Steve Errey strips off the armor and redefines strength for men.
People think that to be a man you need to be strong.
You need to plant your feet and get ready to show fear who’s boss.
You need to be reliable and dependable.
You need to dig deep so you can just hang on that little bit longer.
You need to get a grip and get on with it.
You need to deal with it yourself.
You need to appear to be strong, even in those moments you don’t feel it.
You need to suck it up and take that step, even though you want to run home, make a nest under the bed and stay there ’til your next birthday when there’ll be cake.
It’s understandable, right? We no longer have to wrestle a bear for our dinner or out-run a hungry sabre-toothed tiger, but the drive to be strong is still a very real force at home, at work and in our relationships.
Worse, that drive to be strong doesn’t just come from men themselves, but is often an impossible expectation carried by others that men struggle to live up to. A manager expects you to suck it up and not get stressed when things are tough at work. A friend doesn’t expect you to open up and be honest about something that’s going on for you. And a partner expects you to be their rock and may hate shows of emotion.
Perhaps it’s no wonder that men struggle with their role and identity in a world that offers these mixed messages, and the drive to be strong threatens to screw you over in two big ways.
1. Conflict is inherent
Strength implies there’s something you need to be strong in the face of, something you need to steel yourself against or ready yourself for.
This inherent conflict is not only a flawed strategy for going about your life (I certainly don’t want to be fighting and struggling the whole time), but it’s freaking exhausting, right?
2. Walls get higher
The need to be strong becomes a way of life, fuelled by the need to be in control amid the chaotic, unpredictable world we live in, and driven by the urge to pursue success in a culture that celebrates and elevates the successful.
That need builds walls between how you really feel about yourself and the things that matter to you and how you engage with the world. The more you depend on the strength that’s got you this far, the higher those walls get.
So in light of those two problems, is strength actually our biggest weakness?
When it prioritizes self-protection, struggle and perception over vulnerability, ease and authenticity, yes, I’d say so.
When it drives men to appear to be strong rather than be real, most definitely.
Strength can sometimes be a useful and appropriate response, of course it can, but when it remains an unchallenged and assumed pattern of behavior the armor it provides becomes part of your identity.
And the more you learn to trust that armor, the more you lose trust in what’s beneath it.
Real confidence comes from ease, not strength.
It’s arms open rather than arms closed.
It’s congruence, not incongruence.
It’s founded on whole-heartedness rather than steely determination.
Confidence is a way of going about your life in a way that feels right for you, not right for everyone else. And it’s totally liberating.
It starts with one simple question that you can carry around with you; a question that at first glance might be easy to dismiss as hogwash or irrelevant.
How can I soften into this?
It’s okay. Don’t panic. The last thing you need is to “be strong” in the face of this question, so just consider that there might be an easier way. A way that honors all the different parts of you that add up to more than the sum of your parts. A way that feels good.
You don’t need to be strong all the time.
You’re more than that.