This article was originally published on The Good Men Project and written by Noah Brand.
As boys, we get told that there are winners and losers in this world, and it’s important to make sure you’re a winner. As men, we discover that that’s impossible. There’s always some metric by which we’re inadequate, always some ideal we’ve failed to meet. And so the labels of “loser” and “failure” creep in, become the nouns we define ourselves by. Inevitably, once those words become nouns, they begin poisoning us.
Our society likes to grade men hierarchically by worldly success, what I like to call the Success Myth. Consequently, if you’re not on the absolute top, you are, to at least some degree, a loser. Conceivably there’s some phenomenally handsome, rich, charismatic, athletic, sexually superhuman, generally all-round perfect guy out there who’s at the top of this imaginary hierarchy. That guy can stop reading this article now.
The success myth is wrong, but it’s pervasive, a set of unspoken assumptions that are too often taken for granted. That means that a lot of the men reading this feel like losers, like failures. We don’t have the right career, we don’t have the right relationship, we’re too fat or too short or too something. We turn on TV and see ridiculously handsome and successful men, heroic leaders and brilliant wits and erotic demigods, and then we look back at ourselves and we see a loser. We look back on our lives with hindsight and see mistakes, missed opportunities, plans that didn’t pan out and dreams that didn’t come true, and we look at our present selves and we see a failure.
The thing is, it’s a lie. It’s a lie the world tells us and we believe, it’s a lie we tell ourselves and never question. We are not losers. I am not a loser. Neither are you. And I can prove it.
The Good Men Project was founded by Tom Matlack, who from the outside, anybody would call a success, a winner. He made millions in a difficult and competitive field. He was rich, handsome, popular, successful by any measure you could name. And he felt like a loser. He felt inadequate. He felt like he didn’t know how to be a good man. He started The Good Men Project out of that sense of inadequacy, that feeling of not being good enough.
The fact is, if Tom Matlack isn’t one of life’s winners, nobody is. Indeed, there’s strong evidence that nobody is. When you look at the personal lives of enormously successful men, you often find that same hollowness at the center, that same feeling of quiet, personal failure. Doesn’t matter how well they’ve done, how much acclaim and respect they’ve accrued, the feelings inside don’t change.
So when we feel like losers, like failures, we share those feelings with almost all of our personal heroes. Nobody is a winner. And if everyone’s a loser, then nobody is. The label becomes meaningless.
You may have problems. You may have issues or setbacks. But that doesn’t make you a loser, it makes you a guy with a problem. Problems are solvable; labels aren’t. When you begin to shed the label, the identity, of a loser, you can begin to see how much you really have going for you. I don’t claim it’s easy or that brilliant success will naturally follow. I don’t know what individual circumstances anyone reading this article might be facing, I don’t know what the future holds for anyone. There’s really only one thing I know for certain:
You are not a loser.