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You’re there with a heart full of intentions, eager to connect, engage, and make a meaningful impact. 

You have this innate desire to engage, to bond, and to make a meaningful impact on those around you. Fear not, for it’s within your power to cut loose from these doubts. 

Picture yourself walking into any room, your very presence emanating a confident glow that’s both seen and felt by everyone around. Let’s embark on this journey to transform your social presence into one that’s as confident and commanding as you truly deserve.

When you’re navigating the choppy waters of social interaction, it’s natural to feel a little out of your depth. You want to serve others, to connect and contribute, but something holds you back. It’s time to shed that hesitation. You can cultivate a presence that resonates confidence in any room you enter.

Start by acknowledging your strengths and the value you bring to every conversation. Your desire to help is a gift that can light up a room. Remember, every interaction is an opportunity to learn and grow.

Practice makes progress, so take small, steady steps to engage with others. Listen with intent, speak with sincerity, and let your genuine interest in the well-being of others be your guide. As you do, you’ll notice a shift in how you view social settings—and how others view you.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand that social anxiety is common and that everyone has insecurities, so you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable in social settings.
  • Embrace self-compassion and challenge negative thoughts to enhance self-esteem and cultivate a positive mindset.
  • Focus on creating meaningful interactions with others and prioritize self-care to build confidence.
  • Practice confident body language, such as standing tall, making eye contact, and using a genuine smile, to convey strength and approachability.

Understand Your Discomfort

Confident girl at a social gathering, engaging with others with a poised stance and a self-assured, friendly expression, embodying social confidence

In order to build confidence in social settings, it’s essential that you first identify and understand the root causes of your discomfort. Acknowledge that feeling self-consciousness or anxiety is a natural response; your body’s way of preparing you for interaction. Recognize that social anxiety isn’t a reflection of your ability to serve and connect with others, but rather a common challenge that many face when stepping out of their comfort zone.

Understanding that social anxiety stems from the fear of being judged or not living up to expectations can be a powerful first step. Everyone has their own insecurities, and many of the people you meet are too concerned with their own imperfections to focus on yours. By accepting that it’s okay not to be perfect, you’ll find it easier to embrace your authentic self. This shift in perspective allows you to concentrate more on the individuals you’re eager to serve, rather than on your own nervousness.

Build a Positive Mindset

You’ll find that embracing self-compassion is key to building a positive mindset in social settings.

Start by recognizing and challenging any negative thoughts that may undermine your confidence.

This proactive approach will help you cultivate a more resilient and optimistic outlook, making social interactions less intimidating.

Cultivate Self-Compassion

To build your confidence in social settings, start by practicing self-compassion to create a more positive mindset. Embrace self-compassion as a key tool for enhancing your self-esteem. When you replace harsh self-criticism with kind self-acceptance, you’re not only nurturing your mental health but also setting the stage for more genuine interactions with others. Acknowledge your strengths and celebrate your progress; this self-help approach can be as impactful as psychotherapy in fostering a healthier self-image.

Focus on cultivating a positive internal dialogue that challenges negativity. Remind yourself that everyone has moments of doubt, and it’s okay to be imperfect. By prioritizing self-care and rejoicing in small victories, you’ll see a significant shift in how confidently you engage in social environments.

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Why let unfounded worries dictate your social experiences when you can challenge and transform those negative thoughts into empowering beliefs? Every time a self-defeating thought creeps in, pause and question its validity. Remember, your confidence grows when you shift your focus from inner doubts to the value you bring to others.

To overcome social anxiety, reframe your mindset. Instead of thinking you’re not interesting enough, believe in your unique contributions to a conversation. Enhance your social skills by embracing the art of listening and expressing genuine interest in others. This isn’t just about you; it’s about creating meaningful interactions.

Master Confident Body Language

A confident young woman and man at a social event, both standing tall and engaging with each other, their expressions conveying ease and self-assurance in the social setting

While mastering confident body language, you’ll notice a significant shift in how others perceive your social presence. Your body language speaks volumes before you even utter a word. Stand tall with your shoulders back and your head held high to convey strength and self-assurance. This posture psychology isn’t just about looking confident; it changes the way you feel inside, too.

