A Gentleman's Guide

APRIL | 2018

APRIL | 2018 | ESSENTIALS

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YOU VERSUS YOU

If you were asked to make a list of all the people you think were out to get you, who would rank highest? Now, hold on, because before you begin the process of appropriately ranking Forty-Five, the police, the black church and others, you might want to find a place within this list’s ranks to include yourself- because a lot of us are our own worst enemies.  Don’t worry, there’s no judgment here.

Almost all of us are guilty of, at one time or another, working against our best interests. Interestingly enough these instances seep into our daily lives and affect the way we work, our relationships with our families and even the ways in which we date.

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In order to provide you all with a quick meter by which to measure whether or not you’re doing yourself dirty, we’re going to ask you to have a really real conversation with yourself. If you find that you’re constantly at the receiving end of failure, disappointment, and rejection, you might be a candidate. No worries- we’re here to offer you the best advice we can.

We want to make sure that we start things off by contrasting the difference between blame and accountability. You will almost never find an instance where these two words can functionally exist in the same sentence. To blame someone or a situation is to remove yourself from holding any accountability (hm, it turns out these two works can functionally exist in the same sentence).

Conversely, when we either accept or take accountability, we’re admitting our involvement and role in whatever situation the term can be applied to. It’s the difference between answering for our part in things and passing the buck to someone else.

This is the most common occurrence in self-destructive behaviors. We want that six pack but we blame any and everything else around us about why we can’t eat right or dedicate ourselves to getting up and going to the gym.  Or, to quote Taraji P Henson in her role as Cookie on Fox’s “Empire”, “Everybody wants to be Beyoncé but nobody wants to do the work!”

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But why do we do these things to ourselves? Surely we can’t all be that masochistic, can we? Simply put, no. The reason (and this is not to place blame) that our self-destructive behaviors persist is because they are comforting, and who doesn’t like that?

This comfort results in a seemingly never-ending cycle as we find comfort in the self-destructive behavior and once it ends we feel displaced, and that displacement is what causes us to re-engage in the very behavior that’s bringing us down. No one else does this to us but us. Let's look at a few self-destructive behaviors and surmise why they’re holding us back.  

The first of the behaviors is road rage. There are very few of us who can attest to not experiencing the urge to jump out of our cars to introduce our tire irons to our fellow less-than-smart drivers who simply refuse to push it through a yellow light, follow to closely or drive at turtle trot speeds.

We all know that in most cases they can’t hear any of the names we’re calling them and while we’d like to mow them down, don’t because we simply can’t afford the jail time or being dropped by our insurance company. Road rage is self-destructive because we’re essentially fighting with a complete stranger, someone who we’ll probably never meet or encounter again.

In turn, after we find ourselves being pissed beyond the highest levels of pissivity, we carry that anger with us for the next ten, twenty or thirty minutes- sometimes we carry it for longer.  And what does that do for us? Nothing! Yet we continually allow ourselves to fall victim to it because it's more comfortable than exercising a little bit of patience.

Another self-destructive behavior that we can all admit to is procrastination. You know the procrastinator as he often identifies himself as someone who works well under pressure, which is a lie. And he knows it. You can’t get more self-destructive than putting yourself under undue amounts of stress or pressure when you don’t have to.

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These are only two very general examples, but the list goes on and on. It's like the song that doesn’t end. Yes, it goes on and on, my friends. Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was, and they’ll continue singing it forever just because this is the song that doesn’t end (oh no).

Other forms of self-destructive behaviors include overindulging, playing host to self-defeating mindsets, self-pity,  social alienation, hiding from emotions, overspending and sabotaging relationships. Just to name a few. While the first step to solving the problem is to admit its presence, where does one go from there? Seek help. Of course, refusing to do so after you’ve identified a problem is yet another sign of self-destructive behavior.

There are a few steps we can take if we’re interested in putting the foot on the brake in an effort to stop our self-destructive ways. The first thing, again, is to seek professional help- and we don’t wanna hear about the stigma about black men and mental health. If its accessible use it.

The next thing to consider is to allow ourselves to feel the pain we’re inflicting upon ourselves. What’s that cigarette taste like? Can you taste any of its 43 carcinogenic properties or no? We’re a hard-headed species and in most times we don’t seek to change something until we know how much damage it's causing us. In this instance we’d suggest going for a run to see the ways in with this example has hindered your ability to breathe.

Another way to drastically change or end our self-destructive ways starts from within. We have to know we can change whatever it is we need to change and go big with it- but not so big that we can’t sustain. This is going to require that you find some support in family, friends or hell, even online. There’s always going to be someone out there who knows exactly what you’re going through and what you’re trying to do.

The most important thing is to not give up on ourselves.  Feelings of a lack of control play another role in our self-destructive behaviors, so we must not only know that we can overcome our behaviors but do so on our own terms. This is the part where we remove the blame and start taking accountability for our actions and the ways that they affect our lives because of all the things that work against us, the one we have the most control over is us.

Remember this, always.

 

Jeremy Carter