Mental Health: The “Silent Epidemic” Killing Men

The epidemic may be silent but enough is enough, men, we need to continue and raise the conversation on mental health. Did you know that suicide rates are higher among men, than in women, and that this seems to be a global trend? Furthermore, the suicide rate is steadily increasing with age, which means, guys, the longer we keep bottling up our emotions and suppress what we feel, we’re only more likely to arrive at that point of no return. There’s hope though, but keep in mind my advice and concern can only go so far. In truth, only you can truly save yourself, but you’ll have to drop the ego to do so, and let go of every way in which you define yourself as a ‘Man’.

Despite what we’ve been led to believe, we’re not born as fearless heroes and we’re not born to rule the world. I promise you that the world will not fall apart if we express a little emotion and communicate the truth about how we feel. In-fact, we’ll be doing the world a favour by doing so, making it more equal and life more liberating for all.

I coach a wide variety of clients internationally, but this year alone I have worked with more men, and first off let me tell you, mental health does not discriminate. Whether your white and powerful, or you’re brown and proud no one is protected from this. If your old and wise, or young and resilient, you are not protected from this either. Money, sexuality, what you do for a living, your relationship status, your good morals, your tough exterior, your balanced upbringing, and whichever other way you define and associate yourself with, will not protect you from the emotional ailments that feed on the suppression of truth. So if you think that this does not apply to you, you are very very wrong, and is just another reason why this problem among men has been dubbed a “silent epidemic

Coaching both men and women, I’m constantly learning of the many perspectives people have of the modern-day man, and the issue restricting men really comes down to representation and how it shapes expectation. For example, what parents expect of their sons, what partners expect from their men, and what men expect for themselves is something that is probably learnt and not naturally inherited.

Everywhere we turn there seems to be a representation of men being brave, bold, strong and successful, predominantly fearless in the face of a challenge and affirmed in his character. Physically weaker men and emotionally sensitive men are often portrayed to desire a stronger more masculine exterior, for they’re usually presented as inadequate and unattractive; as the ‘lesser-man’. Watch nearly any mainstream superhero or action movie, and it won’t be long before you see these characterizations.

Men with emotional ailments are taught to “man-up”, because, again, it is taught that it isn’t natural for a man to suffer emotionally. It seems the message we receive as boys teaches us that our self-worth is determined by our masculinity, and what it means to be a “Man” – which is a message that is very much incorrect. Now I’m not saying that these representations are negative traits, I mean as men we have little to complain about when it comes to positive representation, but if that’s all we’re represented as, then is it any wonder we have a difficult relationship with vulnerability?

We’re rarely represented in a vulnerable light, which is why the world doesn’t expect us to be vulnerable, nor do we really know how to be vulnerable without compromising our emotional integrity. It’s why we fear being seen as vulnerable too, because it conflicts with our learned expectations. As men, we need to widen the representation pool and campaign for more vulnerable depictions of the male identity, and we can only start this process when more of us open up about how we feel behind closed doors. It seems as if we’re programmed to forget that feeling vulnerable is a human trait, and that every man is human. Which I suppose is an accurate statement to make, as we only have to look back at religious texts dating back many millennia – the media of the day – to realize that most Gods and God-like characters in society were referred to as “he” and depicted as men.

I work with motivation for a living and as my career develops, I realize everyday the fundamental mistake we make when defining ourselves as men and why so many of us, all genders included, fail to attain any sense of self-realization. Truth is, we put our gender identities before our very own existence. We somehow fail to realize we’re human, and that our conscious experience is a human experience first and foremost, not just a gendered one. Any emotions you see depicted, and every single emotion you experience, they’re all human emotions, and any emotion that humanly exists can impact any one of us at anytime. It’s entirely a myth to believe that men aren’t affected by certain emotions, such as: insecurity, anxiety and depression, because they’re all human traits designed to help us navigate through life. Therefore, to deny or suppress such emotion is, from my experience and understanding, an extension of self-harm.

Being a “Man” is the equivalent of playing a character, and it’s when you don’t feel like that character, is when you fail to perform – in every interpretation of the word. It’s a human trait to want to survive, so if you’re not feeling like you can go on any longer, and you’re losing the will to live, then drop the role and realize you’re having a human experience, instead of a male one. Don’t think about resolving your issues like a man, you must resolve your issues like a human, unbound by gender.

Crying is a human trait; sadness is a human trait;  fear is a human trait; expression is a human trait; desire is a human trait, and anyone who judges you (yourself included) for any human trait, is just another being who has lost touch with their humanity, and submitted themselves to a restrictive human-like character.

Our human potential is where our focus and attention should be, and exploring life as a human as opposed to just a man, will detach us from the roles and ideologies which meddle with our self-worth and esteem. Deal with your emotional ailments as any human would, and set yourself free from the limiting beliefs of Man.

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Sponsoring Jason Silva in Vancouver!

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I started The Lion’s Life about 5 years ago and today, I have my own Life Coaching practice and in a position to be able to sponsor events such as Jason Silva’s: Hack Your Reality – right here at home, Vancouver B.C.