When you make eye contact, it’s like saying, ‘I see you, and I’m engaged in this interaction.’ Hold someone’s gaze to build trust and show you’re focused on the conversation. But remember, it’s not a staring contest – balance is key.

A genuine smile is a universal sign of warmth and approachability. It makes you more relatable and sets others at ease, inviting them into a space of mutual comfort. It’s a simple yet powerful tool in creating connections.

Your hands can emphasize what you’re saying or betray nervousness. Use them to express yourself but avoid fidgeting. These small tweaks in your body language can lead to a big boost in your social confidence. You’re not just serving yourself; you’re crafting an environment where others can feel comfortable and valued too.

Engage in Regular Practice

Just like any skill, social confidence grows with regular practice. You’ll find that mastering small talk becomes easier the more you engage with others, even in brief exchanges.

Role-playing exercises with friends can also offer a safe space to hone your interaction skills and ensure you’re ready for consistent social interactions.

Small Talk Mastery

Mastering the art of small talk requires consistent practice, and you’ll find that it’s a cornerstone of building social confidence.

Begin with simple exchanges like offering compliments and engaging in warm greetings—these are the seeds of socialization that blossom into more substantial conversation.

As you nurture your skills, small talk becomes less daunting and more of a bridge to meaningful connections.

Regularly challenge yourself to step into social settings where you can practice. Whether it’s a coffee shop chat or a quick exchange with a colleague, every interaction is an opportunity to refine your conversational abilities.

Role-Playing Exercises

To boost your social confidence, engaging in regular role-playing exercises with friends can provide a safe space to practice and refine your conversational skills. By simulating various social situations, you’ll get comfortable with the ebb and flow of real conversations.

These role-playing exercises allow you to experiment with different behaviors and responses, giving you the groundwork to handle a myriad of social interactions with poise.

As you serve others through your genuine engagement, regular practice builds a solid foundation of comfort and assurance. Seek positive reinforcement from those around you, and use their feedback to further enhance your social finesse.

With each role-play, you’ll find yourself more prepared and self-assured, ready to shine in any social setting.

Consistent Social Interactions

Consistency in your social endeavors acts as a cornerstone for building lasting confidence in interpersonal exchanges. Whether you lean towards extraversion or introversion, the key to enhancing your social relation skills lies in regular, deliberate practice.

Start by engaging in small, casual conversations and progressively expand your comfort zone. This will bolster your communication abilities without overwhelming pressure.

As you serve others through volunteer work or community involvement, you’ll find opportunities to practice and refine these skills in real-world settings. Remember, everyone makes social blunders—it’s how you learn from them that counts.

Accept your unique qualities and understand that consistent, patient effort will pave the way to genuine confidence in any social setting.

Find Common Ground

During conversations in social settings, you’ll find it easier to connect with others by discovering shared interests and experiences. A common language of passion weaves through the tapestry of human interaction. Use your hobbies and the quirks of your personality to weave that thread into every handshake, signaling you’re not just another face in the crowd but someone who shares a common heartbeat.

Engage with social media to learn about the latest trends and topics that excite the people you’ll meet. This knowledge can be a launchpad for dialogue that resonates on a personal level. But remember, it’s not just about the words you say but how you say them. Inject humor naturally into the conversation to break the ice and show that you’re approachable and relatable.

Learn Active Listening Skills

While you’re engaging in conversation, it’s crucial to hone your active listening skills, as this demonstrates your genuine interest and boosts your social confidence. By focusing your attention on the speaker, you’re not only absorbing what’s being said, but you’re also showing that you value their words. Tuck away your phone and remove any distractions that could break the connection you’re fostering.

Remember, active listening goes beyond the words. Pay attention to paralanguage—the tone, pace, and volume of the speaker’s voice. These nuances offer insight into their emotions and can guide your responses to be more empathetic and supportive. Your nonverbal communication also plays a vital role. Maintain eye contact, nod in agreement, and mirror their body language to convey that you’re fully present.

In the realm of organizational communication, active listening is a cornerstone. It’s about building trust and understanding within a group, allowing for more effective collaboration. By practicing these skills in social settings, you’re not just bettering personal relationships; you’re also enhancing your ability to serve others in a professional context.

