The Stories We Tell
There are many different ways of being a ‘man’ in today’s world. We hear different narratives all the time: the fall of ‘real men’, the disgruntled (usually white) ‘average man’ out of a manufacturing job, the complexities of the minority ‘queer man’, and so forth. I’m not going to touch on those experiences, as many have written profoundly themselves, and there is infinite wisdom to be gained from such telling’s. I will, however, share something from my own life that can help all men, no matter their identity or socio-economic status.
Buddhists are right in that we are constantly – whether we realize it or not – creating a narrative in our minds about ourselves. We gather bits and pieces of our lives, the decisions we make, the friends we have, etc., in an attempt to construct a coherent picture of who we are. It makes sense, too. We are always striving to add meaning – a clearer and clearer picture of who we are in life. Yet in an attempt to make sense of our lives, we often run farther and farther away from our feelings. I am certainly guilty of such avoidance. When feeling sad about something, it is easier to get angry, to fight that feeling rather than accept it. It makes me feel so much more in control. But in reality, when we constantly fight ourselves, we engage in a dishonest narrative about life itself. Reality gets distorted because we fog up our own life-viewing lenses.
Let me provide my own example to help explain. I am a person with passive communication tendencies. It is easier for me to turn inward when my feelings get hurt. In turn, people often find me agreeable because I rarely disagree. But what ends up happening is that I feel powerless. When I feel powerless, I feel numb about the world, often leading to bouts of anger (in an attempt to gain back some control). The first step that helped me change such a passive pattern is that I had to admit to myself that I am passive. No self judgement needed. Just acceptance. Once I identified that aspect of myself, I began the process of trying to improve upon it. There is great power in self-acceptance. If you are angry all the time, try to accept that, not fight it. Your body and brain are trying to tell you something. If you are feeling sad, embrace that feeling because it is as important as eating a balanced diet, exercising, sleeping – you name it.
Radical honesty is the first step towards being a more confident man in this ever changing, confusing world.