For me and many other men, the word power was a big taboo. Self empowerment was not taught to me as a boy, growing up with an older sister and a mother. Any brashness, roughness or boisterousness was discouraged by my mother, my female teachers and society at large. As a result I became a compliant, pleasant little boy growing up to be a funny and nice guy, only to bottle up my frustration and powerlessness inside. That frustration leaked out sideways in many shapes, dishonesty, sexual jokes, victim pukes and so forth.
Looking back my nice guy behaviour didn't make me a very exciting sexual partner or dependable life partner, nor was the most transparent and honest colleague.
I didn't grow up with a father or a male role model, and I didn't get initiated into a brotherhood of men, during that crucial period in which I developed from being a boy into adulthood. As a result it took a long time before words like 'responsibility', 'ownership', 'discipline', 'integrity', 'brotherhood' started to get meaning for me.
However, over the past years I started to receive good imprints from men around me and observed how they took their responsibility as men. I saw that how they held on to their balls was not oppressive and often quite loving and compassionate. I have therefore distilled 10 ways in which reclaiming my balls has been an act of love and compassion.
Below are 10 instructions that I wished somebody told me when I was young.
Many women want men to show up in the relationship, be present, guard their boundaries, have a purpose and hold space for her emotions.
Yet men should only turn to other men for feedback and inspiration.
It sounds a bit paradoxical, because I am giving you tips on how to change, but bear with me. An old belief that many of us have, whether we are aware of it or not, is that we are not good enough. This was imprinted on us as young children, when our needs were not met, or when punished or rejected.
If I would take the other 9 tips to improve myself it would just enforce this belief. Therefore, it’s important that I realize this: These 10 tips are aimed at showing us what we want and what we believe, and the only behaviour we need to change is getting more awareness on why we do the things we do.
To check my motive, I just stop yourself in your tracks and verify the following: “Am I changing my behaviour because I want to accommodate others, or do I do this because it will improve my life?”.
The awareness of why I do the things you do, is the most important step. I believe that awareness will already effectuate changes, slowly but surely, as unconscious patterns will be revealed and reassessed.
There is a great difference between kindness and niceness. Niceness is pleasing behaviour, ultimately aimed at getting something, like love, appreciation, approval. It’s what we as young boys have learned from our parents and teachers to not get into trouble. The result is that we are entering into a covert contract: If I am nice to you, you will give me a problem free life. Unfortunately, that is never the case and the fact that the other doesn’t keep his or her part of your contract can make us resentful and passive aggressive.
Being kind is an act of autonomy. It’s my choice to be kind and you don’t want anything in return. I choose to be kind is because it makes me feel good about yourself. As a result, you have no expectations and you will not develop any resentment if the other acts different than your expectations.
Dr. Robert Glover has written a great book about this topic called: “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. It shows why being nice is -in fact- not nice at all and then gives a lot of exercises to break free from the behaviour.
In courses, given by NMMNG coaches, such as my friend Hajee Pepping, they cover pleasing behaviour in great detail. They invite men to sniff their armpits; what are the motives? Is it to stop her from nagging? Is it because they expect something in return? This awareness will help us greatly in changing our behaviour.
I took these courses and can recommend them highly. They still help me navigate through life.
There are several reasons why deliberately choosing your core values is so important. The first and most important reason is that these core values help you navigate through life. When emotions or setbacks almost overwhelm you, core values help you keep your eye on the long-term goals.
The second reason is that men tend to have strong opinions and defend these fiercely. Women usually don’t respond well to those opinions and might feel oppressed by them. They either respond by trying to emasculate you or they retreat. Both are detrimental to your relationship.
However, if you realize what underlying values you defend, you can choose to express the values you defend, rather than the resulting opinion.
A third reason is that some values require outside circumstances, and other are intrinsic. For instance, to be the best or to be loved, requires another. This makes you dependent on people and circumstances. If you can rephrase your value you can stop needing outside factors for your fulfilment. In this case you apparently find performance and love important. So, you can opt to choose to do your best and to love others.
To establish your core values, there are online tests, such as this one, it can serve us greatly in the way we take decisions, which I will elaborate in the next point.
Yes, integrity is a muscle that you can train, ok muscle is a metaphor, however it helps to show that integrity is not something static or fixed. It’s just like mindfulness an awareness skill that you can develop.
Why would you want to develop it? Biggest reason is that it gives you power, confidence and grounding when you act within integrity. Nobody can take integrity away from you, nobody can ridicule or emasculate you, nobody can shame you if you know that you act with integrity.
Here is my definition: “Integrity is doing the right thing no matter how others respond, based on a harmonious, complete and intact set of values, committed to the greater good”.
The first component is internal, awareness of your beliefs and values. Hence my suggestion to establish your core values.
The second component is external, the ability to act on your beliefs, no matter what others think or do.
The third component is social, being committed to the greater good. The greater good means that not only do you take your values into account but also the rights of the people you interact with.
These three components serve as a self-assessment tool, every time you doubt whether you act with integrity. Do I 1) act, based on 2) my values and not others, however 3) taking the rights of others into account.
If you can safely say yes to all three components you act with integrity.
This one I probably need to explain. Before the agricultural revolution some 10,000 years ago, humans lived in tribes where they hunted and gathered their food. They competed with neighbouring tribes for the scarce food that was available. This has created what we now call deprivation thinking. The idea that wealth is like a fixed pie, that needs to be divided.
This type of thinking is no longer relevant. Since the agricultural revolution we can create wealth, by cultivating crops, by specialising arts and crafts and by trading these products. When Elon Musk created PayPal, he did not take wealth away from others, but he created ways to pay efficiently for online services. He is entitled to get a big piece of the pie that he created.