As you become a more attentive listener, you’ll notice a natural increase in your social confidence, making every interaction more rewarding.

Embrace Your Personality

You’ve got quirks and characteristics that make you stand out – celebrate them, because authenticity draws people to you.

Don’t hide what makes you unique; your genuine traits are a magnet for meaningful connections.

Authenticity Attracts Connections

By embracing your unique personality, you’ll naturally draw people to you who appreciate your authentic self. This authenticity is the cornerstone of social confidence. When you’re genuine, interactions become less about fear and more about connection. In social settings, your true self is your strongest asset. It’s the part of you that can serve others with sincerity and warmth.

Showcasing your authentic self may seem daunting, but it’s a vital step toward forming deeper, more meaningful relationships. Let go of the mask you think you need to wear. Instead, offer your real thoughts and feelings. You’ll find that when you do, you’ll foster a sense of ease and comfort, not just for yourself, but for those around you as well.

Celebrate Unique Traits

Every aspect of your personality contributes to the unique individual you are, and embracing these traits can significantly enhance your social confidence. When you’re feeling unsure, remember that your quirks and idiosyncrasies give others insight into who you truly are. They’re the facets of your character that a significant other, whether a friend or a companion, will cherish.

Celebrating what makes you distinct provides hope to those around you, showing that authenticity is the cornerstone of genuine connections. As you serve others, let your genuine self shine through. This honesty not only fosters your own confidence but also inspires those you’re helping to embrace their own individuality, creating a ripple effect of self-assurance and mutual respect in your community.

Reflect on Social Experiences

Reflecting on your past social encounters can offer valuable insights into your interaction patterns and highlight areas where you’re excelling or may need improvement. When you look back, consider the times you’ve felt a sense of accomplishment or connection. What actions or behaviors led to these positive experiences? Use these reflections to reinforce what works well for you in social settings.

Conversely, it’s just as important to examine moments of social rejection or embarrassment. Such reflections aren’t about dwelling on the negative, but rather understanding the psychology behind your reactions. Ask yourself, what could you learn from these instances? Perhaps there’s a pattern of thought or behavior contributing to these outcomes that you can address.

Remember, each social experience is an opportunity for growth. By choosing to reflect constructively, you’re not only acknowledging your feelings but also actively shaping your future interactions. This approach allows you to serve others better and contribute positively to the social fabric around you.

Keep a record of your reflections to track your progress and ensure that, with each new encounter, you’re building a more confident and capable version of yourself.

How Professional Support Can Increase Your Confidence

If you’re struggling to boost your social confidence on your own, consider seeking professional support. Therapy can help you tackle the root causes of your insecurity and teach you effective social skills.

Moreover, joining a support group connects you with others facing similar challenges, providing both comfort and practical strategies.

Therapy for Confidence

Seeking professional support from a therapist can be a pivotal step in overcoming the negative thoughts that undermine your confidence in social settings.

When you’re determined to serve others better, it’s crucial to address your own mental health needs first. A psychologist can guide you through therapy for confidence, helping you reframe negative self-talk into empowering affirmations and develop a deeper understanding of your personal values and identity. Such clarity can significantly ease your interactions with others.

Therapy also offers practical strategies for building social skills, encouraging you to practice conversing with strangers and gradually expand your social circle. This professional support can be instrumental in recognizing and challenging anxiety-inducing thoughts, providing a more accurate, positive outlook on your abilities to connect in various social settings.

Social Skills Coaching

You’ll find that social skills coaching provides a structured approach to enhancing your ability to interact confidently with others. This type of coaching offers personalized support, helping you learn and practice new ways to engage with people. It’s about gaining experience in various social scenarios in a safe and constructive environment.

As you work with a coach, you’ll develop a sense of how to present yourself positively and how to adapt your behavior to resonate with those around you. Social skills coaching isn’t about changing who you are; it’s about revealing the best version of yourself to others. It’s an investment in your personal growth that empowers you to serve and connect with people more effectively.

Support Group Benefits

Often, joining a support group complements social skills coaching by providing you with a community where you can regularly practice and refine your newfound abilities.

In these groups, you’re not just making friends; you’re building a network that understands the journey to becoming more confident in social settings.

