Why Men Would Rather Suffer Than Ask for Help

Listen to this episode

S1: This ad free podcast is part of your slate plus membership.

S2: Let’s just cut right to it, let’s just be really, truly honest. Like, do you have shortcomings?

S3: See, I know the answer. I’ll go for a. You know, I’ll go first. I have a thousand. I have a million of them. I have like I have a lot of them. And I just think so does every other human on this planet, man. Every other human. Nobody’s perfect. Why do I have to lie so hard for me to just like say, yeah, I suck at certain things? Why is that so difficult? It is a lot of how our culture is shaped and we somehow expect each other to be perfect, even though we know we’re not. We’re playing that game. Yeah. What’s surprising is that like when you ask that question, I feel like I could be the type of person to be like yeah, I do have a lot of shortcomings. But for some reason it took me up. And it’s kind of surprising.

Advertisement

S4: So I’m not going to lie. Dan, Dody caught me off guard with that question, something about having to list everything that you suck at as kind of humiliating. But that’s what we’re here to work on. The reason he asked me this question is because we’re talking about asking for help. Men sometimes have trouble with this. I mean, I know I suck at it. For example, I obviously can’t carry 40 bags of groceries into the house, but I’m still like, nope, I got it. Then one of the bags splits open and I’m reaching under a stranger’s car for my oranges. And it’s not just that when I’m sick, I tell myself to suck it up. When I’m tired, I tell myself to power through. And when I’m sad, I tell myself to get over it. Lately, that approach has been getting in the way.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S5: But now that it’s time to talk about it, I have to be honest. I’m a little scared.

S6: Hello and welcome to MAN UP, I’m your host, A-minus might on this show, we crack questions big and small about manhood. This week I asked for help with asking for help.

S7: When you get sick, you like all of a sudden become really thank you.

S8: I got an I guess you keep pushing yourself and whatnot.

S4: If you don’t remember. This is my wife, Meeta. She’s often the reason why I’m trying to get over my hangups when I can’t ask for help. It usually turns into a mess that she has to clean up.

Advertisement

S7: My natural like response is to take care of you when you’re sick, you know.

S8: And it always seems like such a surprise.

S9: Fear is like, oh, you don’t have to do that. What? Why are you doing this? Why not a man? Did you get medicine? No. No. I don’t really need it. Get medicine, you know? No, I’m okay.

S7: Last time you were like in Walgreens and you were getting like a deck of playing cards.

S8: And I was like to get some robot doesn’t cause your coughing.

S7: And you had to like, you know, think about at first there was like a block there.

S10: All right. See you live with me. I do you have a better insight into my life than I do. Mm hmm. But what happens when I don’t ask for help? Mm hmm. Pay me a picture.

Advertisement
Advertisement

S7: You’re in a constant state of being overwhelmed with all the things that you need to do or all the things that you promised people you would do and all this. All this stuff that you’re perfectly capable of doing. But you would have more success at getting them all done in a timely manner if you accepted help. I remember one time your mom was like, she’s like trying to get like a new car insurance or something. And you were kind of. You were like literally in the middle of like, you know, working on something and talking to her on the phone. And she asked you to like check the reviews on one of the car insurance companies that she was going to get. And I looked at you and I was like, are you? And you did? You said, yeah, of course I could do that. And it’s like like an hour, two hours pass. Your mom calls back. She’s like, hey, did you look at that? You’re like, oh, no, I didn’t get a chance. We go to her house the next day. She’s like, did you ever get a chance to look at that? You’re like, no. I actually still don’t get a chance.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S8: So really? Yeah. But I was sitting right there.

S7: So you could have been like, hey, you know, I like. Could you. Like, look at these mm.

S10: They have had problems delegating tasks. I feel like when people ask me if I can do something, I’m answering that question like, can I do something? Not necessarily. Can I do it now? Right. Well, I do it right away. Right. So then I end up creating this long laundry list of things that I can do. But will I?

