There and millions of boys and young men growing up with only a mother, and those who do have fathers chances are high that they are not emotionally present.
Have you ever looked into or researched how vital the father plays in the emotional and social development of a child?
Well, I think before we dive into some creative ways for men to improve life it is important to understand where this immaturity may be coming from and why it is crucial to develop maturity so we can help prevent the some of the next generations from experiencing these struggles.
So! Let us jump right in...
I found some serious gold in a study called "The Causal Effects of Father Absence," It states at the beginning,
"A long tradition of sociological research has examined the effects of divorce and father absence on offspring’s economic and social-emotional well-being throughout the life course. Overall, this work has documented a negative association between living apart from a biological father and multiple domains of offspring well-being, including education, mental health, family relationships, and labor market outcomes."
After reading through the study, and the methods they used to evaluate the surveys done they start to conclude with some powerful statements like,
"We find strong evidence that father absence negatively affects children’s social-emotional development, particularly by increasing externalizing behavior. These effects may be more pronounced if father absence occurs during early childhood than during middle childhood, and they may be more pronounced for boys than for girls.'
And then this,
"Effects on social-emotional development persist into adolescence, for which we find strong evidence that father absence increases adolescents’ risky behavior, such as smoking or early childbearing. The evidence of an effect on adolescent cognitive ability continues to be weaker, but we do find strong and consistent negative effects of father absence on high school graduation."
This is so important to know, but have you then thought if it persists after adolescence? I will cite one last statement from this study for the sake of the conversation.
"The research base examining the longer-term effects of father absence on adult outcomes is considerably smaller, but here too we see the strongest evidence for a causal effect on adult mental health, suggesting that the psychological harms of father absence experienced during childhood persist throughout the life course."
Did you catch that?
"...the psychological harms of father absence experienced during childhood persist throughout the life course."
Like, is this sinking in? I don't care if you want to work an easy job and play video games for the rest of your life. You do you. BUT, what I do know is I am going to do my very best to be the most excellent man I can be so that those in my family and surroundings are set up for success.
Why? Because it is a fact that the decisions I make as a man directly influence the social and emotional development of those around me. That may seem obvious to you, yet why doesn't this influence your decision making? I know it impacts mine.
That is why I have such a strong desire for men to better their lives because I know it will directly influence those around them.
So what does this have to do with men? Everything. This leads us to the first creative way to improve life.
I hope you take the time to read all of these points I have taken the time to write about.
Ready, set, go!
1} Come to terms with your upbringing.
I have often felt sadness as I observed men who live their lives trying to prove to their fathers they are worthy of his respect and don't even realize this is what they are doing.
Or for the man just looking for some loving affirmation from a father figure but never gets it. These are all symptoms of not acknowledging and coming to terms with one's upbringing.
Let me give you a mechanical example to help clarify. You see if you were to jump on a bicycle and start peddling but getting nowhere you might take a moment and ask yourself, "Why am I not going anywhere?" So you look down and realize that the chain is popped off and all your hard work is going to waste. So, with the knowledge that the chain is in the wrong place you fix it, once you have mounted the bike everything is up in working order, and you cruise down the street!
In that example do you see how important it is to acknowledge and observe the surroundings? It allowed the bicycle to be assessed and then fixed.
Are you starting to catch onto where I am headed with this? If you allow yourself to observe your upbringing you may see some brokenness that you have been ignoring for a quite a while. The thing is though, once it is spotted you can make the conscious decision to turn things around.
So, you are probably asking how to become aware of your upbringing. Do the following.
Get away from all the noise and distractions, sit down with a pen and paper and ask yourself questions like this. Do it for however long you can handle, then take a break and come back to it when you are ready to dive in again.
- Was my father in my life?
- If other people saw my relationship with my dad would they think it is emotionally healthy? Why or why not?
- Who were my father figures growing up?
- What were some of my biggest emotional struggles? When did they start?
Asking yourself questions like this will start to take you back to the past and you will be able to start to observe where the chain might have "Popped off." If you want help coming up with more questions check out this list that I found in the online UCLA Library.
After you have observed your past and seen some painful things then you can start asking yourself questions like this.
- How has this influenced my decision making up to right now?
- How can I change the reality I live in?
- Who could help me to heal from these past pains?
- What do I need to do to make sure I don't run away from this pain?
When you are willing to ask yourself questions like this and push yourself to become a better man the benefits will impact you the rest of your life.
In my experience, just the realization that something is a little off is enough to send you on a journey to find answers to the problem.
2} Be emotionally vulnerable with another man.
"Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn't feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive. "
~ Brene Brown ~
The closest friend I have ever had as a man, are with those whom I have been the most vulnerable with and a man having a good close friend is a very very very valuable thing. They are the men who have been with me through thick and thin and know things about me that my family doesn't even know.
