Why, as men, do we find it so difficult to change our behaviour?
Both men and women sometimes find it difficult to change their behaviour. But this seems to particularly true for men. In fact there often appears to be something in men that not only says it’s okay not to change, but we actively don’t want to change. What is this? Do we get some kind of reward from having ‘flaws’, or do we, perhaps want to be ‘bad boys’? Or is it simply a form of recalcitrance, where we are rebelling against an imagined authority?
For example, there is often is resistance if someone points out to us how we could be a ‘better man’ – how we might change our character or behaviour. Why is that?
This happened to me recently. Twice. In the first instance I almost needed to have a gun to my head before I would change something about myself. On the second occasion I could see an area where it was necessary to adjust my behaviour, and yet I was still incredibly resistant to change. I had to fight a part of myself to modify my conduct.
So what was that part that I was fighting? I believe it was my male ego; that part that says “No-one is going to make me change anything. Even myself! Because, of course, that would mean admitting that I’m not actually perfect. And that requires a certain humility that I don’t always possess.
Maybe we like to tell ourselves that these are just personal foibles, and that’s okay. And, besides, change can be painful. Right?
There is also something that psychologists call ‘moral licensing;, where we sometimes make a bargain with ourselves that, having done something ‘good’ we now have a license to do something ‘bad’.
So, does that mean that there needs to be an incentive to change? Sometimes, yes. And, sometimes, that incentive can be obvious. Like, for instance, a ‘disaster’ happening in our lives – an experience that forces us to change. How often does some Life Event actually force you to change? I’m sure most men have experienced that happening at some time in their lives.
However, sometimes, the incentive can be more nuanced; such as the need to improve a relationship or how we really feel about ourselves.
As men, might we be better off to acknowledge that considered change will improve the quality of our lives and those around us. That, at the end of the day (or, perhaps, at the end of our lives) would we rather believe that we have done all we can with our lives and not simply been stubborn and resistant? Wouldn’t it be better to get in ahead of a potential catastrophe, and make the change willingly?
Of course it’s okay not to be perfect. After all, in one sense, who is perfect? But having seen or been made aware of our potential as men, surely we owe it to ourselves to be all that we can be! Yes, it requires hard work sometimes. But it’s not going to kill us.