A support group offers a safe space to share experiences and challenges, giving you the unique opportunity to learn from others who are also striving to serve and uplift those around them.

The encouragement and feedback from group members can be incredibly affirming, helping to challenge and reframe negative thoughts that may arise.

Seek professional support if you find yourself struggling; it’s a strong step towards mastering the art of confidence in any social sphere.


You’ve got this. By understanding your discomfort and fostering a positive mindset, your social confidence will soar.

Stand tall, engage, and practice regularly. Find common ground and hone your listening skills—these are your tools.

Embrace who you’re and reflect on each interaction. And if you need it, don’t hesitate to seek professional support.

Every step you take is a leap towards being the social butterfly you’re meant to be. Keep going, you’re doing great.

How can smiling increase my confidence in social settings?

Smiling not only makes you appear more approachable and friendly but also releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and improve your overall mood. This boost in positivity can help you feel more confident when interacting with others.

How does understanding my feelings contribute to being more confident in social situations?

By understanding your feelings, youre better equipped to manage them. If youre feeling anxious or nervous, acknowledging these feelings allows you to address them directly rather than letting them control your behavior. This self-awareness can lead to a more confident demeanor.

Can gaining insight into others perceptions help me be more confident socially?

Yes, understanding how others perceive you can provide valuable feedback on how well youre communicating your thoughts and feelings. If there are areas where misunderstandings occur frequently, this insight gives you the opportunity to adjust your communication style, potentially increasing your confidence.

How can I use insights from past social interactions to build confidence for future ones?

Reflecting on past interactions allows you to identify what went well and what didnt. By focusing on positive experiences where you felt confident and engaged, it can reinforce those behaviors for future events. Learning from less successful encounters helps avoid repeating the same mistakes.

What role do our feelings play in our level of confidence in social settings?

Our feelings significantly impact our level of confidence in social settings. Positive emotions like happiness or excitement generally boost our confidence by making us feel good about ourselves. Negative emotions like fear or anxiety tend to decrease it by causing self-doubt or worry about judgment from others. Its essential to manage these emotions effectively for increased social confidence.

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By: Willis
Title: How Can I Be More Confident in Social Settings
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Published Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2023 10:30:02 +0000

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Mens Health

The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 17 a las 20.33.26

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 17 a las 20.33.26 1
Photo by: Alexander Grey |

Although there have been infinite varieties of life forms that have evolved on Earth in the last 4 billion years, two life forms that are our male and female ancestors evolved a billion years ago. Here’s how this first sexual experience occurred according to cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry in their book, The Universe Story.

The first male organism—they call him Tristan—and the first female organism—they call her Iseult—began life in the ancient oceans. Swimme and Berry describe their chance encounter this way:

“They were cast into the marine adventure, with its traumas of starvation and of predation. Able to nourish themselves but no longer capable of dividing into daughter cells, such primal living beings made their way through life until an almost certain death ended their 3-billion-year lineage.

A slight, an ever so slight, chance existed that a Tristan cell would come upon a corresponding Iseult cell.They would brush against each other, a contact similar to so many trillions of other encounters in their oceanic adventure. But with this one, something new would awaken. Something unsuspected and powerful and intelligent, as if they had drunk a magical elixir, would enter the flow of electricity through each organism.

Suddenly the very chemistry of their cell membranes would begin to change. Interactions evoked by newly functioning segments of her DNA would restructure the molecular web of Iseult’s skin, so that an act she had never experienced or planned for would begin to take place—Tristan entering her cell wholly.”

Of course no humans were there to record this original encounter, but we all have origin stories and this one resonates with me. Dates are never exact and change as more information is gathered. Here are some additional dates I found important in The Universe Story timeline:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe begins.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerges.
  • 1 billion years ago sexual reproduction evolves.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appear.
  • 30 million years ago the first apes inhabit the earth.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans appeared.
  • 200,000 years ago Archaic Homo sapiens evolved.
  • 10,600 years ago first settlements in the Middle East emerged and wheat and barley were cultivated.