S7: I don’t understand what the like desire to prove yourself comes from when I already know that you can do it. You know what I mean, like. And you already know you can.

Advertisement

S11: It’s not necessary.

S12: This isn’t unique to me. I mean, everybody knows the cliche guy who refuses to ask for directions and ends up wasting hours instead. But it’s harder to see it and move on. When you’re the one doing it.

S4: And I will need some help with that.

S13: I didn’t ask for help because I think I was even oblivious to the fact that I needed it. It took until my late 20s and I had like a major breakdown in my life to be like, my god. I thought I was cool. I thought I was fine, man. I wasn’t.

S4: Dan, Dody knows my problem well. That breakdown he’s talking about got so ugly that it was written all over his face, so much so that a stranger even invited him to this local meetup where men got together to share what they’ve been struggling with.

Advertisement

S14: I was at a dinner party in Queens. And like, I couldn’t I couldn’t. Like, people could tell I was in a bad place. And this stranger I had never met before. His name was Peter. He’s like, hey, man, I have this men’s group that I’m a part of. And we meet, you know, every week. And it seems like it might be something that you would be into. And I had no idea what he’s talking about. I never heard of anything like that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S13: He invited me and shit changed my life, like, almost immediately. And it just started me on an entire process of really, you know, learning about myself on on a more honest level. What changed in your life? I mean, the first thing is really what we’re talking about. It was recognizing that thinking that I could just go it alone. And it took away this arrogance I had of like thinking that I was on top of things. These guys had they’re from all outward appearances, had their stuff together, like business owners, TV directors, like really like exciting, successful guys. And when I’d say, you know what, I’m actually scared about, you know, whatever my relationship and everybody be like, yeah, man, me too.

Advertisement

S2: And I was just like, what are you kidding me?

S1: And that’s why that that’s it’s such a simple but beautiful thing like that in my work. Now, it’s like we got a room of 60 guys together. One guys says something. He’s like, yeah, I’m ashamed of my body or whatever he says. And then and I say, okay, anybody else that feels that way raise their hand. Ninety percent of the guys raise their hand.

S13: It’s just like mind-blowing. Wow. You know, and that’s started to happen for me.

S4: That experience was a revelation for Dan.. Soon after he co-founded his own group called Everyman. They not only meet regularly to talk through their own baggage, but they also help other men form their own groups across the country. He found that confiding in other men helped lighten the mental load.

Advertisement

S2: He’s convinced himself he needed to carry all by himself, and he thinks he can teach me to share that weight to.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S15: So the way that my family worked when I was growing up was I had this dad who was very machismo, you know, brought home the bacon. He’s Muslim, so turkey bacon. And he was just really into solving things and fixing things. Yeah. I was like this weird thing that he would do whenever anything was broken. You just give it a kick and it would fix itself. So he was like that kind of guy. And he was like, my role model. It actually worked. I’m so serious. He can kick a flat tire. It’ll be flat. So that’s just kind of like the dude that he was. And I looked up to him a lot for that reason. And that’s kind of like the same kind of husband that I’m trying to be. I recently got married like two years ago, and I’m the one trying to, like, fix things and like, say, we had like an electric problem before we called an electrician. I got it, I got it. I got it ruined. It then had to bring in somebody to, like, fix it. But that just seems to keep happening to me. I keep wanting to do things because I feel like I can.

Advertisement

S16: And then it turns out that I usually can’t. So. Oh, absolutely.

S14: Historically, and I would say potentially for a very long time in human history, men have been rewarded for for doing those roles, for having that place in their family, in society as part of sometimes implicit contract with women and others and other times explicit. Mm hmm. So I guess there is a real sense of history playing down here that I think both has benefits that are very positive, which we should probably honor. And then also gets us into trouble and is worth looking at with a deeper lens.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S16: That’s what makes it so confusing for me, is the fact that I can see the good and the bad in this. Like on the one hand, I see like challenging myself as a good thing. Like, that’s how I learn. But on the other hand, like wanting to do everything by myself, especially things that I really could use help on, ends up not working in my favor.

