Every road has its potholes, its twists and turns, and every journey has its feelings of elation and its moments of hopelessness. The road to building Man Enough has been this type of dynamic journey, a movement founded on the belief that by undefining traditional roles and traits of masculinity, men will be able to realize their potential as humans and their capacity for connection.Continue reading
As a man, it can be frustrating, even infuriating, to be lumped in with the rest of the “usual suspects” after we do something with perfect intention. But with good reason — men don’t exactly have a lengthy track record for doing kind things, pure of heart. When it comes to motive, people often assume the worst.
So what’s in it for you? they’re thinking, eyes squinted in skepticism.
More often than not, we see men in the media who do good things for the wrong reasons, or at best, doing something helpful to society that somehow leads to personal gain. Brands whose own ads are built purely around showing consumers that they’re the “good guys” so you’ll buy their car instead of the other guy’s. A lot of the times when men do something seemingly pure of ulterior motive, the knee-jerk reaction for anyone is suspicion. Not to be trusted, and rightfully so.
Let’s put the shoe on the other foot. When you see someone, especially a person of privilege, go out of their way to help someone and you can’t find a single attachable reason other than human decency, tell us you’re not thrown for a loop like we are, especially in our social media-driven age of record-first, help-later responses.
So how do we, as men, rid ourselves of this suspicion? Frequency and universality.
Man Enough to Care
By that, we mean tipping the scale from uncommon acts of kindness to regular, recurring activities. Little things like holding the door open for someone — we’ll hold a door for someone 100 yards away, we love it — or bolder acts like going well out of your way, completely unprovoked, to check in on someone, buy someone flowers who just celebrated a major achievement, send meals to a distant friend who just had their first kid, anything for anyone who looks like they can use a hand. Or even a simple “hello” to a perfect stranger passing by.
By universality, we mean don’t just be of service to beautiful women or people you’re attracted to in hopes you will receive something in return. Do things for people who would never expect anything from you, as well. You see an elderly woman carrying her groceries, offer to help. You see a guy stranded on the side of the road, offer directions or the number to AAA. Become the universal friend, someone who is ready, willing and nonjudgmental for everyone they see.
Do it often, give to everyone and suddenly the trust wall begins to build, suspicious brows are lowered and we become a community that heals itself. After the year we’ve had, being of service should be something we jump into oncoming traffic to have the chance to do (don’t jump into oncoming traffic).
Leading By Example
Acts of kindness are the biggest dopamine hit, so even if you truly are being pure of motive, there’s always going to be a major plus in it. The point is to get to a place where kindness is second nature and worrying about motive falls into the rearview. By providing a good example to our sons and daughters, we free our boys of the scripts that say things like motive has to be tied to kindness, allowing them to be trustworthy. And we protect our daughters in the process, allowing them to trust more.
To see them pass that on to someone else later, well, that’s a thing of beauty. That’s the ultimate act of kindness, something that continues on and on, down through generations.
In the past, I’ve told the story about how I once saw a homeless man trying to get his cart of belongings up a curb, only to watch it tumble over. All I could do was watch, sitting there motionless with my morning coffee like an absolute pud. Historically — OK, once — reaching out to help the homeless with their belongings hasn’t fared well for me so I just continued to stare while a man, younger than me, went out of his way to help. I was so embarrassed by myself and yet proud of the young man for embarrassing me.
Ever since seeing that act of kindness, there is no hesitation from me. It’s worth it to put yourself out there for others.
Now, if your knee-jerk reaction to that is “so what,” then we both have work to do. We should all be willing to make the mistake of trying too hard to help, as opposed to not trying enough.
So what will you do this week to be pure of motive and completely trustworthy in the service of others? Look up from the phone and be observant to the world around you. There’s people in need everywhere you look and in so many ways. As we begin to move towards public life again, see where your helping hand, open ear or shoulder to lean on can be useful to others in need.
So what’ll it be, are you man enough to be trusted?
Preorder Justin Baldoni’s debut book, Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity here.
Cover image: Twenty20photos (Envato Elements)
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We’re all guilty of playing the victim to our negative thoughts, but these days, it’s a crippling habit to be a negative fortune teller, especially if the fortune is yours and the forecast is constant rain clouds and thunderstorms.
Imagine sitting at your desk, eating some roasted almonds trying to get some sort of momentum going. First of all, imagine sitting at a desk in an office again! Crazy, right? You’re minding your own business, going about your workday when suddenly, your boss walks by. Now, normally, they might stop and ask you about your weekend, what you’re working on or why you’ve resorted to a diet purely of nuts, but on this particular day, they walk by without so much as a bit of eye contact or a simple ‘hello.’
