What’s it like to be a young man in Ireland?
Most of my life has been about trying to please and be liked by everyone.
In being noticed, acknowledged and fitting in.
It feels good to fit in, to be accepted into groups and to maintain or elevate our status within them.
How do we fit in in the first place?
We play by the rules, conform.
Saying and doing all the ‘right’ things.
- We are a group of men in Ireland looking to grow and develop our culture of lads and to be a leader in the industry.
- Share stories about women (bonus points for explicit details)
- Play/know about sport (real men sports only)
- Slag off outsiders
- Get drunk
- Avoid deep conversation
- Stick to culture policy
- Young man
- Experience in slagging
- Sticks to conversation scripts
- Not soft or sensitive
- Good at hiding emotions
- Easily angered
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I got the job and held onto it for years.
I was great at it in fact.
It paid well in status and belonging.
It felt good to fill my duties as a young man in Ireland.
For years my sole mission was to fit in, to be popular.
If this meant at the expense of someone else then so be it, this was important to me.
This goes back as long as I can think of.
Since school I have tried to do the right things so people would like me, once I was ‘in the door’ I ticked all the boxes that were required of me to stay on the inside.
Taking the piss of ‘outsiders’ to prove a point.
I fitted in and they didn’t.
Talking about women, who we were with, what happened and even adding VAT to stories to fit in.
Ah, being a man, what a feeling.
The sole mission of this was to cover up being in any ways soft, sensitive or caring.
Don’t be found out, keep up the act, it’s worth it.
Higher status achieved.
The worst thing about this is that you think you are a cut above the rest.
That your inner circle is better than any other inner circle.
Until something doesn’t feel right any longer, you have this deep sense that this is not what friendship or belonging feels like.
This doesn’t feel natural, I am putting on an act with my best friends.
Then you get curious to what’s under the surface, what’s unspoken.
What is happening to me?
Why do I feel sad and lonely?
Why am I so angry?
Am I the only person feeling this?
Am I going soft?
Who can I talk to?
I haven’t heard anyone else talk about what I am feeling like and experiencing, it must be just me, I just need to sort my shit out and man up.
Reminder: Do not tell anyone.
The thing I didn’t realise was these emotions were telling me something.
Consistent negative ones are feedback that something needs changing.
They are normal but may need exploring.
Conversation may be one of the greatest ways to explore that.
They don’t go away if something doesn’t change, much like habits.
You don’t grow out of bad habits, you reach a point where continuing that habit is too painful and then you are forced to choose a better one.
Where did this need to fit in come from?
As humans we want to belong, being part of a tribe was one of the most important things for survival in our ancestral times.
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.” Seth Godin
The shared interest was survival, they spoke in their own language to communicate.
They needed each other to survive.
The whole is greater than the sum of it’s parts.
To be cast out from the tribe would almost certainly mean death.
Today we still fear being cast out of our tribe, is the possibility of death still on our mind?
The Tribe of young men in Ireland:
The shared interest, to remain in the tribe, to be one of the lads.
Society tells us this is what is important and who are we to question society.
Communication means small talk and having a bit of craic.
It does feel good at first but after a while it feels off.
It gets repetitive, boring and lacks any substance.
It’s good if hiding and keeping ourselves from the focus of the conversation is the mission.
I don’t believe every conversation should go deep but sometimes it may be worth exploring what’s actually on our minds with our friends.
Some people do this already with their partner but some people don’t have a partner, some people don’t do this at all, that’s not healthy.
It may be worth exploring something deeper than the surface.
Acknowledging something exists beneath the surface at least.
The one of connection.
We talk around things so real conversation can be avoided.
If we can’t have real conversation with our closest friends then is it really a friendship?
How can we create a safe environment to share what we are thinking, feeling and experiencing?
(Here is a another blog where I explore this deeper)
Can we talk to anyone, am I alone with this problem?
I know from being in those situations countless times, that talking about anything off the agenda is not the done thing, it’s often easier to get back to the script and fill in the silence.
You get a good laugh, revisit old memories and may even have a good laugh about others, it feels good.
This social thing feels healthy.
You get home or back to work and there it is beside you, that problem you have, the one we don’t understand.
I thought a change of subject would get rid of this feeling, where is that good feeling gone?
Now we are alone again we feel there must be something wrong with us, if this was common then people would surely talk about it, it must be just me.
That feeling of not being happy, of feeling drained, of not knowing what is wrong with us.
Of not feeling we have an environment where we can talk.
What I am getting at is that the reason we do this is we are afraid of our shit to bring up anything that might actually matter.
I know from the past I have done this to avoid the conversation being focused back on me.
Do. Not. Show. Weakness.
If we are in a group of lads that slate each other and others then what happens if we open our mouths about some problem in our lives.
Who do we connect with, what person in our tribe, what’s our real shared interest, how do I communicate this?
The last thing we want is to get kicked out of the tribe we have worked so hard to get into and to remain in.
What’s The Purpose Of This Piece?
Being a lad and being a man are very different things.
Being emotional and sensitive are part and parcel of being a man.
It’s hard to be a man in Ireland.
It’s really easy to stick with the culture, I fall back into shit habits too often and will again no doubt.
I am far from perfect.
It’s not an issue as long as it’s not at the expense of other people, there’s a reason they are called cheap laughs.
It’s not an issue if we aren’t missing opportunities to help people who need us.
That culture of young men in Ireland does not is simply not good for our health and wellbeing, real connection and belonging are what are needed.
That we don’t want to always talk around things, that we would love permission to open up and stop trying so hard all the time to fit in and we mightn’t even realise this.
That small talk serves a purpose but alone doesn’t help develop a relationship.
That an actual friendship is being there for each other when needed.
That we can’t see those opportunities staying on the surface.
Asking questions or sharing what’s on your mind gets beneath that surface.
There’s a time and a place for having the craic with the lads but there’s also a time to be a bit vulnerable by being a bit more open and honest and creating a platform for them to do the same.
It’s works better in 1 on 1 conversation than group ones, it’s easier get that connection.
Creating space to be open with each other, being a friend by listening to them and seeing opportunities where you can be a better friend, allowing them to see and act on opportunities to help you.
The culture in Ireland is tough to break but it may be worth sticking our necks out to start the process if helping ourselves and other men feels important to us.
If we don’t want to do it for ourselves then how about we do it for our friends, who knows it might come full circle.