by Tim Dyke

This week we will be publishing a series of articles for Men’s Health Week 2021, focused on the well-being of male leaders – Board Directors, CEOs, Executive Managers and General Managers.

The stories of our fathers and grandfathers – continuing our Men’s Health Week focus

We are born into the world with a mind that is curious and wants to learn and grow as an individual. And yet, we are also born into a society that has certain rules and standards about how we fit in and so our ‘being’ is moulded from an early age.

As men we are told, often by our fathers and grandfathers, the ways to be a real man. To be strong in ourselves, to be individuals that provide for and protect those around us. These are great qualities to have. And yet in fitting in with these rules, we can often lose our sense of who we are as unique humans. We are told we must have a path, we must compete, we must win to make our fathers proud.

We also start believing that in order to do all of that, we must be somewhat separate from others, to succeed by ourselves at all costs. To do so we may start moving away from our close knit group of friends, we may form a relationship with a loved one and grow our own family. As social beings we start ‘belonging’ to and focus on our new family (in whatever form that takes).

In all of this (career, family, striving for success) some men lose a sense of self. They may separate away from male friends and tell themselves that that is needed in order to be a successful man.

Often times men get to a stage in life (30s, 40s, 50s) where they start questioning who they are and who they belong to. We often feel thirsty for more and feel a need to fill the emptiness. And yet we may have also been told early in life to not be emotional, to not have feelings, to man up and fix whatever it is we are going through by ourselves. So, we don’t talk, don’t share our feelings. We don’t have a male support network to belong with – we feel we need to fix it ourselves or we won’t be seen to be the strong men our fathers and grandfathers told us to be.

This can lead to a whole heap of ‘stuff’ including frustration, anger, physical and mental ill-health, excessive drinking and risk taking and suicide. Oftentimes, because we have lost our individuality in order to fit in to belong. We lose our ability to be honest with ourselves and those around us. And with that, we lose our ability to talk to others about what we really feel inside.

At Leading Well our purpose is to raise wellbeing and performance through enlightened leadership. To achieve this, we offer practical and proven ways to a wide community of leaders to improve their creative competencies for positively contributing to personal, collective, and universal wellbeing. We believe in taking in multiple perspectives including a ‘zoomed-out’ view of the healthy functioning of the organisation and a ‘zoomed in’ view to ensure the wellbeing of the leaders of the organisation. We work with our clients to form and use this systemic view of their organisation, uncovering the hidden and raising the undiscussables.

 Today’s challenge – Practice being honest with yourself and how you want to live your life.

It’s OK to live your life by your values and identity, not feel that you need to live life complying with rules and standards imposed on you by society, that you need to conform to, in order to be a ‘real man’.

And be honest and courageous with those around you. They may be struggling with their honesty to themselves. And you can offer them space and time to talk.

Having one-on-one conversations with another man can help to re-connect with your values and identity. Contact me to start a conversation and to find out more!

Tim Dyke, Leading Well