Leaving Your Taskmaster At The Door

Knowing when is the right time to keep yourself motivated, and when to relax yourself and leave your taskmaster at the door” is an extremely difficult thing to negociate for most men.

Many guys have some form of “taskmaster” that drives them for compels them to do many of the things that they do well in the world: achieve professional success, engage in sports, plan trips, and negotiate with others towards solutions. Unfortunately, many guys don’t know when to allow their taskmaster to take a break, and the effects can be disastrous on relationships and your self-esteem.

Whether we’re in the working world, or at the gym, we are in a mode to get things done. “Accomplish! Complete! Finish it!” That’s when our analytical minds take over, and we’re trying to create performance success for ourselves. This is all well and good. We structure our days to win, and men are all about goal accomplishment. We set a goal, and we meet it (or don’t). We gauge our success, or lack thereof, from this vantage point, whether not we have succeeded or not in certain domains. We judge our professional success this way, and a lot of our personal success.

But, there are two problems to this mindset. The first problem lies in the realm of personal care, specifically our own individual mentality. The dark side to not knowing how to leave our taskmaster at the door, or to relax our need to drive and perform, is that we often times neglect our own personal well-being. A lot of men, like many women, have a very difficult time knowing how to not criticize themselves and push themselves through difficulty, whether that’s emotional pain, life situations, or relationship conflict. This is the self-critic talking, and some people have a very difficult time resting their self-critic, because it’s always on “go” mode.
If we are always operating to please our taskmaster, fear of failure necessarily lurks somewhere in the shadows. A lot of times, we criticize and berate ourselves through our own negative “self critic”. It’s like we have a second inner voice going on in our mental dialogue. The more we listen to that voice of criticism, and do what it says, the more we try to always outperform it through accomplishment and performance. But, it never goes away, unless we face it and deal with it. We get caught in a neverending cycle of accomplishment, and it’s hard to let it rest.

That is the greatest challenge: to understand when to employ your taskmaster, and when to let it rest. Working hard and driving yourself day after day, and not giving yourself a break, is probably a symptom of workaholism for a lot of men. I talked with so many guys that fail on all accounts to take care of themselves, or even know how to begin taking care of themselves. A lot of guys don’t practice stress management, and don’t know how to eat well, get the right sleep, learn how to internally validate themselves, and put down their self-critic.

The other problem to not being able to leave your taskmaster, or driver, at the door, is that it’s one of the most universal ways to undermine your intimate relationship. I hear this from women all the time, that their guy doesn’t listen, and is constantly in “fix it” mode. This “fix-it mode” is exactly what your taskmaster is doing, and it doesn’t work in your most important relationship. It may work at work, but with your wife or girlfriend, it just doesn’t. The problem with our taskmaster is that he doesn’t know how to be present and be available, because he’s usually trying to figure out solutions to a problem or trying to employ control over a situation.

Women want and need this presence, or emotional availability, from their men. If we stay in this “fix-it mode”, it makes it really difficult to connect with our wives and girlfriends. We may not even be aware of this, but if you sense that this might be a problem, talk about it with your significant other. Stay open to some feedback about whether or not you try to fix her problems, or the problems in your marriage or relationship. She’ll tell you point blank whether or not you’re doing this, and whether to stop.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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