Men Fear Asking For Help — Why?
Why Men Fear Asking For Help — was Curagami’s top search today. Or, in non-Google-speak, Why do men fear asking for help is Curagami’s top search term today. We know one of our most read posts by fellow Curagami founder Phil Buckley explains some of why fear, shame and asking for help shows up as a top search. Here are a few more thoughts on the enduring mystery of why men won’t ask for help.
Men Asking For help Oxymoron?
Growing up MALE is a funny, strange adventure. Before the terrible teens all boys do is ask for help, listen (on occasion) and try to emulate role models we admire, respect and want to become. It’s not unusual for boys to aspire to heroic proportions. We want to be firefighters, astronauts, and cowboys. For many kids, sports begins a more formal instruction in “how to be a man.”
Sports and competition are great incubators and definers of self. Sports helps boys understand, nurture and grow capabilities, skills, and courage. We fail, improve and fail again. Sports creates a constant feedback loop. Coaches teach, guide and motivate some by yelling and others by example, but every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.
“Keep your butt down, hands and head UP and do it like this,” I must have heard a million times before the age of consent. We want to PLEASE and be REWARDED even as our young souls seek answers to potentially destabilizing questions. Why am I here? What is this (life) all about? Questions gnaw, itch and tear at the fabric routine, expectations and “standards” create. We know we must be “ourselves” without any real handle on what any of those words mean.
Men Fear Asking for Help — Family, Friends, and Fathers
Men fear asking for help because blink your eyes twice and boys become men trying to survive, “earn a living” and “be successful.” In America, success is about MONEY. Money is a strange old bird. It can take a lifetime before aspiring men realize money is MEANS, not END. Money is like any other tool. There are ways to use the money to understand yourself and others better, but, like any other tool, money has no capacity to explain, define or motivate.
Tools require context or they have no meaning. As boys, we care little for money. We play, compete and create as networks. As boys we judge little, accept most and always want more. As teens, we experience a paradigm shift. Teens seek approval from their peer group worrying less and less about parental guidance, acceptance or rules, and regulations.
As young men, we develop mentors and networks. For many these “life coaches” become second fathers, teachers, and career “rabbis.” Most young men haven’t done the hard work yet. The “hard work” involves understanding a painful separation — that we are not our fathers even as those men, if present, live inside our hearts and minds. Even if absent an ideal father fixation often forms.
Realizing “dad” is also a man created by circumstance, family and times can be hard, fraught with danger and quickly put off. Delay only means taking the journey another time since all men must make peace with the “father” in their heads.
Men Asking For Help
Men fear asking for help because somewhere in the journey from boys to men create a false equivalency. We see asking for help as weakness and weakness as wrong, unmanly and “not us.” The hard part of asking for help may be a fear of vulnerability or men may be trying to hone our do-it-yourself skills. The world is awash in DIY. Ask any question and the web has a video sharing an answer.
Men see, are taught and learn DIY as a matter of SURVIVAL. Here again, much like with money, we men often confuse MEANS and END. We see DIY as both a means and process to answer a question and the answer in and of itself. If we can’t get there from here, it is because WE aren’t doing it right. We aren’t keeping our butts down, hands and head up the way we were taught. So rinse and repeat.
Even close to 60 I would probably still be on the rinse and repeat DIY don’t ask for help train if my life’s weather hadn’t changed so abruptly. Life is a funny old bird too. Sometimes Life, the one with the big L, reminds you control is a conjurer’s illusion, a game with the devil. When life gets dramatically turned upside down real learning, vision and understanding are possible at least for a few moments.
In the bright light of my life’s explosion I saw or glimpsed an important idea — asking for help isn’t a weakness but the most poetic and artistic strength humans possess. No life is so charmed it won’t experience trauma, upheaval, and fear. Alone and DIY becomes puny toys in such times. Family, friends and asking for help as an expression of strength, joy and beauty are necessary, correct and the only way to survive.
Survival Another Funny Old Bird
It’s no mistake Darwin studied evolution in birds. Birds can fly and, as young boys, who didn’t want to fly? Doesn’t take a genius to see how Darwin’s, “Survival of the fittest” can easily reinforce the ASK NO QUESTIONS since questions equal weakness false equivalency. Survival of the fittest seems to remind us to double down, work hard and learn to “survive” and “be fit”.
Or does it? Do men fear asking for help because we can’t fly?
What is the human equivalent of a bird’s beak? Darwin noted how, when a species of birds were trapped on an island where their food source required shorter tougher beaks, genes, survival, emergence and adaptation all blended to create new birds. Think similar adoptions don’t happen with humans? What about athletes becoming taller, faster and stronger? What about the startups “flocking behavior”. If you or I leave Harvard do we become Gates or Zuckerberg?
Leaving Harvard is another false equivalency. Leaving Harvard was a necessary means to starting Microsoft and Facebook not an end unto itself. As someone coming out of “survival’s tunnel” I’m here to testify to the importance of ASKING FOR HELP. Forget about THEM and the false equivalencies created by comparison, judging and trying to “be like Mike”. You aren’t Mike.
Learn to ask for help. Get good at asking for help. Say THANK YOU and move on. In this technological age with so much change happening so fast Darwin’s new “short beak” is learning to ask for help, asking for help and then asking for help again. Anyone who tells you different is trying to sell you something, deluded or false.
Me at Duke Cancer learning to ask for help and learning the hard way :).