Needless to say, we have a long evolutionary history to embrace. In their book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, Douglas T. Kenrick, PhD and David E. Lundberg-Kenrick describe seven evolutionary challenges we must all face and embrace. They offer a visual summary as a revision of Maslow’s original Hierarchy of Human Needs which they call The New Pyramid of Human Motives:


The Seven Challenges for a Successful Life

            During the billion years of life, all organisms must embrace these challenges and they are particularly relevant beginning with our mammalian history. In their book, the Kenricks ask, “What are the fundamental problems of human existence?” They go on to share the results of their research.

“Together with a large team of researchers at more than 30 universities on five continents, we have been investigating the universal motivations faced by human beings around the globe.”

Here is a summary of their findings:

  • Survive.

We must meet our basic physiological needs for shelter from the elements,

water, and food.

  • Protect yourself from attackers and plunderers.

Given the scarcity of resources and the ever-present possibility of starvation, there has always been competition among different groups (most often the male members) for precious real estate and resources (including access to females).

  • Make and keep friends.

As the Kenricks remind us. “Our ancestors were not rugged individualists.

They need to band together not only to protect themselves from bands of

marauding bad guys but also to accomplish most of the tasks of everyday life.”

  • Get some respect.

Some people have always been more resourceful and clever than others and

some were more willing to bravely defend their groups against armed marauders.

Those resourceful and courageous individuals won higher status and gained

greater respect.

  • Find a mate.

“From the perspective of evolution by natural selection,” say the Kenricks, “this

step is essential. Every one of our ancestors managed to attract at least one

person who wanted to make with them. Not everybody in the ancient world got

to reproduce, though, and a reasonable percentage of men went unmated.” This

fact, is of major importance when understanding male desires, fears, and


  • Hang on to that mate.

From an evolutionary perspective, we not only have to find a mate who will have

sex with us, but we need to hold on to our mate long enough to have a child and

raise the child to maturity, so they can find a mate and continue the process.

  • Care for your family members.

Unlike other animals, human males are much more involved with raising children, since human children require long-term care before they reach reproductive age.

Males and Females Are Alike and Also Different

Males and females are alike in that they must both successfully meet the seven challenges noted above. However, there are also significant evolutionary differences. These differences first came home to me when I first met psychologist David M. Buss and read his book, The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating.

“If mating desires and other features of human psychology are products of our evolutionary history,” says Dr. Buss, “they should be found universally, not just in the United States.”

To test his theories, he conducted a five-year study working with collaborators from thirty-seven cultures located on six continents and five islands. All major racial groups, religious groups, and ethnic groups were represented. In all, his research team surveyed 10,047 persons world-wide.

Dr. Buss concluded that there are actually two human natures, one male, the other female. What do women really want? Buss found that the top three qualities that women look for in men are exactly the same as those things that men look for in women: Intelligence, kindness, and love. Then, what women want diverges from what men want.

“Women then look at a man’s ability to protect her and her children, his capacity to provide, and his willingness to make commitment to a relationship,” says Buss.

What do men really want?

“A man is drawn to youth and beauty,”

says Buss.

“This interest is not just a modern desire driven by advertising and male desire to control women [though advertisers take advantage of our evolutionary-driven desires]. It is a universal desire based on evolutionary pressures for reproductive success. Men who mated with women who were incapable of bearing children left no ancestors. Every man alive today is descended from men who did not make that mistake. Worldwide, men are drawn to younger women.”

Note: Just because we have these evolutionary-based desires does not mean we must act on them, that they are good for us, or will make us, or the partners we desire, happy. It also does not mean they are hard-wired into our biological makeup and can’t be changed. It does mean that we must take seriously our evolutionary-based desires and listen to the ancient “whisperings within” that pull us in certain directions.

The Hazards and Blessings of Gender-Specific Health

The ancient Roman philosopher, Virgil offers a simple truth to consider.

“The greatest wealth is health.”

A modern American medical doctor, Marianne J. Legato, M.D., world-renowned cardiologist and founder of The Foundation For Gender-Specific Medicine, says,

“The premature death of men is the most important—and neglected—health issue of our time.”

Although human males, as a group, occupy more positions of power in government and business than women, it has come at a price. This was first brought home to me by psychologist Herb Goldberg, in his book 1976, The Hazards of Being Male.

“The male has paid a heavy price for his masculine ‘privilege’ and power. He is out of touch with his emotions and his body. He is playing by the rules of the male game plan and with lemming-like purpose he is destroying himself—emotionally, psychologically and physically.”