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When you love something with such passion and are dedicated to a vision of what you want out of life, never ever give up.  No really, don’t give up! Who knew I’d find myself in this position when I posted my first blog post back in 2012. Back then i never had much, all I had was a vision for what I wanted and passion for what I did. Which I realizes today,  they’re a powerful combination to have and they cost absolutely nothing.

The real cost occurs when you do give up, because over the last 5 years I had thought about it many times. When I took a shot and missed, or when I got a negative comment, and even when I thought I couldn’t power through the stress and struggle. Today’s celebrations have made me realize how crucial all of those moments were to the process.

Today I also launched my International coaching practice and as I was updating the my local site, I started to realize why all those entrepreneurs I look up to always say “do what you love.”

It wasn’t easy getting to this point, in fact it doesn’t feel any easier. However, when you manage pull in the tiniest piece of your dream into real life, the hunger to see this through grows and forces you to persevere, and see your aspirations through to the very end.

The dedication it takes to build the life you’ve always envisioned is like training for the olympics, and although I’m still preparing for my gold medal, I definitely feel like I’m on the right track with each victory along the way.

This blog right here is where it all began, and writing this post is helping me comprehend what I have manifested in my life. Scanning though the archives have really put things in perspective for me, especially now thinking ahead to the next 5 years.

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How to Tame the Ego

Success is like a drug, and like drugs it comes in many forms: a return on investment, a fulfilling experience, or even reaching a higher state of consciousness. And just like drugs, success can develop into an addiction, and the only way to sustain the addiction is to feed the ego. The ego is the only thing that can convince you that the success (the drug) is all you need to live for.

My ego has fought for dominion over my conscious experience my entire life, and with each success, my self-awareness weakens and becomes a window of opportunity for my ego to reign.

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This week has been a series of wins and with each ‘hit’, I could feel my identity escaping me. When you succeed, in the very traditional sense of the word, the world starts to take notice and sort of validates your self-worth with every like, comment, congratulatory call or text. Each validation enhances the ‘high’, and it’s a difficult feeling to escape. I mean, who doesn’t like being validated by someone else?

Over the past few years, I feel my biggest accomplishment has been developing my self-awareness, and when my behaviours started mimicking that of my ego, it was time to put it back in its place. I found myself constantly checking my phone for red notifications, replying “thank you”, to comments from people who don’t really give a sh*t, and allowing myself to believe that only I can do what I do, which I know for a fact isn’t true. That’s not the life I want to build, that’s not the life experience I want live, and nor is it the life I want to share.

Praise is like positive reinforcement, the behaviours (the successes) I was being rewarded for (praised for), we’re reinforcing the idea that if I repeat these same behaviours, I can expect to be rewarded again. Soon, my purpose is replaced with the desire for more praise and validation. This entices the ego to come out and play, and to take control over my life in order to sustain this rewards based system.

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If I let this happen I restrict my potential, because it’ll only motivate me to do enough to keep others happy and keep my ego satisfied. It also places an overwhelming expectation, an unnecessary pressure which’ll distract me from being able to just, be. It’s a difficult behaviour to undo, a difficult behaviour to defeat, when this is what we’re taught from a young age. That the only reason to do anything, is for the reward.

We rarely praise each other for feeling completely content with where we are in our lives. Rarely are we impressed with people who are just happy on their journey, wherever it’s headed. It’s always a sort of “that’s nice” or “good luck” or “you’ll go far”- a compliment that suggests we should be doing more for a reward/better reward. I remember these praises, because I got them a lot when I started blogging. It was only when success grows, do people feel compelled to reach out and say “well done” and “Congratulations!”

Where’s the appreciation for just existing and being you? Why does being you and doing what you do naturally, have to be worth something in terms of “success”, before you’re appreciated at all?

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This is what years of feeling insignificant does to us, when we grow up feeling insignificant any experience of validation becomes a high, just like a drug, because the experience is so surreal to us. We want more of this unreal experience. We’re rarely taught that who we are is enough, so a lot of us spend a lifetime chasing the high for no other reason than to just feel worth something. Forever trying to prove our worth, and less time developing and learning from it.

We all have a reason to exist, we all have worth from the moment we’re born, and I think the ego is tamed when we accept that. When we accept ourselves life becomes this wonderful journey of discovery, instead of a mission to know and have things just to justify what we think we know, which is often very far from the truth.

When we equate validation to acceptance, to love, and to appreciation, we lose sight of our own capacity to accept, love, appreciate, so we blindly validate ego.

Without the attachment to traditional affirmations of success: the nice house, the flashy cars, the perfect relationship and all the other trimmings sold to us on social media, who are we? I think it’s a reason why so many relationships tank, why so many great ideas fail, and so many of us give up on things we’re passionate about so quickly. It seems if we don’t get the validation it’s not worth the experience, so we give up or do the minimum to sustain whatever we’ve built.

