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Secrets to looking good

The paradox of looking good

The more we want to look good to others the more we end up not looking good. My mother wasn't that concerned about whether she looked good to others. In contrast, my father was so concerned about whether others thought he was okay. 

Consequently, my mother was generally much better liked and respected by others than was my father.

Our biggest fear, held consciously and unconsciously, is whether we look good to others (or not)

It's got to be deep in our DNA and then reinforced by our family, culture, and institutions. Our desire to belong. Our desire to be "normal" and "not weird." Our deeply ingrained habit to feel guilty if we have any sense that others we care about, including society in general, are disappointed in us or blaming us. Our willingness to give up our unbridled self-expression, our natural happiness, our curiosity, our sense of adventure and play, all those things that we enjoyed as children in order to become accepted by our peers, and seen as responsible adults.  The costs we're willing to incur in order to look good, and not look bad, are immense.

It's hard to find any stronger desire or bigger fear than our desire to look good and to avoid looking bad. We'll die for it. And most of us do, sometimes literally, but more often figuratively.


Bonnie Ware, the author of "Five Regrets of the Dying," found that "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me" was the #1 regret.

How the paradox works: two dynamics

  1. If we are willing to risk looking bad, especially with smaller or shorter-term risks, then in the bigger picture and longer-term, we're more likely to look better.

  2. If we focus first on being our own best friend through creating more Now-Next Integrity and thereby "looking good to ourselves," which includes choosing the courage to be willing to look bad to others, then we are likely to look better to others, especially in the long term.

The paradox of risk

It's easy to understand the first paradox of risk using an example from my life-coaching business, which I have been successful at since 1987. From the beginning of my life-coaching career, the way I got clients was by offering gift-coaching sessions, with no cost or obligation. Then, after our session together, I would tell the prospect about my program and invite them to become my partner (and client). In general, roughly 20% of those I gave a gift session to would become my client. Therefore, the risk of any gift session not resulting in a client (the failure rate) was 80%. And it was never "predictable" which prospect would become my client and which one would not. One time I gave 23 gift sessions in a row without getting a new client. Another time, I got three clients in a row from three consecutive gift sessions. Regardless, the overall risk of not getting a new client each time I gave a session was 80%. I had an 80% failure rate.

The result is that I have consistently had a successful coaching practice and was able to get as many clients as I needed and wanted. There was virtually no risk in creating and maintaining a successful coaching practice as long as I was willing to continually take the 80% risk of failing, again and again, every time I gave a gift-coaching session.

Taking the less-impactful risk consistently, which had an 80% failure rate, guaranteed that the much more dangerous risk or not having a successful coaching practice approach zero percent. This is the most important statistical fact that almost everyone is unaware of and often fails to apply in the living of their life.

Applying the paradox of risk to "looking good"

First, you're not going to look good to everybody. And, if you're willing to not look good to some, if it turns out that way, you're more likely to look good to others who actually fit the authentic you better. Looking good with them is just something that happens easily as a byproduct of your natural self-expression and creating a relationship of mutual self-interest and respect with them.

Second, when you're willing to not look good sometimes, even with those who are important to you, by choosing courage to be more open with them, to set and maintain good boundaries, by making requests and saying "no," you're more likely to create a more sustainable relationship in which you both look good to each other.

Be smart about looking good

In doing whatever you may decide to do with hopes of looking good to another, make sure you'll still be fine if it doesn't turn out that way. When I provide a gift-coaching session to anyone, I've got it set up where I already "win" regardless of whether they become my client. If they become my client, that's just the cherry on top.

Stepping outside the HOGAG

One salient feature of the HOGAB is an attachment to looking good. And, yes, it's possible to "look good," sometimes very good, inside the HOGAB with a big costs...the costs of not living a fully self-expressed life that you're in love with.


Again, almost paradoxically, to the extent that you've escaped from the HOGAB and you've let go of your attachment to looking good to others, you will have also let go of blaming others as well as blaming yourself. When others feel that safety around you that they can "be themselves" and not risk being blamed by you, you will look good to them.

Also, in general, to the extent that another can feel that you would like to look good to them but that you don't need it, you are more likely to look good to them. 

Getting proactive about looking good

How do you know whether you look good or not to others, even to your spouse, if you have one? One time I asked a woman who'd been married for twenty years, "What does your husband like about you?" She couldn't answer the question because she had never asked him.

We live inside a world of guessing how we occur for others. We are reluctant to be proactive about finding out, perhaps out of fear of discovering that we don't look as good as we thought. We also think it might not look good to others if we ask them about how we look to them, which, depending on how you do it, will likely have the opposite effect ("Wow, you're choosing such courage to be willing to ask me how you occur to me!").

If you ask a very general question about how you are occurring for another, you're not likely to get any useful or accurate information. You need to ask more specific questions with a ranking scale, looking for both positive and negative assessments. Check out How you occur for others.

Other tools you can use, not only to look better but to also create other invaluable benefits are Fifteen minutes for love and RAFTS (Reluctant And Frightened To Share).

Getting proactive about the "project" of looking good most often requires courage.

Addressing the second paradox of looking good

Why do we become so attached to looking good? It's because we are trying to fill the void of not looking good to ourselves, of not being our own best friend and fan, of not re-parenting ourselves, if needed. That is, we are not being our own best parent for ourselves, regardless of how our parents were when we were growing up. This is about creating and maintaining integrity between your Now (your Child) and your Next (your Parent).

Then, when you are already your own best friend and you don't need others to do that for you, which you will discover is a bottomless bucket anyway, it's easy-peasy to look good to others. And if you don't, you can just get curious about that, if you like. As Byron Katie says, "It's not your job to like's mine."  By the way, I know Byron Katie fairly well and my sense is that she looks pretty good to most people.

Becoming your own best friend and fan is a natural byproduct of creating Frightened-Fearless Integrity and Pleasure-Plan Integrity, both part of Now-Next Integrity.

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