Your winning (social) strategy

Casey Onder, PhD
2 min readJan 28, 2024
Adapted photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

My main learning from my earliest slug-it-out coach training experiences: We each learn various strategies to gain love and acceptance, or avoid punishment and rejection.

For instance being pleasing, attractive, witty, athletic, high achieving.

On the flip side being “alternative,” focused on savoring or self-expression over traditional markers of status and success.

Of course aspects of these behaviors can be genuine.

The drawback when they’re self-proving or self-protective?

The most obvious is that they’re inauthentic, preventing real connection and a sense of being grounded. Using or identifying with them too strongly tends to leave us less-than-fulfilled and/or developmentally stunted.

In contrast a healthy sense of identity is not only authentic — freely versus fearfully chosen — but also relatively dynamic, a creative and ever-evolving amalgamation of our pasts and our futures. This is healthier, more adaptable and more fulfilling near- and long-term.

Before you toss or “therapize” your strategy, know there’s nothing wrong with these strategies or playing to social categories and labels, to an extent. Our brains and therefore our worlds work this way, full of labels, egos and personalities. Likewise nothing wrong with wanting love and acceptance on the one hand, and self-determination and autonomy on the other. Both drives/needs are valuable and human and healthy, operating in harmony. What’s more, we deserve their fulfillment.

Bottom line, we get to be human. Which means we’ll inevitably fall back on strategies at times to get emotional needs met. On the other hand a habit of hiding behind our strategies, letting them run or define us inevitably limits and/or dehumanizes. For example, we may treat ourselves as machines or self-aggrandize in our drive for (love and acceptance) vis a vis success. Or we may fail to go for our dreams and avoid the spotlight to avoid criticism and social shaming. IMO this explains some of our most common conflicts and end of life regrets.

I’ve gotten acquainted enough with my strategies to realize that there’s nothing to prove (to or for myself at least), and nothing to fix. I’ve become less conditioned, more clear-sighted and less self-preoccupied.

There’s a lot I’ve appreciated and a lot I would change, and I had to learn somehow.

To date that’s been my experience.

Want more work tips and inspiration? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at



Casey Onder, PhD

Executive Coach | Psychologist | PhD. Follow me on LinkedIn or sign up for my newsletter @