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All I did was start expressing my truth and once I got comfortable with it, I navigated my truth to different experiences, and the experiences taught me how to share it. Living more authentically gave me the courage to explore the things that truly interested me, and the more I learned, the more I invested my life into it. I was developing my passion and as my passion grew I identified my purpose, all because it just felt right, natural even.

This is why I wrote this post today, to save me and the future me from my own ego. It may not be well written, nor will it ever be perfect, but it’s me, and so long as I continue to express myself honestly, I’ll continue to develop and grow me into the best version of me I can ever be.

I think if we all work hard to develop self-awareness and actively help each other keep our egos in check, relationships will inspire, passions will be pursued and life will become a freer experience to live.

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Why are you afraid?

Imitation = Fear

Imitation is an expression of fear, because we imitate to blend in, to be accepted by society, and for others to notice that we fit in and that we belong. We imitate because we’re afraid of being rejected should we ever reveal our truest selves.

Many of us, predominately in the West I feel, are searching for that sense of belonging from a very early age. Think about how a toddler behaves, they walk around confidently, wearing the rawest version of themselves. Forever curious, they’re always in search of answers. Although it may not last too long, toddlers are also very compassionate, incredibly loving and confidently expressive.

I think as conscious awareness develops, there comes a time when we become curious about ourselves and our place in this world, and I think it’s at this crucial point when fear of expression starts to develop. It’s like we spend most of our lives slowly breaking free from a cocoon and once free, we’re very quickly misguided.

As we develop some independence we turn to the world around us for guidance on this human experience. However, the world is still very much an unequal place and as we receive its messages, predominantly through mass media, the majority of us feel underrepresented. When we do not see ourselves being represented, we quickly learn to feel that this is a world in which we do not belong, so what do we do? We imitate.

We buy into popular trends, we follow false idols, and we mimic those who are presented as most-self-actualized. We often do this so blindly that it becomes normal, until the distance between who we really are and who we’ve presented ourselves to be is so wide, that we become afraid to face the truth, and/or unsure of it.

It develops an anxiety of sorts, an uncertainty about the future and thus the quest for happiness continues to be a trivial pursuit. We feed fear each time we deny ourselves the opportunity to be liberated.

What are you afraid of?

I suppose we can measure fear by how much of our lives we spend imitating others. The world accepting us for how well we imitate it, is not the world accepting us. We’re merely helping the powers at be, reinforce their egos. If we want to be represented then we must show the world who it is that needs representation. However, chances are we’re all one of a kind and when we accept this we probably won’t care for representation, because instead we’ll be seeking only inspiration.

Remember the key to fulfillment, in any aspect of life, is a strong and affirmed identity.

Be you. Be inspired. Be Inspiring.

Read the full post here.

I Try To Walk Away But I Stumble

*Guest Post*

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Sometimes, through no fault of our own, we all end up in situations that aren’t good for us. We’re in unhealthy relationships, living with our parents again or stuck in dead-end jobs that, even though we want to, we just can’t seem to find the motivation to leave.

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Stop And Think

When the going gets tough, the tough tend to go on autopilot to cope with whatever issue is causing them grief. We shove it, like an old sweater, to the back of our minds and carry on with our day without actually unpacking our feelings. If you’re waking up each morning feeling sick, unmotivated and depressed then there’s definitely something wrong but what can you do about it? If you’re not sure where all the sadness is coming from the best option is to get creative. Take a ten-minute break, turn your phone on silent and get down to the business of figuring out the problem. You may find it weird, or silly to write about your feelings at first but you’ll soon find yourself scribbling manically as you try to find the source of your unhappiness.

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Go Deeper

Imagine you’re describing your current situation to an alien that knows nothing about human beings and so for him not to attack Earth you have to share everything you can about what’s making you miserable. Try to avoid vague, sweeping statements and make it as detailed as possible, so you’ll be able to see exactly what’s going on. Make sure you’ve included what you would do if someone else were in that situation, what your usual response would be and who you can turn to for help right now. Examine how you got to this point and try to understand the decisions that you made to find the one that’ll extract you from whatever mess you’re in.

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Play Pretend

It’s now time to have a little game of make-believe, yes it sounds a bit weird but don’t worry we promise it’ll help you come to a firm resolution. Allow yourself to take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and think about what your dream solution would be. If you’re stressing out over your career maybe it’s being offered a brand new job, or a fantastic promotion in your current company. Having marital issues? Instead of worrying about Divorce Mediation and how much everything’s going to cost think about what it would be like to be in a happy, loving relationship again.

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Don’t Look Back In Anger

We’re not saying things are instantly going to get better but remember mighty oaks grow from small acorns! Do one thing that’ll instantly make you feel better about your situation in the next five minutes. Followed by three more little things that would help move you closer to that dream goal. Don’t get bogged down with what ifs just focus on those three little things and spend time achieving them. Then rinse and repeat steps two and three, make bigger decisions and before you know it, you’ll have left the bad situation far behind and be on the way to living a happier, healthier and  more fulfilling life.