Being afraid that something will not work out before it happens may sound silly, but it can stop men in their tracks.
I’m going to cut right to the chase. No need to keep anyone in suspense about this at all. The two phrases that keep a man from taking action are “what if?” and “yeah, but …”
Happy now? Good. At 50 years old, I know these phrases all too well. They can still keep me stuck in proverbial mud. I don’t like to admit that because then it means I’m human. Me? Human? Well, there goes my “Superman” suit up in smoke.
Before you move along, though, have you considered how much those two phrases can keep men stuck in procrastination and inaction? You might be a man of total action, always moving forward and never filled with any fear or insecurity in your bones and balls. Awesome! Yet never, not once in your life, have you had a “what if?” moment happen? I bet not.
Anyone that breaks out of dysfunctional systems, whether in families, workplaces or communities, might have a lingering thought that pulls him into the “what if this doesn’t work out?” mindset. The familiar thought process feels like putting on those comfortable bunny slippers (or Grandad’s old smoking jacket) that you love so much. Personal chaos and family 9-1-1 calls have left well-worn grooves in a man’s emotional state that make peace and serenity feel weird.
“Yeah, but if I change too much then people who know me will not like me anymore” might be one sentiment a man feels.
A lot of times, I have those internal in-my-head conversations that leave me guessing if I did something wrong. Those conversations have become less and less prevalent over the years. A lot of help and support from other men in healthier emotional states has played a major role. For their love and support, saying “thank you” does not begin to say it at all.
If these two phrases keep any man emotionally locked from taking action, then something has to change. Inaction breeds more inaction, and that turns into paralysis by analysis (as the old saying goes). Taking action busts open the emotional chokehold those phrases have over men.
“What if you are all wrong, Joe?” Hey, it will not be the first time baby. I’ve been wrong a hell of a lot more than right. In fact, I got some good wisdom from another man over a decade ago. He encouraged me to stop seeing life through good/bad and right/wrong extremes. If any man knew about extremes, then it certainly was me.
Binge-or-purge living landed me in 12-step recovery rooms for a lot of soul work.
“Yeah, but I have heard about ‘soul work’ and all of that crap. What if it is all a bunch of nonsense?” See, I gave you a two-for-one dish right there.
If a man has never done some inner work on himself, then how does he know if it is nonsense or not? He may be hearing about it from someone else’s experience. I dare say that a man is more inclined to be influenced by others’ opinions and beliefs than finding out what he really believes.
It has taken me more than a decade-plus of untying all-too-familiar knots to look at my life realistically. Most men may not be interested in discussing their emotions and feelings. After all, the money is rolling in well, relationships are all lovey-dovey, and people respect him as a man of great stature.
You mean there is no area in your life that could use a little closer inspection?
That may be true. I’ve seen a lot of men live that way, though, only to see those comfortable pieces fall apart like Humpty Dumpty going plop off of his wall perch.
The charade is over.
Instead of pushing these phrases away, I’d like to suggest that men embrace them. It does not matter if they are so loud and are making life miserable. There is a lesson or a gift in that space. “What if I don’t find a lesson in my relationship ending?” Trust me, there is something to learn. It has happened to me … and damn it, I hurt inside when the lesson and gift revealed itself to me.
The selfishness and lack of attention that I gave to this woman that I loved was ridiculous. That’s just for starters, by the way. It takes serious attention-getting events to get my attention at times. I wish that I could say I’ll always notice those “subtle hints” when it comes to relationships. God, help me.
“Yeah, but it’s better not to have any girlfriends at all … especially intimate ones. You’re just going to get hurt again.”
Is that true? Taking a risk means that I am going to tap into my vulnerability and, over time, reveal myself to a woman. Will she like me? “What if she doesn’t like a man that is in touch with his emotions?” Yeah, better not do that.
I don’t want to live like a monk, either.
There you have it. “What if?” and “yeah, but …” are two little phrases that crawl around and keep too many men in fear, shame and isolation.
Frankly, I say screw it and be brave even if my knees are shaking. If I fall down, pick me up. If you fall down, I’ll be there for you.
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