The Failure of Men’s “Lone Wolf” Thinking

“I can do it by myself.”

I’m sure every guy has thought this about a variety of tasks and challenges in their life. Men want to feel successful in all aspects, and the thought of not doing it the right or successful way leads to failure.

So why, then, will we go to great lengths and not ask for help from others, even at the expense of hurting or self-sabotaging ourselves?

Too often, there are things that you can’t do yourself – no matter how hard you try. Dealing with relationships, be they personal, professional or intimate, often end up needing outside help.

At work, maybe the fear of being seen as incompetent, stupid, or lazy prevents us from asking for help. If we ask for help, we put ourselves in the “down” position and have to be open to having others help us. This is a direct blow to our egos, and we also set ourselves up for that criticism from others (at least that’s what we’re telling ourselves).

What are the consequences of this “lone wolf” thinking? Maybe your marriage falls into worse shape for not calling a therapist or marriage counselor. Maybe your physical health degrades to the point that things take a turn for the worse, and your medical condition is irreversible. It’s also possible that you are seen as aloof and uncooperative (read: “not a team member”) by your colleagues when you don’t ask for help. Maybe the laundry machine goes from a $5 fix to a $500 one. Then, what resources have you lost at that point?

“Lone wolves” usually don’t grow up in an environment conducive to getting the need for help met. Often times, a parent is inconsistent or unavailable when children need them most, so the clever child devises “survival strategies” that make them “self-sufficient.” This may have worked as a kid, but quickly gets outgrown when dealing with adult difficulties that don’t use that “kid” software anymore. The goal is to let go of the “lone wolf” thinking and learn to be open to risk asking for help.

And there are certainly cultural constrictions to asking for help for men. Men are indoctrinated from birth to be “self-sufficient,” to “be men” and to “pull your boot straps up” and get the job done. We’ve woven lone wolves into our psychology from the beginning. Think John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, the Marlboro Man, the modern tech entrepreneur and other iconic “wolves.”

The old adage “cutting your nose off to spite your face,” applies to lone wolf thinking. You’d rather not set yourself up to look vulnerable or weak, at the expense of the greater benefit(s) of having asked for help.

Being open to asking for help will actually empower you, if you can risk the thought of looking like a fool or being open to criticism. Usually, it’s irrational thinking, spun by a mind consumed with fear and exposure. When actually, checked out with those you perceive to be critical, you may find it isn’t so.

You can also stop empowering people by giving them your power to criticize or judge you. When you can get to that point, it will be a lot easier to risk vulnerability and ask for help.

Asking for help will not be the death of you; not asking for it might.

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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