Guest Post by David Hrostoski
Imagine in front of you is a MAN.
This isn’t the middle-of-the-bell-curve kind of man we’re talking about. Before you is a man, with all capital letters. He is the epitome of manhood. He is a MAN.
He lives life with an open heart. He never runs away from the tough conversations. Instead, he leans into discomfort for the sake of his relationships. His gaze pierces you with love and consciousness. He spends his days serving the world, completely aligned with his purpose. He is driven and focused. He is a MAN.
But his inner being is only one side of the coin.
He’s strong, with firm musculature. He’s tall, and has a face sculpted by the gods. His five-o-clock shadow accentuates the sharp angles of his chin.
He’s everything a woman could ask for.
And, everything a boy hopes to be.
But, at what point along the timeline of life does that young boy transform into an enlightened, warm, and sexy man?
I know I wasn’t born with any of these qualities. And, zoom forward 18 years, we find a man by law, still without many of these “MAN" qualities.
So when does it happen?
At the age of 25? 30? 40? Does this transformation from boy to man ever happen?
Here lies the problem. We have an image of what a man should be, but the transformation from boy to man is a lot more complicated than we think.
Jo asked me to write the other side of the story:
What is it like to be a young man? What pressures do we face?
And, yes. The story is very different. The qualities we’re expected to display - by society, our parents, our partners, and ourselves - are very different.
Women are expected to “have it all” before their reproductive systems hit the ever-impending "expiration date."
And, men are expected to “Man Up,” find their purpose, and be strong - physically, mentally, and emotionally.
But, the underlying message we ALL struggle with is the same: “You are not enough."
It's that deep-seeded belief we all struggle with. It’s the happiness-sapping thought pattern that keeps us looking for more. More growth, more love, more money, more everything!
If you want to understand the struggle of the opposite sex, you must first understand that, in many ways, the struggle is the same.
“I am not enough."
But, let’s dig a bit deeper into the male psyche.
What’s different? What struggles do men face growing up?
Well, despite what you may think, you already largely know the answer to that. Let’s shine some light on it.
What do you think of when you hear the word “Man?”
Everyone’s list is different.
Some think of words like, strong, calm, driven, or focused.
Some think of purpose, holding space, and support.
And, others think of, sports, facial hair, muscles, and suppressed emotion.
Depending on who’s around us in the formative years of our lives, we hear very different expressions of who we should be.
But, whatever it is that we hear, we tend to take those stories on.
We strive to be those who we admire, and to become what they approve of.
I had my father’s view of what it meant to be a man, mixed with my mother’s, my brother’s, my friends’, my teachers’, and the media’s, all creating a conflicting and impossible picture of who I should be.
My parents told me to be a God-fearing Christian.
My brother told me to go to college and get a good job.
My friends told me to drink and have fun.
My teachers told me to pay attention and get good grades.
The media told me to be more like Hugh Jackman.
A man’s struggle is simply living up to the stories about who they should be: the very stories we just listed.
Whatever it is you said to the question above - what you think of when you hear the word “man” - they’re just stories.
It’s okay that we have them. Everyone has stories. Stories are just our brain’s way of finding trends and turning information into useful knowledge. They’re inevitable.
It’s what we do with them that counts.
What happens when a 14-year-old boy gets called weak by his basketball coach?
What happens when a 8-year-old boy gets yelled at by his teacher because he wasn’t listening?
What happens when a 12-year-old boy gets made fun of for holding his books across his chest?
One thing. One script.
“I am not enough."
And, that’s the most painful thing we can possibly believe about ourselves.
We can try to show less emotion and display more strength, but we end up suppressing it all in the process, leading to an inevitable explosion of anger and pain. We can try to life weights and go to the gym, but even the fittest men on the planet have room for improvement. One sharp criticism, and we’re mentally back to the drawing board.
A young boy with the script, “I am not enough,” will do just about anything to be enough.
But, nothing ever seems to work. We can’t uproot that belief by trying harder. Because once we get there, it’s still not enough. Nothing is enough.
We have to uproot the belief all together.
We have to take a step back and ask ourselves why we believe these things in the first place. Where did these stories come from? Are they really true?
And, the honest truth is,
WE ARE ENOUGH.
I am enough. You are enough. We all are enough just the way we are.
The more we believe that, and the more we send that message to those we love, the less struggle there is.
If we want to truly end the struggle, we have to stop "should-ing" all over ourselves and others, and accept that one beautiful truth:
"I Am Enough."