I believe though, in order to have this conversation though I should define what I mean by being vulnerable. This is my definition and angle that will be the lens I write through.
To be emotionally vulnerable is, "To expose and share the deepest things of a man's heart, his love, tenderness, sadness, and excitement. To not hide what is really going on inside."
As a man you have not been able to be emotionally vulnerable with another man than you are missing out on the fullness life has to offer you.
It is also crucial to note that loneliness, depression, and suicide are massive issues for men. I don't want to dive into all the stats right now, but it is saddening to read.
Here is what primarily is happening, as life progresses men allow life, work, family, and whatever else you can think of to push away and take priority over their friends. Then before they know it, they are in their second half of life with barely any friends who truly understand them.
SO... If this is something you would like to change in your life here are a few tips.
- Think of one person in your life that you value deeply. Then ask yourself when was the last time you told them how much you appreciate them and the value that they bring to your life. Take some time and work on concisely articulating why you value this person so much. After you have done this reach out to them, buy em a beer or coffee, and just shoot em straight. This will create a great conversation and will strengthen your relationship.
- What I did to grow closer to one of my closest friends is I challenged myself to tell him something I had never informed anyone of and had shame surrounding it. I was terrified, but after I did this, I felt a burden come off of my shoulders, and our relationship was instantly deepened. Now, be careful who you do this with don't just go around diving deep with everyone, but choose one or two guys you want in your inner circle and initiate a conversation like this.
- Do a self-check and ask yourself if there is something you know you should do, say, or be around a friend. Specifically in relation to being vulnerable and authentic. Then take action and do what you know you should be doing.
These are not the only ways to be vulnerable with a friend, but this should be enough to get you started on your journey.
I hope you take the initiative and push through social and mental stigmas to create a deeper relationship with your friends.
3} Know when and how to ask for help from another man.
The art of asking for help is an underutilized tool that many men seem to belittle or despise. I am here to advocate that this mechanism is a powerful thing and when used appropriately can empower you through some very difficult times.
Why do men not ask for help?
It could be a multitude of things. In my observation, the desire to be perceived as independent, tough, intelligent, or an overcomer seem to be predominant. It really just boils down to pride.
So how does one acquire the skill of asking for help? Ask yourself these questions.
- Am I not asking for help because of my pride?
- If I were to ask for help what could be the worst outcome?
- Have I tried my hardest?
- What is holding me back from asking for help?
Usually, after taking a good look at yourself and realizing that your pride is the thing holding you back, it makes it a little easier to awkwardly push yourself to ask for help!
Also, when has someone you truly cared about asked for help and you were more than willing to lend a hand?
So the next time you are stuck, you have exhausted your options, and know you can't do it alone ask for a hand.
4} Pursue risk and not gambling in life.
Have you ever thought about or wondered what the difference between gambling and risk is? To convey what I am getting at I will give you how I am defining these two words in this context.
Gambling: "The decision-making process where few questions are asked because an impulsive judgment is being made because the one calling the shots has been emotionally blinded due to greed, promised success, or lack of full understanding. Therefore the spontaneous action is put in place with a very unrealistic desired outcome."
Risk: "The decision-making process where an exhaustive amount of questions have been asked, the individual making the decision has analytically weighted the pros and cons. After doing so, the pros outweigh the cons, and even though things might not work out, the desired outcome is worth the RISK."
Do you see the stark difference there? One is an emotionally driven response the other is a vision driven response.
What do I mean? You see the man who gambles is swayed by the responses of his emotional impulses. The man who risks is driven to push himself through difficult odds to attain a vision he is building towards.
Think about it, would you want the general of an army just to gamble and make emotional decisions? Or would you want him to weigh all the facts, odds, and complexities of war and then make a decision that will influence the lives of his troops?
When it is put in a life and death situation, it seems so clear, yet on a daily basis, men gamble with their life, time, and money because of laziness and lack of vision.
So... how do you become a man who takes risks and doesn't gamble.
- Step 1: Have a strong vision. To go back to the military example, know who your enemy is and what you are trying to conquer or defend.
- Step 2: When you are making decisions ask yourself if you are taking a risk or gambling. Then from that point, you can adjust accordingly if it is needed.
- Step 3: Know your emotional response triggers AKA weaknesses. Is it sex, money, success, or a burrito the size of a football hahaha! Seriously though, know what blinds you. You can do this by looking at your past and observing moments that afterward, you realized you made those decisions because you were making an emotional response.
- Step 4: Give yourself grace and learn from your mistakes. Trying to do everything perfect the first time will cripple you from trying at all. Allow room to fail, and you will succeed.
I hope from this day forward you are equipped to make healthier risky decisions! Cheers to the journey ahead of you.
5} Test your limits.
"I am nowhere near my limit. I just want to see if there are such things as limits. I want to go and find out."