In recent years we have learned a lot more about the realities of being male.

“If it’s true that men rule the world, it comes at a heavy cost,”

says Dr. Legato.

“From conception until death, men are inherently more fragile and vulnerable than women. In virtually every society today, men die first.”

Dr. Legato offers the following facts of life:

  • The male fetus is less likely to survive the womb than the female.
  • Boys are six weeks behind in developmental maturity at birth compared to girls.
  • Men have four times the developmental disabilities of females.
  • Men suffer more severely than women from seven of the ten most common infections that human experience [Including Covid-19].
  • Men are likely to experience the first ravages of coronary artery disease in their mid-thirties, a full 15 or 20 years before women.
  • Twice as many men die of heart disease, the leading cause of all deaths, than do women.
  • Men die by suicide 4 times more than women.
  • Murder and homicide are among the top four killers of men from the time they are born until heart disease and cancers begin to claim those who survive into middle age.

Accepting the realities of our own inherent weakness and vulnerabilities instead of trying to pretend we are masters of the universe is the first step we just take to begin our own healing and recovery.

I have been writing a series of articles on the Future of Men’s Mental Health. In Part 3, “Gender-Specific Healing and Man Therapy,” I explore my own healing journey and issues that address the unique problems faced by men and how the emerging field of Gender-Specific Healing and Men’s Health is a key to the future of health care. If you’d like more information about upcoming trainings, drop me an email to and put “Gender-Specific Health Training” in the subject line.

The post The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life appeared first on MenAlive.

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By: Jed Diamond
Title: The Hazards and Blessings of Being Male: Embracing the Seven Challenges For a Successful Life
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Published Date: Sat, 18 May 2024 02:41:58 +0000

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Mens Health

The James Bond Workout

James Bond Workout 2

Illustration titled "The James Bond Workout" depicting six exercises: 20 slow push-ups, straight leg lifts, toe touches, chair dips, deep breathing, culminating in a hot and cold shower.

When you have a license to kill, you’ve got to keep yourself in tip-top shape.

So what did James Bond do for his workout? 

From the James Bond novels, we know that 007 liked to do all sorts of physical activities that could count as exercise: boxing, judo, swimming, and skiing. He was also a golfer, so he got some activity in that way.

As a Commander in the Royal Navy Reserve, Bond likely incorporated some of the calisthenics he learned from the military into his workout routine. It’s possible that he even drew inspiration from the Cold War HIIT workout, 5BX. 

You can see these influences in the workout 007 does in From Russia With Love. In that novel (one of the 5 best books in the Bond canon), Fleming describes a short calisthenics routine that his secret agent does that’s capped off with a “James Bond shower”:

There was only one way to deal with boredom — kick oneself out of it. Bond went down on his hands and did twenty slow press-ups, lingering over each one so that his muscles had no rest. When his arms could stand the pain no longer, he rolled over on his back and, with his hands at his sides, did the straight leg-lift until his stomach muscles screamed. He got to his feet and, after touching his toes twenty times, went over to arm and chest exercises combined with deep breathing until he was dizzy. Panting with the exertion, he went into the big white-tiled bathroom and stood in the glass shower cabinet under very hot and then cold hissing water for five minutes. 

A pretty quick and straightforward bodyweight workout, that we’ve illustrated for reference above. With one adaptation: Bond scholars and aficionados have never figured out exactly what Fleming meant by “arm and chest exercises.” We substituted chair dips; they work both the arms and chest. You can imagine in your own arm and chest exercise if you’d like. Performing that portion of the workout, and all the rest of them, in a tux with a pistol and martini glass on hand is optional, but highly encouraged if you’re an operative training to face the unique challenges of international espionage. 

Illustrated by Ted Slampyak

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By: Brett & Kate McKay
Title: The James Bond Workout
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Published Date: Thu, 16 May 2024 17:20:27 +0000

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Mens Health

Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 08 a las 17.49.44

Captura de pantalla 2024 05 08 a las 17.49.44 1
Photo by: Mark Basarab /

Have you been following the discussion that began with a question to a small group of women: If you were alone in the woods, would you rather encounter a bear or a man? The great majority of the women answered, “a bear” and explained that they would feel safer encountering a bear in the forest than a man they didn’t know. The hypothetical question has sparked a broader discussion about why women fear men.

