I have been thinking recently how I do not like an archetype that I have filled for the last couple of decades. I am not happy with the role of "Male Provider". Just today I realized that a lot of the stress that I carry around with me - the swirl of thoughts, the knots in my shoulders - is the result of my attempts to hold tightly onto that role, to "do it right".
On another note, I love words. And language. And meaning. And letters. So naturally, I like anagrams. Which got me thinking... what are some anagrams for "Male Provider" and what might they reveal?
Without further adieu, here are seven telling variations on that particular scramble of letters:
1. Meal Provider
This one gets at the core of the archetype, doesn't it? Yes, our traditional cultural archetypes suggest that it would be the woman who would prepare the meal. But let's use the creative license of an unedited blog post to run with the metaphor here a bit, shall we?
If the core need we all have is to be fed - because we'd die if we didn't eat - then this is of utmost importance. It was typically the man's job to provide the ingredients - to make the money, to "bring home the bacon" that allowed everyone to be fed. (Well, at least up until this society-altering ad changed everything. Wait, it didn't change everything? Never mind...)
To this day, so many men derive their sense of value from how much they work, how much money they make, how much stuff they have. "Providing the meal" matters to guys.
2. Primeval Doer
Oooooh boy, do I like this one! From the earliest ages in our history men have been rewarded for being "doers". I mean, what's more essential to a man than "getting shit done"??
It's also a nice reminder that the male provider is expected to turn off his "being", the part of him that sits still and notices what's going on inside of himself. There ain't no time for that weak shit, fellas...
3. Molar Deprive
How in the world can someone continually focus on doing things, accomplishing more, and providing for others' basic needs without stopping to consider his own? Easy! Grind through it, baby!!! The downside is that you might become a bit light in the molar department from all that grinding. But hey - that just goes with the territory now, doesn't it?
4. A Relived Prom
You might be thinking that I am painting a grim picture so far. (I am.)
So why in the world would a man put himself through this?
Hmm... Maybe he's trying to attract something that would feel good to him by endlessly showing off his capabilities. Perhaps he's even trying to relive a golden moment in his life when things felt easy, when he felt like he was on top of the world.
5. Valid Emperor
Ok, ok. I hear you. Maybe reliving your prom isn't gonna make you feel awesome. (I get it. Mine sucked.) So what else could make a man focus so hard on providing for others??
Of course, those of you who know me well realize that I believe that It's Good To Be King, from time to time. Still, one of the insidious aspects of the Male Provider role is that it can make a man think that he has to continually be doing more - ascending to bigger thrones, if you will - to maintain his validity as a man.
In fact, I think the Valid Emperor might hit closest to home for me.
"Jim", you might be saying, "please give us some hope here."
Ok, there are other ways to play with those letters.
Here are a couple that men can try on:
6. Removal Pride
Underneath all that striving and driving is a need. Call it accomplishment, achievement, a sense of success, or whatever you'd like. But to make the anagram theme for this blog post work, I went with "pride". I also think that's an apt choice.
No man wants to be stripped of his pride. He's most likely been told for his entire upbringing that he needs to be tough, that he needs to get things done, and that he should be able to handle life on his own. These qualities then become the sources of his pride.
So if a man one day finds himself feeling all tied up in knots - if the pride he has as a Male Provider has become a flimsy reward - I would suggest a simple, yet bold solution.
Remove that stifling type of pride from your life, man. Let it go. Find other things to be proud of. Not sure where to start? I'd like to suggest looking towards the loving connections, the acts of service, and the joyous creations that people will ultimately remember you for. (Seriously. Nobody will ever say, "He made VP at 36" in your eulogy.)
7. Loved, A Primer
Ok, here's our last - but absolutely not least - anagram. And it's the most important one because what we all want most in life is to be loved.
Allow yourself to be loved for something other than your ability to provide.
This might very well be foreign territory for you, so let me offer a couple of ideas as a primer:
Start by going inward and identifying the things that you value deeply as a person. Perhaps that list includes things like "being a Dad", "creating fun", "taking risks to grow", "connecting deeply with others", "being of service", or "showing up fully for love". (Oh wait, those are my values!!! Whoopsie daisy. Feel free to borrow liberally if you need a starter set. Or ask me how to develop your own list.)
Determine where your gifts match up with the world's needs and start pursuing your life on those terms. In coaching we call that "life purpose". You might call it something else. Like if you're a Dad you might go with "I, Pops, Refuel". Maybe you'll discover that the statement that guides you towards a life of love is "I Surf, People!" The coolest thing about a life purpose, besides it being pretty much the most powerful way to love yourself, is that it can be about anything! It just needs to make sense to you. (Even if it's not an anagram of "life purpose".)
There are so many more things I could include here. For now I'll leave you with one last thing, which to me is essential:
Let down your guard. Take off the mask and armor of the Male Provider role that you have been wearing. Just be yourself. And then let other people into that version of you.
You will be loved.
Jim Young is a coach who helps men get their lives - and their true, unmasked identities - back. Because coaching can feel too vulnerable for some men, he also offers online courses that help men start their journey into rediscovering themselves.
When Jim isn't coaching, he can be found being himself. (He's also himself when he's coaching.) That includes goofing with his ridiculous teens, learning more about how to love with his partner, playing with words, and making laughter for live audiences with his improv comedy troupe.
If you're curious to know more about how you can spend less time providing for other people's expectations of you and more time loving the life you are creating for yourself, get in touch with Jim. He's always happy to share how he did that for himself and offer up ideas that might work for you.
[Special thanks to the folks at the Internet Anagram Server. Jim couldn't have written this post without them.]