~ Clara Hughes ~
When was the last time you tried so hard that you found out what you were and were not capable of? And when you hit that "limit" was it merely because it was just the first time you had done it?
For example, say you thought you could never throw a frisbee, so you didn't try. BUT... for some reason you make yourself try it out at a park with some friends, and you are terrible at it. Would you consider this a limit or just discovering an area in your life that you are not skilled at.
What is your definition of a limit? What do you think is constraining you? Why are you holding yourself back?
Years ago I was inspired by the author Bertrand Russel when he was engaging the conversation of cognitively thinking about life. This is something that impacted me profoundly on my journey as I have realized how much as a society we base decisions and perceptions predominantly off of assumptions.
Limitations are a great example of a constraining assumption many live by. It is incredible to me how much I have limited myself from pursuing my dreams all because of the power I gave what I perceived as my limits.
SOOOO!!! How does one go about testing your limits? Well, let us think this through together.
First, you have to figure out what you believe your limits are, in order to do this you will need to take some time and put some thought power behind this. Do you limit yourself professionally, emotionally, financially, physically, or mentally?
For example, do you not look for a new job because you believe nothing good ever happens to you?
Take a genuine hard long look at yourself and find out where you are limiting yourself. Another way that might help you see this is to ask a close friend how they think you are restraining yourself.
Once you have defined a limit or two that you believe is holding you back, the next step is to prove yourself wrong. For example. If you think that you do not have the self-control to abstain from alcohol, then push yourself and discover that you can. Many "limits" we believe are holding us back in all reality are just lies and stories we have in our heads about ourselves.
The significant part about this is that we have the power to change ourselves and what we think. So with some due diligence and fortitude, you will be amazed at the outcome if you continue to push yourself to new limits.
So to recap. Do these steps to test your limits.
- Find out what you believe is limiting you.
- Pick one to prove wrong.
- Try a few ways to prove it wrong.
- Allow yourself to fail and learn from your mistakes.
- Then try again.
- Once you have pushed yourself to a new limit. Try in another area.
I hope you find encouragement in this and keep me posted on how your life is changed as you put in the hard work to test your limits.
6} Know when to say I am wrong.
"It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels."
~ Saint Augustine ~
I have observed many a man including myself go through some awkward situations and even destructive moments all to avoid the acceptance that the wrong decision was made.
I have found though that life significantly improves when a man has the ability to say when he is wrong.
Why? Because a man who can say when he is wrong is a human and shows this by acceptance of his defects. It is as though many believe that to be wrong is to be weak. When in reality to be wrong is to be human.
Men who hold themselves to a standard where perfection is the only way of living produce a slippery slope of shame and isolation.
So, if you want to be a man who builds community, and breeds authenticity you will need to embrace your humanity, your imperfections, and swallow the pill of humility to proceed.
To take the first step towards becoming a man who can admit his wrongdoings and decisions is merely asking those around you if they have observed in the past moments when you chose to be stubborn even though it was obvious you were in the wrong. It may be hard to ask your friends and family this, but it most likely will be eye-opening to you as well.
Then once you learn about areas and occurrences where you have failed, ask yourself if a situation like that were to happen again what could you do differently and how could you prevent that situation from happening again.
At the core, this is just a self-awareness exercise. The more you become self-aware you will realize when you are defensive and prideful. There is nothing wrong with being imperfect, so I hope moving forward you find strength in others as you embrace your humanity.
7} Speak up in hard times.
Have you ever experienced a moment at work, a family function, or social gathering when a difficult topic is brought up, or an argument breaks out? Do you just sit by and watch things unfold or do you step in and give your input.
This is something that personally I am learning and growing in. Being that I am the youngest of four kids and more slanted towards the introvert side of society, I naturally am inclined to stay silent. I am learning though this is not beneficial nor productive for my life.
Yes, there are moments when silence is appropriate, but it is also crucial to know when to be assertive and speak up.
How do you know when it is appropriate to speak up? I have been asking myself these questions.
- Is someone's health in danger?
- Am I not saying something out of fear?
- Do I know what my stance is?
- Why am I not saying something?
- Will I regret not saying or doing anything?
- What is my intuition communicating to me?
These are some great questions to get you started on the journey of confronting passivity. It is like a muscle though; you need to strengthen yourself slowly, so consistency is essential.
From the article, "How to Have the Courage to Speak Up." I found so much rich content.
They break it down into three methods.
- Increasing Your Assertiveness
- Speaking Up for Someone Else
- Working on Yourself
As they progress through these methods I began to realize at its core to be able to speak up in hard times is basically self-awareness and conviction.
I am just amazed consistently that many traits that would improve life stem from the ability to better the one thing we have control over... ourselves.
I wish you the best on your journey and I hope you find the inner strength and fortitude to do what you know is right.