I’d like to share my own experiences. I will start by laying my cards on the table so you know my biases from the outset:

  • I have been a man all my life which now totals 80 years.
  • I was born in New York City, grew up in Los Angeles, and have lived in cities most of my life where I never encountered a bear or any other wild animal.
  • I am a psychotherapist, author of 17 books about men and their relationships, and have worked with what many consider “dangerous men” in jails, prisons, and treatment centers.
  • In 1991 my wife and I moved out of the city, bought land in the hills of Mendocino County outside a small town of Willits, California and I had my first encounter with wild animals including several bears.

The impetus for our move to the country began when I was diagnosed with a rare adrenal tumor which kills most people before they know they have it. Luckily, I didn’t die. My doctor made the diagnosis—a pheochromocytoma. I had emergency surgery and the tumor was removed.

When I asked the doctors what caused me to get a tumor, they didn’t know. “Maybe genetics, maybe bad luck, who knows?” they told me. Well, I believe we all have an inner healer who does know. I asked and the answer I got was clear and concise:

Inner Healer to Jed: Adrenal tumor, adrenaline! Don’t you get it? You’ve living in stressful environments for way too long. You have to slow down.

Jed to Inner Healer: I have slowed down. I was born to New York, pretty high-stressed place. We moved to Los Angeles where I grew up and went to school, a lower stress place. Now we live in Mellow Marin County. I’ve been slowing down, really I have.

Inner Healer to Jed: I do hear you. You have slowed down, New York, Los Angeles, Marin. You’ve gotten your stress score down from 100 to an 88. But you have to get it down to a 9.

Jed to Inner Healer: You’ve got to be kidding me, a 9! I’d have to change my whole life!!!

Inner Healer to Jed: Yep.

So, we found a little cabin on 22 acres of land and moved in and I planned to relax more. It was quiet and peaceful and the neighbors were nice. But the truth was, everything scared me. It was too quiet. After we had been there a month and I was sitting on a ridge overlooking a valley, I heard a very faint sound. So soft, I wasn’t even sure it was there. I finally realized that what I was hearing was the sound of my eye lashes blinking. I was used to the sounds of a big city. It was difficult to think with only the sounds of silence to keep me company.

            What really scared me, though, were the animal sounds I would hear at night. I was determined to follow my inner healer’s advice and learn to slow down and relax. I knew I needed to settle into my new surroundings. There was  a deck at the end of our property where I often went to think about my future. I decided I would learn to address my anxieties and fears by sleeping outside every night during the first summer we were there.

Each night after dinner, I would walk in the dark from our house to the deck, about a ten-minute walk, where I would spend the night. I walked first with a flashlight, then stop, turn it off, and listen to the night sounds. I would hear the bugs, birds, and small animals moving through the brush. I would snuggle up in my sleeping bag and gradually I got used to the night sounds and got to know the creatures that lived in my new neighborhood in the woods.

One morning as I was just waking up I saw a large animal coming my way on a narrow trail that led away from my deck where I slept. At first I didn’t know what it was. It was bigger than a big dog but walked differently. It didn’t take me long to realize that a large black bear was walking towards me.

My mouth went dry, my heart began to pound. I didn’t know what to do. Should I yell and try and scare him away? Should I run and hide? I had no idea. What I finally did was to start talking very fast: “Ah…bear…I’m Jed, I don’t have anything you would want to eat, including me, I know this is your home, I just moved here, I really want to be a good neighbor, please don’t hurt me, I…”

I ran out of words and the bear stopped a hundred feet from me. I looked at him (or her? I had no idea) and he looked at me. And I wondered whether the next thing would be a bear at my throat. Instead, he turned around and walked back down the path.

It was a strange rite of passage for this city boy. I felt like he had decided that I was definitely a little strange but I was OK. He came back periodically when I wasn’t there. I could tell because he marked his territory by scratching marks on the posts of my deck. I had a number of encounters with bears, a few real scary one when we encountered a mamma bear with her cubs and she reared up on her hind legs and barked her cubs up a three. I bowed low and slowly backed away. I had a healthy respect for bears and other wild animals but we got to know each other.

