It’s one of the most self-destructive afflictions of the human race.
Feeling inadequate. Not “good enough”.
Hell, without any help we can manufacture gobs of evidence on a daily basis to confirm our own self-doubt. We’re quite talented at kicking our own ass without someone else pitching in.
But we choose to bring women into the mix anyway – to help finish the job.
They are like surgeons when it comes to slicing away our last shred of self-respect. They even know where we store our emergency cache of self-confidence and they can suck it out of us at will.
How did they get this power? How can we defend ourselves?
If you’re like a lot of men, you defend against it by returning the favor.
With equal and opposite force you employ your special power to feed her demons of self-doubt and insecurity.
Yeah. Now you’re even.
“Even Steven”. (I wished they would have picked Evan or Edward)
With nearly 30 years of practice I know this stupid game a little too well. I also know how clever we can be at believing we’re not playing it.
10 Ways to Confirm Her Feelings of Inadequacy (aka “Shaming”)
In her audio course, “Men, Women and Worthiness”, shame researcher Brene Brown makes a powerful point about people who shame others.
She explains when we shame someone with our criticism, disapproval or rejection it can usually be tied to a certain shame we feel within ourselves. We hurt in others that which silently hurts in us.
Brown defines shame as “the intense painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”
If a man is feeling the pain of inadequacy, unworthiness and disconnection he is likely to express that pain in the age old game of “Tit for tat”.
Here’s just the tip of the iceberg. These are some “rules” of the game for getting even.
- Tell her she doesn’t make any sense.
- Pick at her grammar, writing or math skills.
- Express your displeasure about her family frequently.
- Question her intellectual pedigree.
- Tell her who you wish she was more like.
- Try to fix every problem she tells you about for her.
- Make fun of her friends.
- Point out her body flaws.
- Tell her she never wants sex and start ignoring her.
- Tell her she’s always negative and no fun to be around.
You will notice how these are gender switchable. But I’m talking to men here. I gave women their own list in this article.
There are dozens more ways couples do this. They rub salt into each other’s wounded feelings of disapproval and inadequacy.
Then they bemoan the lack of attention, affection, respect and intimacy.
And they are blind to the fact that those things cannot possibly exist in the current environment.
Each feels hurt and rejected for who they are.
Nothing will change until someone changes.
Hurt People Hurt People
You’ve probably heard that phrase before – “Hurt people hurt people.”
Some rocket psychiatrist must have come up with it to help us simple folk understand. Bottom line: A person who has suffered pain at the alleged hands of another is likely to repeat the process.
Given the fact that nearly everyone enters a relationship with some kind of “hurt”, it’s a dire prediction. Is your relationship just doomed? Is hurting each other something you just have to live with?
I work with men who have been in long cycles of the “tit for tat, you hurt me I hurt you, I’m not going to change until you change” syndrome. I guess I need an acronym for that.
This is a poisonous process of validating each other’s insecurities and feelings of inadequacy.
It’s a downward spiral of contempt that virtually guarantees misery and divorce.
But what if at least one partner chooses to stop playing the game? Changes the rules?
What if that person decides they want to be “un-hurt”? What’s the opposite of “un-hurt”?
What if “Empowered people empower people”?
As Brown points out, “First and foremost, we need to be the adults we want our children to be. We should watch our own gossiping and anger. We should model the kindness we want to see.”
How to Change the Rules
Have you ever seen a football game where a losing team makes an unbelievable comeback?
They were getting their butts kicked in the first half but came back after half-time as a totally different team. It’s like they decided to totally change their tactics and their mindset. Their collective mojo is confident, cocky and “amped up”.
They’re on a new mission and taking charge.
It’s doesn’t happen often because it takes focus and commitment. They have to clearly see the error in the old ways. They have to want to change.
For men playing the “tit for tat, you hurt me I hurt you, I’m not going to change until you change” game, it sounds like this:
“This is bullshit. I’m not playing by the old rules anymore. I’m bringing something totally new to the game no matter what. I’m not broken and I’m not a loser. I am a better man than the one who showed up for the first half. I’m not waiting for change. I AM the change, dammit.”
Yeah, that sounds a bit like a half-time pep talk. But it’s not. Real transformation is within your grasp if you want it badly enough.
I’ve seen dozens of men use the guilt and discomfort caused by this toxic game to make a major shift. It’s a permanent shift. And it changes their whole life trajectory in every respect – not just their relationship.
It’s a masculine mojo makeover. It’s a decision to not be a victim of circumstance.
A man must choose to first lead himself and then invite others to join him. It’s the choice to be the change you wish to see.
I think someone famous said that first.
Talk is big. The reason men can talk big but get nothing done is fear. Fear of the unknown. You have to fear things staying the same more than the fear of change. I wrote this ebook to help you with your fear. “The Hard-to-Swallow Secret to Saving Your Marriage”. Download it HERE.