S14: Which is a little amazing. So, you know, we have ah our built in sort of strategies in life that we learn early and we use most our life. And they they get us where we are. Right. So. So maybe, you know, fixing things and taking on the challenges has helped you get where you are today. And I think a helpful way to look at it is it’s not an either or.

S13: There’s different tools, different skill sets. One skill set is OK. There’s a problem. I’m gonna take that on. I’m going to figure it out and I’m gonna fix it. And that’s applicable still. Right. But there’s a there’s an extra level of clarity or even maturity to be found saying to step back a second and look at a situation, say, OK, is this one of those places where if I slow down a little bit and I, you know, in some ways work smarter and not harder.

S14: And could I do that thing that that scary question that many men have that they don’t like to go to is could I ask for help? Could I put this on someone else? Could I include others? Could I learn from somebody? Could. And actually, the deeper question is, am I willing to be vulnerable and show the fact that I’m not the master of the universe? What’s best for everybody involved, what’s best for my wife, what’s best for my family, what’s best for me? You know, would it maybe be better for me to go to get a workout in the gym? So I feel good. And meanwhile, an electrician will fix this little thing. It’ll cost a little, you know, a little money, but it would everybody be better off. I think that’s a good line of questioning, you know.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S16: But there are some things that I feel comfortable asking help for help with. And there are other things that I don’t write like. For example, if I’m moving, I feel I feel totally comfortable hitting up. All of my friends are being like, yo, I need help carrying things into the moving truck and everyone is so down. And that’s awesome. But there are other things like if I’m sick and I need medicine, I won’t even think to buy myself medicine even if I’m at the drugstore, you know?

S13: Well, I think those are two really good examples. Right. Being sick automatically puts you in a vulnerable place. And so admitting to that vulnerability is scary. It just is. It’s ingrained in us as men that our role as protector provider or all of these things are a P words. And the you know, the moving example is that’s it’s societally condoned.

S1: Right. Like, it’s kind of this, you know, opportunity for bodies to get together. And, you know, in some ways like, well, who doesn’t like to lift heavy stuff and have a beer afterward or whatever, you know, whatever. It’s like more opportunities. It’s like a tough guy. It’s funny. I never thought of it that way. Yeah, totally. Absolutely. It both of those really affirm cultural stereotypes. And that the medical one is interesting because that’s a widely studied phenomenon that men don’t get the medical care that they need.

S13: And you know, again, that’s one of those scenarios, especially if you’ve got a family where when I work with guys and there are people that rely on you, I’m like, man, there’s like a kind of an easy answer here is like. You got it. You need to be alive and OK to, you know, be there for your kids and your wife and your family. So like, get over yourself. That that’s a phrase that I want to say. It’s you know, it’s a little blunt and assertive, but it’s real. It’s like. All right.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S1: Get get over your get over your ego. Take care, dude. Yeah. Do whatever. You got a duty to get over it and take care of yourself so you can more quickly be there for those that you need that need you.

S17: That’s cool. It’s like the more masculine route. Right. Because if if you really do care about helping others and that’s where like the source of this exactly. Is coming from, help yourself so you can help others. That kind of makes sense.

S13: Man, you just you just now that you. That’s huge. And actually that that’s great phrasing that I’m going to use eminent. And that, too, is is I learned how to talk. It really is. In some ways it is the more masculine route. Right. So instead of hiding and pretending and just pretending to be tough, it’s like, all right. What do I get? What’s the matter? I mean, this metaphorically. What’s the medicine I gotta take now and deal with so that I can get back on my feet and actually get to work?

