Thursday, January 31, 2019

Making Up

Competence and Confidence are guys' version of Make-Up and Fashion. Trying to understand why men struggle expressing vulnerability is similar to understanding why even modern women still tend to beautify themselves. We still seem trapped in the behaviours that are deep soaked into us. If I show vulnerability, it feels like I am asking for a response. It doesn't feel like I am able to just say, "Yes, this is difficult. I don't want input. I don't need help. Just expressing what is going on is sufficient". For the most part, this disturbs the illusion that all is under control. I hate feeling like people are worried about me. It seems connected to whether they respect me or not. I get that respect is supposed to come from within, but that isn't the way any of the communities I have ever operated in work. Respect is the currency.

Sharing the thoughts and feelings going on in your head doesn't mean you are asking for help. It is just letting down the filter. It helps us all realise that everyone is struggling. Otherwise we get a Facebook Profile version of everyone's lives full of exciting holidays, smiley moments, and great successes. We don't hear from the people who get back from work on a Friday night absolutely shattered, feeling lonely, but without the energy to reach out to anyone. Perhaps they have been working so hard, they haven't even invested in friendships enough to be able to reach out. Maybe if the picture that was painted in what we share was more honest, then it wouldn't be something people need to hide.

Except the world is designed for winners. The news we follow is about the winners. The Motivational Speakers we hear from are the guys who get up at 5am, run a half-marathon, and then do more before their morning tea break than most people do in a week. We read books about people who have built Businesses. We watch ultra-athletes from around the world performing spectacular feats that are much easier to watch from the couch than to try an emulate. We are constantly being measured, and like it or not, Men are still not really allowed to opt out. Then you are a loser. And losers lose.

So why take any notice of that rubbish? It is all in the mind anyway. You choose your own reality. You control the way you respond to the world, and how you feel about it. We all end up dust anyway. Nothing you do really matters. It just seems like it matters. Just make different choices. Feel deeply. Express your weakness confidently.  You'll find, like Sacha says, that you are not alone. The way you feel things is your own, but it is a combination of feelings others have. We are one big web of emotions and actions and reactions and just letting go is a powerful way of actually engaging with the world more strongly.

You lost me there. The traditional model works. If you fight it, it will be more complicated. If you are a man, your job is to be a provider. Your job is to build a solid foundation around which others can thrive. Most great men had huge internal struggles, but they didn't go around have a cry about it. Life is hard? And so? Get on with it. Your boss doesn't give you credit? So? Work harder and start your own company if you don't like working for someone else. You aren't doing the work you like? And so? You made bad choices when you were younger. Take the pain and find out what skills you need to do thing you to get there. Long hours? Shame. Would you like a hug? No. Do what you need to do.

That is harsh. Why do you think so many Men crack if you put that kind of pressure on them? To think that you can't express vulnerability and still be successful is ridiculous. There is more to life. The idea that men won't be attractive if they don't come across as competent and confident is also a bit backwards. Authenticity is incredibly attractive. Faking might get you through the door, but if you are talking about building a life the is something sustainable, then you will eventually get found out.

I am comfortable opening up about my struggles, but I do have to work on a fairly deeply wired defensiveness. If I open up and then someone proceeds to give me advice, I actually start feeling a little sick. I value my self-sufficiency. I really like being able to make decisions for myself. As soon as someone gives me feedback, it feels like I have to implement it or they will stop giving it. Feedback with strings. I approach ambiguity, uncertainty, and complexity in a fairly detached way. I try be decisive knowing that I will often be wrong. Making small decisions that have limited unintended consequences. Opening up sometimes makes me have to justify myself.  Sometimes opening up feels more like something I am doing for the other person, than something I need myself. I don't actually feel like it.

Feedback is incredibly helpful. Most advice is advice to ourselves. You should take it as that. The person can only see the thing your are sharing through their own context. Their advice can only be a projection of their own anxieties, baggage, and world view. You can hold what they say lightly. Sharing doesn't have to be a way of "finding a solution". A good listener can listen without actually interfering with your thought process. Listening as lubrication rather than intervention. If people feel a desire to change your course of direction, that is their issue, not yours.

I get that intellectually, but I hate feeling on the wrong side of people. Feeling like I am misunderstood, or that I have disappointed them. Like I haven't met their expectations. I have a high degree of internal confidence, but am much weaker when it comes to feeling that I am a "failure" in other people's eyes. Going back to my initial metaphor. I can imagine it being like someone who acknowledges make-up and fashion are expensive time-wasters, but still wears them because that is the way the world works. You can't pick every battle. Sometimes bottling things up a little is just way easier. Having things under control means I don't have to put so much effort into appeasing the people I care about.

We are busy reinventing society. The traditional Masculine/Feminine stereotypes were thrust upon us. As Arthur said, this was perhaps for a reason... but those reasons have changed. If we want a healthier world where we aren't torn up internally just to please others externally, then we have to have these tough discussion. I really don't think this is a Male/Female thing. Much of it is simply cultural roles we have inherited. The more strong men are allowed to show weakness without being judged, the more likely others are to feel free to follow in their path.

[Sacha, Richard, Francois, Arthur, Mary, Paul, and Angela are fictional]

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