We know what you’re thinking and we agree: Obviously, your boss hates you, you’re about to get fired, your girlfriend will quickly dump you, your toxic friends will call you a loser but not before reminding you you’re going to die alone, which will seamlessly lead to you being homeless and gathering what food you can from muster from a dumpster as you slowly wither way in the blistering cold, despite living in a fairly warm climate, wishing you had some of those almonds you took for granted to gnaw on.
OK, that actually does sound crazy. But it’s not far from the common tales we tell ourselves on a daily basis.
Negative fortune-telling is an unconscious interaction we have with ourselves, one that takes a tiny morsel of reality and expands it into a full-blown horror movie in our minds that we tell ourselves with unending sequel upon terrible sequel. Now, there should be some relief in reminding you that it’s only a movie, and there are no monsters under your bed, but the trouble with negative fortune-telling is that when you do it enough, some of the items from this little shop of horrors can manifest themselves into your life, which is why it needs to stop.
Negative thinking can rewire your brain in a bad way when you do it often enough, which means it’s imperative we override those with positive thoughts. But that sounds exhausting, doesn’t it? The best thing you can do is not let your mind run rampant in the first place, but how do we avoid that?
But just to be safe, let’s first break that scenario down.
Yes, maybe you do eat solely almonds to get you through too often, but the fact your boss didn’t stop to say hello could be caused by any number of reasons, most, if not all, unrelated to you and your nuts. Maybe they had a bad weekend, found out a loved one was ill, stubbed their toe in the kitchen while trying to make breakfast for their picky kids who, for some reason, want spaghetti at 7 AM. Maybe the business has been extra slow, they had too much wine with dinner last night and the fluorescent lights are making an unexpected hangover a bit worse, or maybe (just maybe) they discovered a weird fungus growing between their toes — probably athlete’s foot, easy fix — that they didn’t know was possible.
So how do we fix this (the negative thinking, not athlete’s foot)? Let’s see here…
Avoid Making It All About You (And Your Need to Be Liked)
One of the most common traits we share is our constant need to be liked. Exhibit A: social media.
When someone doesn’t praise our good work, notice our new shoes or even bother to acknowledge us, we take that as an offense and must get to the root as to why they hate our work, our style and our general existence. In reality, we’re just consumed with our neverending story, to which we have a beautifully-curated soundtrack we’ve worked very hard to keep updated. It’s not just on social media, it’s everywhere — the need to be seen.
By having a bit of empathy and realizing not everything that happens in this world is of direct consequence to the shoes we chose to wear today, we can move forward with a little less worry about the actions of others and even come out with a better understanding of what’s going on around us, rather than drifting through false oblivion. It makes us more attuned to the plight of others when we realize everyone has a story going on in their head and you are most definitely not the main character of theirs, nor are they the main character of yours.
But seriously, you have Fight Club soundtrack for, like every mood. What’s up with that?
Redirect That Anxious Energy
Most people would pay top dollar to have the kind of energy that gets wasted on needless thoughts and worry, bottled and sold like an energy drink without the need to pee every five minutes. But the funny part is you already have it in you. Maybe lay off the coffee, the ultimate illusion of energy, but otherwise, that superhuman strength is in you somewhere. And when you find it, you have to redirect it towards things that are important to you to keep it going.
What’s more important, doing rewarding work you’re proud of each day or figuring out if spending $300 on plaid loafers no one noticed was a poor judgment call or just all in your head? Not relatable? How about doing great work that makes you love who you are and what you do versus worrying all day if everyone else likes who you are? Because, fun fact, the more you like yourself, the less what others think matters and, yet, the more likely people are to appreciate someone with self-confidence.
Once you’ve decided how you want to use your mind and energy, you’ll feel space opening up for productive thoughts and you might even have some energy to bring those ideas to fruition. But if you live inside a constant fiction that has no end, you’ll find yourself living out some of those negative scenarios where you feel worthless or unworthy of anything good.
Tell Yourself Something Funny
When you catch yourself playing out these wild scenarios in your head, you can feel half-crazy. If that’s the case, we suggest having fun with our psychoses. If you’re going to tell yourself a story based on the unrelated actions of others, make it a short story (and make it humorous). Because most of our negative thoughts are unwanted traits we see in ourselves that we have to project onto others, but if the story becomes a comedy rather than a drama, it opens the door for levity and a bit of ridiculousness to snap you out of that hall of horrors.
If your boss failed to stop by your desk, it’s probably because they have a bad case of food poisoning that presented itself on the way to work, and the only receptacle available was a pair of $300 plaid loafers they were excited to show off that day.
See? Better already. Now you try.
For more ‘Man Enough’ episodes, go here.
Cover image: Photocreo (Envato Elements)