S17: You make it sounds so easy, though, like for me personally finding the things that I can do and the things that I shouldn’t do and I should pass off. That’s what’s so hard. You know, like, for example, the other night we were having like friends over for dinner and they were like, my friends. I was going to be like, hey, wife, go make dinner for everybody else. Like, No, I’ll do it. Yeah. And I was like, I made pasta before I could do this. Usually whenever we have, like, pasta night, it’s my wife who makes all the sauces. And I thought like a container of Red Sox of the gods, as simple as this to take the thing and toss it in and stir. Yeah. That as soon as I started stirring, I got that whiff and I was like, oh my God, this is salsa. And she’s literally sitting there staring, laughing. And I’m like, dude, come home. Like, I could’ve just asked her if she could handle the sauces. And I feel like even though in that moment, had everything gone right, I wouldn’t even have noticed that I needed help or that I was trying to do too much. Right. I feel like it’s the right decision when I decided to do it all. That’s what I need help with.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S13: Well, let me game it out for a second here, if you’re willing. And so how are you in this scenario where, you know, maybe you give something up like the electricity or the salsa? Like, does that really burn you or can you just be like, I screwed up and it’s OK?

S17: That’s a good question. I think they happen often enough for me where I have like I gave them a name like I call them Aymond mistakes. It’s when everything is perfect except for the smallest little detail. And then it ruins everything, but it breaks my heart. Then I always feel like I should have done better, that I could have done better.

S14: As a guy who gets to hear the truth of lots and lots and lots of men. I want to again level the playing field and say that I wouldn’t say the majority of men that I’ve worked with have some set of expectations, personal expectations of maybe perfection or at least some incredibly high.

S13: The level of performance that is really unreadable, honestly. So a line of questioning there is something to consider is, you know, what is that all about?

S18: Really, I think the way through this type of problem or issue or just topic in general is is self-inquiry. Right. Is that it’s the inquiry of, you know, what things am I’m not comfortable with? What parts of myself am I not cool with? What parts of myself do I imagine other people aren’t cool with? And is that true? The idea of self-inquiry here is a very powerful ally in terms of unwinding some of these knots.

S19: After the break, Dan teaches me how to do a self-inquiry. But first, we still need your help to figure out what we’re talking about. Next, we’re looking for folks who wouldn’t mind coming on the show to explain how they, too, are a work in progress. So if you think that’s you call us at 8 0 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 7, that’s a 0 5 man up 0 7. Or you can always e-mail us at man up at Slate.com.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S17: So so how do yourself. How do you do a self-inquiry? Do you just sit down and think to yourself about like, do I debrief myself after like a pasta incident where I think to myself, what went wrong or is it more broader than I think about like larger trends of my life?

S14: I think working with specifics is a good place to start. And, you know, based on how I work with guys, the things I would put in it, like, see, you are doing self-inquiry right now. Right. Like in this moment, thinking about it, you are. And even just asking the questions, you’re already down that path. And the questions that that I would start with are the other questions that men are often very afraid of because it leads toward vulnerability. And it really is, you know, what do you actually feel?

S13: How does it when you like that moment, you make a decision to just go ahead and do something or that moment where you goof up if you were able to just like pause time and slow way down and actually just find out, like what I’m actually feeling there? Am I afraid that other people will think I’m not worthy? Well, I’m afraid people will laugh at me. Am I afraid that I’m actually not good at anything? Like, what’s the actual feeling like? What’s your truth? That that’s that’s what this sort of the the end state of good self-inquiry or, you know, supported inquiry. So therapy or coaching or anything. But you know what’s really going on for you? That’s that’s a question to ask.

