistry – how you take care of your health, diet, body, dressing attractively for your partner, thinking about what turns them on emotionally and sexually, being a thoughtful lover, knowing what excites them.
These things all combine to make your unique monopoly.
Do what is necessary for you to feel attractive. If you feel you’re slacking and falling short of your personal standards, that’s a good enough motivation to push you to do something to reach a higher level. But if you spend a single second caring that there’s someone else better looking, more educated, more successful, and define yourself along those lines, you’ve already lost.
Your unique monopoly is the essential YOU-ness that makes you who you are. If you can hold onto that, if you can actually value it, if you can internally know that someone choosing you is the smartest decision they’ll ever make and believe it, then you’re no longer in competition.
You make a game that only you can win.