There is a crisis of self-respect for men in this culture. It also appears anything but coincidence that the men who fail to respect themselves live in a culture where the respect of men in general is at an all-time low.
It is easy to turn the evidence for this into a redundant diatribe, but the facts on the ground are just too compelling to gloss over. Our returning combat vets are dying more from the neglect of the government who sent them into harm’s way than they are from enemy action. Our overall treatment of them would be a national disgrace if enough people respected or even gave a damn about men. Fact is, they don’t.
We have been watching the wholesale demonization of men on college campuses for years now. It is open season on men and their civil liberties in academe, even as the culture yawns in response to each life being destroyed in the name of ideology.
Loving fathers enter our family court system; a system that makes them the default demon, estranges them from their children and saddles them with the financial support of the very person using that corrupt system to destroy them.
Again, from society: Shrug. Whatevs.
The media continues its onslaught of lies about everything male in news and opinion, all of it sandwiched between advertising that paints men as feckless incompetents who could not buy a new Chevrolet or take two Tylenol for a headache without a woman’s guidance.
There is more, much, much more; a mental health industry that actually considers the destruction of men to be good therapy, especially family therapists whose method is to encourage men to live with and tolerate all manner of abuse.
Men who are seeking to improve their self-esteem often pay to have it further damaged by the sick ideologues that permeate the “helping” professions.
It is particularly fortuitous then, that “self-esteem” is largely a joke. It is nothing more than an elusive butterfly, concocted by self-help hucksters and hacks in order to keep people engaged in their services. If they can keep you chasing the promise of something that does not exist in any measurable way they can keep you paying them to find it.
That is the only reason you hear terms like “self-esteem” from mental health professionals, and why you never hear the term “self-respect.”
Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, which is subject to change at any moment in any person under any number of varying circumstances. It is impossible to measure or quantify which means in many ways that it is an utterly worthless goal unless you are in the business of selling dreams.
Self-respect, on the other hand, is about how you treat yourself and what kind of treatment you will tolerate from others. It is clearly and unmistakably measurable. And more importantly, it is completely attainable regardless of outside influences.
Anyone can clearly see and measure how they are treating themselves and what sort of treatment they tolerate from others. In short, people know when they are being crapped on, and when they are enabling it. Failing to act on that in a self-respectful way falls squarely in the lap of the individual.
Rather than being a disadvantage, that is the trump card in your hand if you are determined to play it. Self-respect is about your behaviors. It is about your choices, and I would wager to say that handing that over to the care of anyone but yourself is one of the poorest choices you can ever make. That does add a degree of difficulty because it puts the responsibility in your lap to get it done. But of course that is true of everything else in life.
That truth leads to an unassailable fact. You can instinctively handle most anything life throws at you if you respect yourself enough to keep your own best interests at the forefront.
In fact, I think it more than fair to say that you could take the average man, put him through a gender studies program, send him through a nightmare marriage with a personality disordered basilisk, take his children and his assets in the divorce and drive his own family and friends to blame him for the entire mess, and his self-respect would still be within relatively easy reach.
If he has the spine to take it.
Having that spine, too, is simply a matter of his choice, far removed from his life circumstances.
Spine is not bestowed or gifted from others. It is not something you earn by graduating from man school. It cannot be located and delivered by a friend, a therapist or clergy. Spine is taken, without compunction or apology, and without hesitation. There is not a man on earth who can’t do it, there are just too many who won’t.
It should be clarified here that calling on people to find their spine is not a thinly veiled euphemism for “man up.” Far from it. Women need spine, too. All humans do. It is undeniably a must in human mental health for all people to have boundaries; to have limits on how they are treated. Not having a spine does not make you less of a man, but it does make you less human and less healthy.
Once a man takes what belongs to him, namely his own spine, the battle is more than half over. Self-respect is a learned behavior. You can learn how to practice self-respect and with practice you only get better, but if you don’t go into it with an upright spine you are wasting your time.
A little secret, if you actually do have a good grip on your own spine, your need for someone to show you how to grow and maintain your self-respect will quickly lesson. And your need for useless ideas like self-esteem will simply vanish.
I am not trying to oversimplify. Much of this requires a form of courage most men have had pounded out of them. This is especially true for men who have been taught to disrespect themselves — either from their families or other significant relationships stretching through the span of their lives. Add to that the way society often treats men and you end up with a lack of self-respect in men on a cultural level.
It is still your choice. And it will happen for any man who is willing to turn his back on every situation in life that demeans him. If that means kicking a crazy woman to the curb, then he simply (if not easily) has to choose his self-respect over his fear of loss and/or rejection. He has to let his spine call the shots, and just deal with whatever emotions result from that. When the grief is over, the spine will be stronger, and its value much more appreciated.
For some it may involve rejecting the abusive treatment of a dysfunctional parent or even a dysfunctional child, and rejecting any notion of guilt that goes with it.
Understanding the value of that can be as simple as facing the fact that as a man without self-respect your capacity as a romantic partner, family member, father or son may be far less beneficial to anyone than you mistakenly imagine it to be.
And if we really want to take it into the pain zone, your value to yourself can only be diminished by a lack of self-respect.
Advice is cheap, and easy to give. Nonetheless I am going to offer some here for those who want it.
Your self-respect belongs to you. Take it. You don’t need permission or approval and if you are waiting for either of those things you are missing the point. Take it! Wrest it from the hands on anyone else trying to hold it like they were a thief. Rip if from their grip and dare them to try to take it back.
If they try, get them out of your life and don’t let them back in till they can pull their head out of their ass and recognize your agency and your humanity.
If you won’t do that, get used to a very sorry lot in life, and living with the knowledge that you have chosen your own misery. I know, this is closing on a cold note.
This website is dedicated to the idea that the truth often has a chilly edge.
Paul Elam provides confidential, fee-for-service consultation services to assist men working through a full spectrum of life issues via telephone or Skype. His practice is focused on positive, measurable, realistic goals and direct support for attaining them.
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