S16: I’m asking these questions to myself why you’re asking them. And yeah, it’s starting to make me feel like this is an ego problem. Like, how do I explain this? So whenever I’m I’m like, trying to do it all. It’s usually some kind of performance, right? Somebody asked me to do something. So I’m trying to, you know, stand there with my my hands on my shoulders and be like, yeah, I’m wearing a cape. Like, I could do this, I could do it all. That kind of feels like I’m stroking my own ego. Like it really has nothing to do with, like, conquering the task. It’s about proving to whoever asked me to do the tasks that I can.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S20: You know, you’re nailing it. You’re absolutely nailing it right there. So my co-founder and every man and my mentor, Owen Marcus, is really wise older guy. And he shares this philosophy on on exactly what you’re talking about. It’s like this is that as men, a lot of time we’re walking around projecting or basically proving or trying to show the world that we got our shit together and we’re OK. Wow. At the same time, underneath, we’re doubting ourselves. We’re scared. We’re not sure about the decisions we’re making. And so there’s dissonance between what we’re showing people and what we’re actually feeling or what part of us is feeling. And so an important feeling or emotion for men to reckon with is shame. All right. So maybe, you know, I’m a shame I’m not doing it right. I’m ashamed that that this is happening and that I don’t have my shit together all the way. Right. And the antidote to shame and this is brilliant. This is Owen’s words. The antidote to shame is honor.

S13: Right. And so in this scenario, what I help men get down to it, be able to do is in that moment of like, man, I actually don’t know how to make pasta. Right.

S14: Like, I actually haven’t done this before. And there might be some shame there. And so what we’re what I work on and what I’m helping other people do is is recognize that actually sharing that, actually recognizing that and naming it is far more effective to the task. And and is worthy of honor.

S16: FaceIt This is where I get tripped up. It’s acknowledging that you have your own shortcoming. This is really, really hard for me.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S20: Well, I tell you what helps. Can I. Can I share what helps? Yeah. Maybe this will help you. What helps other men is hearing other men go first and lead by example here. And this is, I believe this to the bottom of my heart. So some of my shortcomings are I have a really rockin dad bod right now and I feel ashamed of my dad. But I you know, I help people be vulnerable and I help others sort of get through themselves. But I still have a lot of blind spots myself. I still hurt my wife’s feelings a lot. And it sucks because I don’t always know when I’m doing it. And I’m certainly not trying to do it, but I’m kind of like a bull in a china shop, you know, and and I kind of trample on people when I’m super. It’s just because I’m not aware. Right. Yeah. And other shortcomings is that, you know, I’ve I’ve been an entrepreneur with my business. And I. And I wasn’t I was super naive coming in. And I’ve made a lot of mistakes. And, you know, my financial situation has struggled because of it. And I could keep going. I could I could probably fill the next half hour with short comings.

S16: And let me try let me try them. I think I got this. Yeah. I think the secret here is we’re just going to say it and nobody is going to judge anybody. That’s the secret. OK. I feel like I can be a little antisocial sometimes at work. Like I just kind of put my head down and and put my headphones on. Somebody wants to like Chatham always like. So that’s something I feel like shameful about. Seems like everybody is so friendly but me, I also feel like I could be a lot of my own head, like I’m speaking my own language sometimes. And that’s something I feel shameful about. I play a lot of video games and I feel like as an adult, I really shouldn’t be doing that. You know, I feel like I really just want to. Sometimes even when I’m hanging out with friends, just go home and play video instead. And that goes like counter doing great. Do it so hard. It’s so hard, man.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S14: It is. But but here’s I want to. So this is so good. But I want to share authentically in the moment. I want as as I’m listening to you, I want you to hear what’s happening inside of me just so you get that feedback as you share those vulnerable things. I immediately felt like I knew you better. I felt a sense of compassion and closeness. I felt more drawn toward you. And I felt like like we can like our conversation now from this point out can be more deep and more direct and more to the point.

S13: And our relationship is like this is these are the things that truly build relationships quickly. This this forthright, vulnerable place. So I often and I’m not I’m not blowing smoke here. I’m being real. Like I feel closer to you now than I did before you shared those things. Wow.

S10: That feels like everything that I was afraid of didn’t happen. And that’s reassuring, isn’t it? Wild. That’s what I want. I really want that part of my ego to be gone, you know, so that I can have the courage to talk about my own shortcomings with anyone. You know, I’m really disappointed in myself that it took me it took a lot out of me to to address that. You know that that sucks. I like what are some things that I could do to practice? Like, how could you get someone like me to get to where you are?

