As a man, what do you think defines success?
What does it take to be successful in life?
A lot of men have similar answers: hard work, a good job, working your way up the corporate ladder, fame, and/or recognition. What is often left out of the answer to this question are things like the love of family, deep connections, self-respect, and/or a healthy sense of being.
There is an outdated belief that a man’s success depends on his money, power, and/or professional achievements. While there’s nothing wrong with these aspects of life, there is an emptiness to them. They don’t necessarily guarantee that we will be emotionally fulfilled or happy.
This emptiness is a reflection of what many men feel inside, an emptiness that stems from deep-seated feelings of sadness and shame, anger and rage, embarrassment and loneliness directed inward. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with wanting success professionally, fame, wealth and recognition. The problem lies when we attempt to use these things as a substitute for self-worth or to validate ourselves; when professional success overshadows or overcompensates for your own emotional well-being.
To use an old cliche, we wear our professional success as a mask to cover the pain we feel inside. We use power, fame and professional success as a way to prove our worth.
So, why do we do this?
Back To Where It All Begins
As adult men, we carry a lot of negative beliefs, feelings, and dysfunction from our childhoods. These ways of thinking can stem from a wide range of childhood experiences. These can be dysfunctional experiences such as a verbally or physically abusive parent, or being the child of a drug addict or alcoholic. In addition, these feelings can also come from a wide range of other experiences such as an overly-critical parent, a depressed mother, a workaholic father, divorce, and bullying. As children, we had to learn coping skills or defenses to survive this challenging time in our lives.
While a dysfunctional childhood may teach us to overcome adversity and become go-getters, it also hinders us in a variety of long-lasting and damaging ways. Left unresolved, these negative experiences cause us to internalize the belief that we are bad, not good enough, weak, less than a man or broken; in other words, they lead to shame.
Shame=I am bad
Guilt= What I did was wrong, it’s not in line with who I am because I am good.
We are driven to succeed because we’re trying to fill a void
As we become adult men, we carry the shame we were made to feel growing up, the feeling of worthlessness, that we are bad or broken, with us. Without proper therapy to address and resolve these wounds head-on, we search for ways to remedy them, to fill the void.
Many times, we decide the best way to prove to ourselves and those who hurt us growing up that we are worthy, to cover that shame, is to make ourselves feel better through external things like money, power, women, sex, expensive new cars, and lavish homes. The more material things we have, the better we should feel, right? The more successful we look on the outside, the better we should feel on the inside.
Unfortunately, this is wrong. Shame is a bottomless pit that will never be filled by external material things. Once the high you get from the new car you just bought wears off, we start to feel miserable about yourself again. This might lead you to buy a boat or plane. We drive ourselves to top that last high we had, just like a drug addict. However, in this case, it’s the high of success that’s the addiction.
Because our culture values these things, it can be difficult to get away from this mindset. The only cure is to gain a healthy sense of self-worth, to truly believe and feel we are worthy and good enough, but at the same time not better than everyone else.
Self Respect, Hard Work
Redefine what success means to you
There are plenty of highly successful professionals who are healthy people. Their success, however, isn’t defined by their power, fame, or money. It’s defined by doing what they love, the self-worth and personal confidence they feel, and the healthy relationships and deep connections they maintain.
To resolve the insecurities we have from the trauma we experienced as children, the best approach is through psychotherapy. With EMDR therapy, we can learn to love our whole selves, the good and the work-in-progress parts. At the same time, we do not lose our drive for success.
The motivation for that success, however, is different. Instead of trying to fill an emotional void, we are motivated to succeed because of intellectual curiosity, self-respect, hard work ethic, and value high-quality work.
Besides, now that we love ourselves, why would we do anything else but our best?
Once we respect ourselves, we are more capable of accepting the times we don’t succeed in a healthy way. In turn, we learn from our mistakes while still believing we are good people.
It’s time we as men redefine what success means to us. To be truly successful, we must be happy and emotionally fulfilled. We must strike a balance between professional and emotional success.
Make an appointment below and start redefining the way you view success,