Updated: Aug 2, 2022
Positive Masculinity Contributor - Mac Scotty McGregor
Founder of Positive Masculinity, Author, Former US Karate Team Champion, Martial Arts Hall of Fame Inductee, Speaker, Coach
Masculine folks tend to lean toward being doers. Many become over-doers and have trouble relaxing, being still, or contemplating. This is difficult for masculine people because our culture pushes us to do, accomplish, and strive to be the best. Productivity is celebrated, and taking a pause is not. This drives us to always do more and discourages us from rest and self-care.
This desire to do shows itself in different ways. One example is that many people in the U.S. pride themselves on not using all of their vacation days and even those who vacation, often still struggle to fully distance themselves from work. This means that people have less time to decompress, spend time with their families, and explore their other passions. The U.S. does not even have mandatory paid vacation days for workers, a stark contrast to many other nations. I believe this is a result of capitalism gone rogue. Making money, as individuals and as a country, has become more important than spending time with loved ones and engaging in social activities we enjoy. Our society has fallen completely out of balance. I am not saying you won’t have periods in your career when you might need to spend more time working than normal, but that should not be the norm in our culture.
Overdoing also keeps us from hearing what is going on inside and dealing with our inner health. We cannot listen to our emotions, thoughts, body, or even those we are in close relationships with when we are too busy doing. Tuning into emotions is something that men already struggle with outside of the internalized pressures of doing. The need to always do combined with a lack of emotional outlets can create a mindset that prioritizes achievement over well-being, of ourselves and others.
The contrast to doing is being. Ask yourself, can you sit in nature or meditation without thinking about all the things you need to do? If not, this might tell you it is time to examine your relationship with being. Take time to explore the role of being still in your life, and understand your compulsion of doing. Believe me, I know firsthand that this is not easy. It has been very difficult for me to shift my thinking about doing and being. The idea that doing is better is often instilled in us at a very early age, making it so hard to kick. For example, my aunt’s philosophy with kids was to keep them busy so they did not have time to get into trouble. This kind of philosophy sends one down a path of being a doer and not knowing how to simply be. An alternative might be to teach children to enjoy life, let them enjoy some downtime, and encourage them to just be.
Taking a step away from doing doesn't mean that we should begin to criticize those that “do”. This is a trap that many can fall into, as author Wayne Dyer noted, “A non-doer is very often a critic – that is, someone who sits back and watches doers and then waxes philosophically about how the doers are doing. It’s easy to be a critic.” He makes a good point: being critical of others often comes easy to us and we love to live in a constant state of comparison. If we do find a way to step away from the need to “do”, we must remember that oftentimes people are participating in this cycle of doing for so many reasons. Maybe they are trying to help their families or advocate for those in their communities and we should understand that drive to communicate with them, rather than tear them down. Additionally, we should turn our reflection inward and examine our desire to critique. Maybe, this will allow us to learn even more about our own relationship with doing.
We must also remember that being a doer is not necessarily bad. In other words, we need doers, and we need thinkers, but we most of all need balance. From my experience, doing can be very good as long as we aren’t doing too much and causing an imbalance in our lives. Many burn out or let other areas of their lives suffer because they do so much that they fail to give attention to their inner work. I have found this is one of the hardest compulsive behaviors to overcome, but it is worth the work. Be very patient with yourself as you explore this. Do a great deal of breathing and be gentle with yourself. Having a balance of thinking, doing, and being is what it is all about.
Sampson, Hannah. “What Does America Have against Vacation?” Washington Post, 28 Aug. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/travel/2019/08/28/what-does-america-have-against-vacation.
Woods, Tyler. “Why Men May Struggle to Communicate Their Feelings.” Psychology Today, 9 Dec. 2021, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-intersection-mental-health-relationships-and-sexuality-in-the-modern-world/202112/why-men.