It’s a cliché – men can’t ask for help. But I think most the stories we have about why are wrong.
You know, I really love my relationship with my personal trainer. It’s easy.
Well, I find it easy. Why?
Well, you know, he’s a nice guy and all that, but it’s easy because it’s a commercial relationship. I pay him for support in my health and fitness, and he provides it. Actually, he’s legally obligated to.
When I ask for help, it’s his job to help me. In return, I give him some money. It’s very clean. It’s very easy.
If I’m honest, I’m probably like a lot of men in Australia. I have trouble asking for help.
When I try to think into why that is, I’m not sure it’s the asking that’s the problem. I have the words.
And it’s not necessarily a shame thing. You hear that in the media, but I don’t really resonate with that. I don’t think there’s any shame in asking for help, just like I don’t think there’s any shame in having a good ol cry if that’s what you’re feeling.
If I see a man in tears, (which, to be honest, is pretty rare) I never go to the thought of, “oh, look at this girly cry-baby.”
(I’m a sensitive modern man).
So what is it then?
If I ask myself, I think it’s that I have trouble letting go the role I have assigned myself – the role of supporter.
I’ve always known that I’m a lucky man. I have a good head on my shoulders, I’ve always enjoyed robust health, I’ve always had a loving family and community around me.
I’ve been given everything a man could want in life.
And so then I see it almost as an obligation to help others – like a moral responsibility to use the gifts that I’ve been given, to help those without the same privileges I enjoy.
(Wow. Sometimes you just write stuff and think, ‘I sound like such a wanker’.)
But this is the truth of it, and I’m not going to deny that that role feeds my vanity. Protector of the weak, supporter of the down-trodden – I like casting myself as the hero.
I feel good about myself when I can support others.
The trap though is that I’m kind of addicted to that role. I don’t know how to step out of it.
To be in a position where I am asking for support is to be in a place where I am no longer supporting others.
It forces me to reimagine myself. See myself in a different light. Experience myself in a different way. Something a shade less heroic.
And so it’s not the asking for support that I find hard. It’s the stepping away from being a supporter to others.
Because it feels like there’s a whole lot of psychic architecture that fortifies the supporter of me. The mental frame-work that keeps me outward looking, willing to place others needs above my own, wanting to please and make people happy.
These things have been life-time in the making. Rome doesn’t come down in a day.
And so I like my relationship with my personal trainer. It’s neat, it’s clean. I have a clearly defined role – I am the one being supported.
I can let go of the need to support him.
“No, enough about me. How are your glutes doing?”
The commercial nature of that relationship makes that easy.
And in that way, my relationship with my personal trainer is easier than my relationship with my wife.
I pride myself on being the rock she can rely on. And I know that she is there for me too, but how do I move from the supporter to the supported? I don’t know the way.
How do I ask for help?
Writing this down now, the answer seems obvious.
My framing is wrong. There is no move from supporter to supported.
Isn’t the truth that we are designed for ‘mutual’ support?
We are a herd species. The strength of the herd is our strength.
Trees grow in clusters together. They support each other.
Support, in the natural world, is always a mutual thing. It’s never a one way street.
So my framing is wrong.
So perhaps my job then is not to step out of one role into another. It is to learn how to embody both at the same time. To support and be supported at the same time.
I can still be the hero I’ve always wanted to be. But I can do it with a foundation of support beneath me – with the recognition that I could never do it alone, and I need others to be happy and healthy and free.
So how do I do that? How do I re-engineer my soul to be a two-way valve – support coming in, support going out?
That, I don’t know. We’ve come far enough for a single day. Have to figure the rest out later…
Love to hear your thoughts.