Unfortunately, these beliefs are still omnipresent, and gaining momentum. An example is the belief that high position jobs are a limited in number and should be equally divided between genders, races, sexual orientation etc. Fact of the matter is that high position jobs are the result of any individual’s willingness to work long hours and compete for dominance.
So, instead of thinking “how can I get my share?” or “how can I claim my right?”, start thinking: “how can I create value?” or “how can I assume responsibility?”. These questions will inevitably lead to creating a sense of ownership of our feelings, our worth and purpose in life.
Seeking your life’s purpose is not only needed to establish your self-worth and confidence, but it is also a cure against short term set-backs and immediate obstacles. Think of life as an ocean, think of your life’s purpose as a lighthouse in the distance and think of your core values as the stars that you navigate on. Now see yourself as the captain that has his eyes set on the lighthouse, rather than the waves that are incoming left and right.
Without the lighthouse, you would be tempted to keep looking at the waves and changing your course with each wave that hits the boat. But with the lighthouse you have a sense of direction that is not wavered regularly.
To me life’s purpose is a psychological tool to make me happy, perhaps there is a soul or higher self that has a plan with me, but for me it’s mostly a practice, I don’t want to make it into a truth.
How to find your life’s purpose is an art on its own, there are many tools and tests out there. You can always approach my friend Leonard de Groot a psychologist and purpose guide. But basically, I regularly check myself if I am doing the thing I am good at, the thing that I like doing after breakfast and the thing that keeps me challenged and fulfilled at the end of the day.
In our pursuit of happiness, we tend to forget that every sense of fulfilment requires a sacrifice. Anything that is thrown in your lap will not complete you. Lottery winners are usually less happy than cancer survivors, research has shown, explains Mark Manson in his book The Subtle Art of not giving a F*ck.
So rather than focus on what you want, I aim to go for what I will give up. Will I give up free time so I can create wealth, will I give up security so I can find freedom, will I give up comfort, so I can become an athlete. These previous questions can be easily converted. Perhaps I want free time, freedom or comfort, and then I choose to give up your wealth, security or athleticism.
If we choose your sacrifice, the sacrifice become the goal and the fulfilment the by product. This has shown to work much better than the other way around. If we create a plan to improve our circumstances, then we should write down the sacrifice and stick to that. There can be a great sense of achievement in that alone, and every side effect is just a bonus.
This might sound unloving, but it is more loving than being romantic. There are some serious flaws in romantic ideas, explained philosopher Alain de Botton. Firstly, it creates an idea that love should be effortless. Well it is not, arranged marriages turned out to have better survival and satisfaction rates that romance based marriages. Reason is that both partners know they should work in loving, respecting and supporting the other. In romantic relationships, the other is supposed to make me feel good, which it usually does for only a limited amount of times. When the hormonal high is over, the hard work starts.
So, what can we do as an alternative? Practice respecting the other, opening your heart and being grateful. Yes, these qualities can be trained, they are exercises that we can do daily. Meditation, prayer and physical exercises like Qi Gong and Yoga can help us generate a sense of love and connection with the other, but also a sense of clarity and healthy boundaries.
I have been doing Qigong for 8 years and it is amazing to notice how the emotions respond to the body. If I open my body, my emotional state and mind open up too. There are online courses that you can start with, such as Lee Holden and Robert Peng. I started with Lee Holden online and then moved to a teacher in the same lineage as Lee Holden. Robert Peng I bought his course later on and visited his workshops too. Where Lee Holden focuses more on health and the physical body, Robert Peng has a more devotional practice.
This is an obvious one, however I would like to emphasize how loving it is to respect your boundaries. It gives your partner, your friend or co-worker the opportunity to see where you are and what you appreciate and what you accept. This will create a sense of clarity and in fact is a gift from you to the other.
The alternative is hiding, conceding or pulling out, which is in fact very narcissistic and arrogant. Why? The subconscious reason to not show our boundaries could be that: “I want to retain a friendly relationship” (assuming the other will respond immaturely) “my problems are too unique to understand” (narcissistic belief), or “I don’t want to see the other upset” (assuming the other will not have the spine to conduct hurt feelings).
When I nowadays notice that people overstep my boundary, I sniff your armpits and check why you put up with it and see if it is in fact arrogant or narcissistic of me, and ultimately is an expression of fear.
All the above tips are completely useless if we don’t sniff our armpits and be completely honest with ourselves. No one is free of bullshit and believing that your truth will stand the test of time is bullshit. Same goes for these 10 tips. I am sure that ten years from now, I will cringe, reading my bloated, self-aggrandising and brash advice.
That brings me to the second part of radical honesty, once you know you are full of bullshit, express that bullshit, in full honesty, with humour and a sense of relativity. According Dr Brad Blanton, author of Radical Honesty, it will release a lot of stress and can avoid a lot of stress related illnesses.
I agree, I have read his book twice and especially how it leads up to the ending is incredibly moving. Yes, that was a cliffhanger...
I hope the 10 tips will inspire people to see where we are not taking full responsibility for your life yet. Where we still hold on to the belief that things are happening to you and where you complain, blame or hide ourselves. If you have become curious, I am happy to meet you again on this website.
I will be sharing some of the journey that I am on. Such as how I came to appreciate arguments with my partner, rather than avoid them at all cost. Or how I learned how to talk dirt and experiencing what acquiring this skills gave me, both inside and outside the bedroom. Also I will share my journey from being completely unaware how I was pleasing and allowing myself to be emasculated by women, to the place where I am now, aware that it takes a daily practice to hold on to your balls and build a spine.
I hope to meet you here.