I’ve always hated the term Man up. Man up to me has always been a phrase used to make me feel worse about myself rather than empowered. Sometimes us lads, we like to joke around with our friends when they hurt themselves, “Man up, you lightweight.” And we’d all laugh as whoever holds their limb in pain. All joking aside though, sometimes I’ve heard that phrase used at the most inappropriate times you can think of. Like I’ve seen a friend going through some really bad depression and their parents telling them that they just need to “Man up; pull up their big boy pants and get on with it.” I hate that. It serves no purpose in this world.
Here’s the thing, though. Their parents weren’t wrong. Life is tough, and often life throws crazy curve balls at us, and the only thing we can do is stick our chests out and take those curve balls right in the collarbone. We sometimes have to face what we’ve created for ourselves head on.
I read an article about a year ago on how boys and men are becoming increasingly weaker as they choose to let other people fix their problems for them, or just hide from them completely. The article used such terminology as “feminised men, man up, men need to be stronger.” You know? The typical article that doesn’t do anyone looking to gain strength from it any good whatsoever. The article was basically an angry man beating his chest about how weak men are today. And like the good Samaritan I was, I wrote him the angriest reply I could think of; that his pre-1800 conceived notions of men should be kept in history, and if he liked it so much back in those days then why doesn’t he fuck off to a less progressive country? Yeah, looking back I probably shouldn’t have.
I think about this from time to time; my answer to him. I almost wonder if it was his use of language that I was more angrier at than his ideas he was putting to the table. I mean, if he had wrote it in a far more respectable way to the reader I would have looked upon it with thought rather than prejudice. I mean as soon as I see an article about cis white men these days I’m immediately on guard before I even read it. I think we need to think about this as a culture; perhaps even a world; the way we appear to others as we are spreading our ideas. For instance you cannot properly connect with someone if you feel you have the moral high ground — a trait held by most people these days when communicating over the internet.
I don’t think I’ve shared with you the total lows of my progression – perhaps it’s time to. Perhaps it’s time to skew the idea that my transformation from psychiatric hospitalised young me, to balanced-minded and confident healthy individual was all roses and flowers and beautiful moments of incredible realisation. Perhaps it’s time for me to lay it on thick about the moments in my life that turned me into an incredibly robust young man prepared to fight for anything he wants.
My moment of wanting to change was at the lowest point in my life. I was sat in my bedroom at night with no electricity, jobless, drunk and sharing a house with a man that would break even the strongest of people’s minds. There was no epiphany, there was no bright light that shone down to me giving me a moment of clarity. No, there was just desperation and alcohol fumes. Raw desperation. To be clear on this I had just been let go from my last job, I had no-one willing to give me a work reference; I was essentially shafted backwards. If it weren’t for the good people in my life that directed me to the services that I needed I wouldn’t be where I am today. It was those defining moments that allows me to appreciate everything I have today.
I didn’t just “land” a job in middle management later in life I had to work damn hard to get it. This included learning from a whack ton of mistakes and failures. Like the time I taught a bunch of 16-19 year old’s and learned how poor of a teacher I am. I had to stick that out for three months you know? I had to attend a job I despised every week so that I could get a reference at the end of it. Yeah, I sucked as a teacher, and hated myself for not allowing those kids to have someone better than I was.
I had to put up with workplace bullying. I had to endure six months of complete intolerance to the very fabric of the person I was; that I couldn’t cope with the job I had been given. I had to go into work every day knowing that my day was going to be terrible, that my colleagues had far more interest in what I was doing than what they, themselves were doing.
Then there was the bailiffs. Yeah, I had to learn how to deal with those guys. Turns out they don’t like doing instalment plans so I had to learn how to stand off with them and deal with them on the phone whilst I get some proper lawful protection in place. We spent two years unemployed so I had to learn how to essentially forage for money in a cash-strapped world. My wife and I went from both being in employment to both being unemployed. That sucked hard.
I only started to learn these harsh lessons when I only had myself to fend for. My support network previously; those guys were excellent. They knew my problems in life, they knew my difficulties. Anytime I had a problem I’d just speak to them and they’d sort it out for me. No-one tried to fight me because they knew my friends were tough as nails. So I got away with a lot, and my problems were essentially taken care of. You know what I learned from all of that? How to make the same mistakes over and over.
The best teacher in life has been my own experiences. The situations I’ve been in alone in the past have taught me that I’ve needed to face them head on. These head on collisions have sometimes cost me my inner peace, and perhaps at times my sanity. But you know what I’ll “never” do again? Repeat those mistakes. Because facing up to them were hard, and I’d rather not go through that turmoil again.
So when I hear the term, “man up” I usually think that’s the last thing a person will do. It’s like throwing shit in their faces and expecting a positive response from it, so, no, I don’t think man up is an empowering statement. But we sure as hell need to think of an empowering one. Because life is hard, and it can sometimes be relentless. If you don’t face those situations head on then you aren’t dealing with them as best as you can be. And that’s a problem. Not my problem of course; I could retire now and jog on off into the sunset and not worry, why would I care? But you, my friend. YOU need to take ownership of your life and be the best person that you can be. Sometimes that means facing up to incredibly difficult things. Sometimes that can be letting go of control.
Sometimes, that means being brave.