S13: We’ve actually done a lot of it in this call already. And the most helpful thing that that we teach that I think really helps is the first step to any of this is you got to slow down like like to catch up with what we feel in our truth and what’s actually happening in us. We can’t get there if we’re, you know, moving at a digital speed. Right. We’ve got to unplug the phones, earphones. We got to like take a little time. We got it like actually make space to notice what we feel and what’s true for us. So you have a three step process called the rock form. The first is relax. What that actually means is slow down like we got it. We got to get out of our normal flow and we got to get out of our head. Really? That’s part of it. We need to move out ahead and get down more into the body in the feeling state and notice what’s going on. I needed to a first step, relax. Second is the open up and that means open to what you feel. Let yourself be a it’s it’s that step of awareness. Right. So first on a big level, but then on a moment by moment level. And it’s like my feet are cold. My belly feels tense and tight. My shoulders are uncomfortable. And, you know, actually, I’m feeling really alive and joyful right now. Like, I love talking about this, you know? So that’s a process you can start to do. You can start to do little check-ins with yourself. All right, dude, what’s actually going on? And then the third step, so ah oh, so relax, open and then the third is Çehre Connect. And what that means is speak up. I just say what’s true? So, you know, maybe it will go back to that salsa example, so you slow down, you’re like, oh, yeah. Well, I like do I really want to take this on? Do I need any help? Like they take a moment and then feel, so what do you feel like? I don’t want to fuck up. I don’t want to. Anybody think I can’t make pasta, man? I don’t want to like, you know, I don’t ruin anything. And then you speak up your truth. So it’s like, hey, honey, I know what I’m really feeling here is I don’t want to fuck up this pasta and I want to make good pasta. And I just want to let you know where I’m at here. And, you know, and that would be an opportunity. Could you. Do you have any help to have any advice for me or you don’t as I have to ask for advice, but it just say what you feel. That’s that that little three step process. And, you know, that’s that’s what we train and practice. We call it kind of like CrossFit for your emotions. Right. That that’s kind of the workout, like getting practice to slow down, feel what you feel. And be honest about it to other people. That simple process is revolutionary.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

S21: Wow. So relax. Open up and speak up. Yep.

S22: So simple. I’m going to try this. I think I’m gonna get lost on purpose and see if I can’t relax, open up and connect with someone. So awesome. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. You know, another thing to think about would be, you know, think about and we don’t even have to go here all the way.

S23: But think about like one conversation. You’re scared to have with somebody in your life. Maybe it’s a friend that you haven’t talked to in a while and you’re feeling bad about it. You don’t want to call. Or maybe it’s a thing that’s happening with your wife. That’s like, you know, it’s just it’s just you just feel resistance to to opening it up. And, you know, a way to start practicing this is just, you know, take a deep breath. Find one of these areas that’s a little scary. And just again, go in with real vulnerability. Slow down, speak your truth, you know? And it’s remarkable what happens.

S12: And that’s the show. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed it, please hit us with that good reading in that podcasting app. It’s a free show and come on. I know you want to. Also, we still need your help to figure out what we’re talking about next. We’ve been getting a lot of e-mails from people telling us about perspectives they wanted to hear on the show. So we want to hear from you. We want to know about your perspective. Leave a voicemail at 8 00 5 6 2 6 8 7 0 7 8 0 5 men up 0 7. Or e-mail us at man up at Slate.com. And also, don’t forget to make sure you’re subscribed because we’ve got new shows every week. And believe me, you do not want to miss out. Man Up is hosted in Britain by me. Amos Smile. It’s produced by Cameron Drewes. Our editors are Jeffrey Blumer and Lowe and Luke Gabriel Roth is the editorial director of early podcasts. And June Thomas is the senior managing producer of Slate podcasts. We’ll be back next week with more men up.