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Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Four Pillars: I Exist, I Matter, I Belong, I Deserve.

Welcome to the New Blog, gentlemen. Firs things first, to set the tone, I've imported (and somewhat revised) the post that started it all back in the MySpace days.

As I've grown older and reflected on the course my life has taken, I have realized that every man, in order to survive into adulthood, must accept and adopt the following Four Pillars of Life:

(1) I Exist.

(2) I Matter.

(3) I Belong.

(4) I Deserve.

I Exist.

It would appear to go without saying that we exist. Cogito Ergo Sum, for all the Latin speakers out there. But this first element is too easily taken for granted. There are too many men who fall short of their potential and resign themselves to lowly or insignificant roles in life because they have incorrectly resigned themselves to the role of a "nobody." Someone's son, someone's brother, someone's husband, someone's father. They either stopped trying to attain dreams, or failed to dream new ones, or both.

When boys are small, they are very aware of their existence. In fact, it's what they're most aware of in life. However, when their parents do not fulfill their obligations correctly, these boys learn to believe that they either do not, or should not exist. Sometimes this happens when a parent complains about his or her lot in life in the presence of that boy, about how being a parent is too stressful and/or expensive within the child's earshot, or how he/she "can't take it anymore" because the boy, and not the parent's inability to cope, is "driving me crazy." When this is done more often than the occasional outburst, confusion envelopes the boy's mind. If not corrected in short order, this confusion leads to guilt, doubt, shame, self-loathing, and other emotions that boys should never experience. Otherwise, when that boy becomes a man, after enduring great hardships, he must re-learn the value of his existence, and understand that he is here for a reason, no matter how self-absorbed his former caretakers might have been. Unfortunately, this is sometimes made more difficult when the boy, now a man, finds himself attracting people who treat him the same way as an adult.

I Matter.

Even if such men come to terms with their existence, they still may not be convinced that their existence is relevant. Someone may have told them they were "slow," "underachieving," "learning-disabled," or the worst euphemism of all, "special." They may have their weaknesses shoved in their faces by predatory elements, reinforcing the notion that they are "losers" or "useless." If their strengths are not reinforced during childhood, and their primary caregivers do not provide sufficient positive affirmations to build confidence, the boy will be convinced that he does not "matter," again endure great hardships, and must again convince himself otherwise during adulthood. Again, as an adult, he may find himself attracting those who continue to convince him he does not matter, making the process even more difficult.

I Belong.

Belonging is something that only the boy can decide for himself -- not only that truth that he belongs, but where and with whom he belongs. However, if the boy does not know where or with whom he belongs, he will "settle." He will associate with those who do not help him achieve his potential, but instead merely "accept" him and allow him to occupy space within their ranks. He will not develop as a participant, or even a leader, but will only be a follower, unable to think or reason in a manner different than the rest of the "herd." Or worse, he will associate with individuals who are toxic towards him, and derive pleasure from continuously rejecting, abusing, and bullying him, or forcing him to continuously fight a losing battle. Resigned to a mistaken belief that those who truly would accept him will only reject him instead, and vice-versa, he sabotages this component of his development and fails to make valuable contacts and friendships that would otherwise serve him well.

Again, this must be reinforced during childhood. However, unlike the prior two Pillars, the caregivers cannot select with whom the boy should and should not associate. If a caregiver continuously blasts "that crowd," the boy will either (a) become a recluse, believing that no friends can be approved by the caregivers; or (b) rebel, and ONLY associate with "that crowd," to dismantle and overthrow the caregivers' authority. Otherwise, even more work will be required during adulthood, because if "that crowd" take the place of the boy's parents, the future will include not only difficult, but disastrous consequences.

I Deserve.

The final Pillar, to deserve, simply cannot stand if the first three have not been properly erected. It is by no means a notion of entitlement -- I have met too many plaintiffs/claimants and their attorneys who adopt entitlement as a way of life and a source of revenue, therefore I do not place the Pillar of Deserving on that premise. On the contrary, to deserve is to use the faith, belief, and courage needed for plain and simple success. This is the underlying theme of everything that our friends Anthony Robbins, Joel Osteen, and Dr. Phil have been telling us for years in their own words -- beyond just being, mattering, and belonging, in order to ADVANCE, you must BELIEVE that you DESERVE to have what you want! Don't write yourself off saying "it never happened" before you even tried! And even worse, don't just go around telling people you're doing it when you have no intention of doing so! DON'T LIE TO YOURSELF OR OTHERS ABOUT IT! DESERVE IT, PERIOD!

Why state the obvious? Don't most guys already know this? Not if they're faking it they don't! As for those of us who grow up with one or more of these Pillars missing, we tend to wait on longer lines than the ones our more well-adjusted neighbors occupy. And it HURTS. And since all four Pillars are interdependent, you can't have one missing. For a plane to fly you can't have three out of four engines working!

And why am I focusing on these Pillars for men and boys, but not for women and girls? Why am I not being politically correct? Because life and nature are not politically correct. Even if this is the 21st Century, society does not penalize women for having low self-esteem or confidence, simply because society does not expect women to have them to begin with. That is because nature has equipped men and women with different perceptions towards life, and geared them towards different roles.

If a women does not have all Four Pillars, she can get away with it. She will most likely depend on a husband, a partner, or a family member to support her while she possesses the luxury of wallowing in self-pity. If she finds she's able to overcome this, she will sometimes reach out from behind this cloak of helplessness, showcase bullying and aggression, and retreat behind the cloak to enjoy the impunity it provides. MEN CANNOT AND DO NOT HAVE THIS LUXURY!

Unless your mother raised you on a lesbian commune, or you were taught daily by some Hipolyta-esque figure that all masculinity is evil, and were sheltered from ever interacting with other males, a man must learn to keep his self-esteem intact merely to avoid being preyed upon.

So how does a man with low self-esteem survive? Childhood is over. Pointing fingers at our parents and their failures is not effective. Repeating these Four Pillars, contemplating them at your job, feeling them during your social interactions, and just plain living them WILL WORK.

Let's review, gentlemen:

I EXIST. I MATTER. I BELONG. I DESERVE.

This is not the grunt of an animal who cannot respect those around him. This is also not the wail of a spoiled child who is granted everything without earning it, and only becomes more and more demanding. This is the battle cry of a man who seeks to live and profit from life. This is the song of redemption, fulfillment, and self-actualization. This is the eviction notice to the thoughts of defeat and rejection that have been squatting rent-free in men's subconscious minds for decades. This is the death sentence to the ill effects of bad childhoods, worse adolescences, and unpleasant adulthoods. Again!

I EXIST! I MATTER! I BELONG! I DESERVE!

Don't just say it, USE it!