I’m sitting here winding down in the early am hours after work, like I do every night. This night is kid patrol for me since our little one sleepwalks and I’m insistent that he learn to spend the night in his bed. He still manages to stumble his way to the coach every morning by 4am; so we keep a blanket and pillow out, and typically he cuddles up and falls back asleep until daybreak.
I’m up looking a the blanket and pillow, and then his tablet, his Nintendo 2DS, and his remotes (he has taken ownership of the TV). My feelings are ones that I know most dads can relate to when we let our guards down for a bit without even thinking.
I say “our guards” because most guys do have a shield up. Actually, it’s more like a psychic electric fence. We are always protecting: Ourselves. Our families. Our pets. Our property. It’s our inner nature that tells us to “Guard, guard, guard!” And rarely are these guards ever completely down.
A baby, a puppy, or most people genuinely cries when they feel bad. Yet, as men, we have been socially conditioned to compartmentalize our emotional reactions and not show these emotions because they demonstrate weakness. But we do have emotions. Even gentle ones.
It’s OK to show emotions. It’s OK to feel love. Look, these days the macho paradigm is softening, hence the phenomenon that is the Millennial male. It’s one of the reasons I created “Man-UP! Life Coaching;” because young men need someone to model both strength AND sensitivity. Emotional openness. Compassion. They need “LOVE”, okay? There, I said it.
We all do. And the place to get love is from yourself. That’s the lesson I teach over, and over, and over. all day, every day. The fact is that men need to learn to love themselves. Ourselves. And we need to learn to perpetually validate ourselves rather than judge ourselves. Forgive ourselves, rather than punish ourselves. You will not meet a man that doesn’t strongly identify with this insight. Men are walking around suffering all day, every day, because we are starved for validation and refuse to give it to ourselves.
So where do we turn to for validation?
We try to get it from our girlfriends, spouses, partners. And how does that play out? Usually not well. She wants you in her life to validate her. If she has to constantly validate you, she is going to be emotionally unfulfilled and resentful.
Aaaaand, THAT’S why we cheat. Because somewhere out there is some young woman that also needs male validation and isn’t getting it, so she hates herself as much as you hate yourself. That’s why fathering is such an enormous responsibility. Look what you create when you screw up. A mess for us all to clean up.
So a guy in despair, silently suffering, starts talking to friends. But typically his friends aren’t exactly in stellar relationships; so while their advice is well-intentioned, it isn’t making the feeling go away. And it ZAPS your motivation like a freaking flu virus. Everything is really hard work. Everything.
And you’re not allowed to snap, because you’re a guy. Either people will feel threatened, or they’ll judge the behavior as distasteful. After all, men don’t lose their cool. Keep that to yourself, right?
So they start scrolling looking for inspiration. Things to cheer them up. Give them hope. Porn is a freaking rabbit hole into sadness. You learn that. So are strip clubs. And bars. And drugs. Trust me, been there. Either these guys haven’t and don’t want to, or they have and don’t want to go back.
Instead they turn to self-help. They start watching YouTube videos… listening to PodCasts: Jordan Peterson, Zig Ziglar, Joe Rogan. They stumble upon as much content as they can consume, in hopes of finding the answer.
The Internet is gathering this info.
When I meet a new guy for the first time and we talk, I start by listening. You can’t believe what an odd thing it is for most guys when someone is actually willing to listen to them.
I ask what *motivated* him to reach out for a male mentor/life coach. In this line of work you learn that validation is the key to motivation. Since this guy is suffering, the call was difficult to make. Whatever motivated him to pick up the phone must be pretty painful, whether he realizes or not. He just knows something’s wrong, and he needs it fixed. He wants to believe the answer is out there. But he’s skeptical, because as I mentioned, we all have our guards up…. “guard, guard, guard!”
It’s always the same: he isn’t using his creative voice, lacks motivation, feels flat, needs direction but doesn’t know where to get it, and is just kind of overwhelmed. There are also typically relationship issues, confidence issues, body-image concerns, health concerns, and family stress.
So I bring him into the Man-UP! program by simply explaining what I do and asking if he’s interested. I spent way to many years being a cheesy art salesman in New Orleans’ French Quarter and San Diego’s Little Italy to pull any slick sales BS on my guys. Nope! I extend my program like a hand. Either you shake it or you don’t. Many do.
Here’s the deal, I teach guys to love themselves, because I see the good in them. Art teaches you that. Through an artist’s eyes, everything is beautiful, because it is all creation. When we create, we are the creator. When create in the physical, we are reminded of our ability to create at a metaphysical level of consciousness. Most guys don’t have the freedom to be creative, to look at beauty, or to stop for and have a moment for themselves. That’s what this program teaches.
And when you finally learn to love yourself and appreciate all that you are and all that you have to give, you finally are able to put those guards down for a little bit every once in a while and enjoy a feeling at 2AM, looking over at all of your son’s toys.
You get to feel love.