Not so, when I had my first encounter with a strange man. One morning I was walking on my property and suddenly a strange man turned the corner on the trail. I yelled, turned around and ran. I looked over my shoulder to see if he was chasing me and realized that he was running away, looking over his shoulder to see if I was chasing him.

We both stopped running and slowly approached each other cautiously. I told him I owned this property and told me he was visiting neighbors and had gone for a walk and gotten lost the night before. He had slept out all night and was trying to find his way back when he ran into me. I drove him back to the neighbors who saw me as a hero for finding their friend and we shared stories about our encounters with bears and men.

What Evolutionary Science Can Teach Us About Bears and Men and How to Stay Safe

We can’t understand bears, men, or how to be safe unless we know something about evolutionary science. In their book The Universe Story, cosmologist Dr. Brian Swimme and historian Dr. Thomas Berry, share our evolutionary history. Here are a few key players and the dates they joined the party:

  • 12 billion years ago, the universe began with a bang.
  • 4 billion years ago life first emerged.
  • 216 million years ago the first mammals appeared.
  • 55 million years ago the first bear-like animals evolved.
  • 2.6 million years ago the first humans, Homo habilis, walked the earth.

In a recent book, Solving Modern Problems with a Stone-Age Brain, evolutionary psychologists Douglas T. Kenrick and David E. Lunberg-Kenrick, detail the seven fundamental problems the humans have faced since we arrived. We have to:

  1. Survive by meeting our basic needs for water, food, and shelter.
  2. Protect ourselves from attackers and plunderers.
  3. Make and keep friends.
  4. Gain status and respect from our fellow tribal members.
  5. Find a mate.
  6. Hang on to that mate.
  7. Focus on family and raise good children.

What they say about basic challenges number 1 and 2, can help us better understand how to stay safe in today’s world. The first step is clear. We must get what we need to survive or our story ends here. All our direct ancestors survived and completed all seven steps.

They go on to talk about the reality that in our evolutionary past, as well as in modern times, we have a lot more to fear from men than we do from wild animals. In the Bronx Zoo, there is a classic sign on one exhibit that advertised, “World’s Most Dangerous Predator.” Above the sign was a mirror.

            Humans truly are a dangerous species and the danger is most commonly coming from men. Whether you are venturing into the remote unexplored jungles where modern hunter-gatherers live or looking at death rates from our evolutionary past, Dr. Kenrick and other evolutionary-informed scientists have found that men are the more violent half of humanity.

“The odds that a stranger is a potential threat to your physical safety are many times higher if that stranger is a male. They are especially high if he is a young adult male and if he is with a group of other young adult males.”

So, it is natural that women, and men, would be more fearful of meeting an unknown man in the woods than a bear. But the fact that our modern brains still have the old wiring from our evolutionary past, does not mean that we should be afraid of all bears or all men. As I learned, we are all safer when we learn about the others who we will encounter in our lives.

I learned to get comfortable with the bears who lived in my neighborhood. I also learned I could talk to the bears, let them know I was no threat, and I imagined they would listen. I found out I could overcome my immediate reaction to flee or fight when confronted by an unknown male. I could stop and realize we were both afraid of each other and taking time to calm down and talk helped us both connect in a positive way.

What I have learned from evolutionary science is that most wild animals can be our friends and so can most men. The way to be safer in the world is to connect more deeply with ourselves, each other, and this beautiful planet we all share.

            One more point. Humans have certainly done our evolutionary job well in populating the world. We don’t need more and more people, but we could certainly use more wisdom from our animal elders. As Thomas Berry reminds us,

“We never knew enough. Nor were we sufficiently intimate with all our cousins in the great family of the earth. Nor could we listen to the various creatures of the earth, each telling its own story. The time has now come, however, when we will listen or we will die.”

I have worked with a lot of dangerous and violent men in my life. I agree with the world of psychologist James Hollis. “Men’s lives are violent because their souls have been violated.” I invite those interested to check out our Moonshot for Mankind.

The post Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe appeared first on MenAlive.

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By: Jed Diamond
Title: Man or Bear: What Evolutionary Science Can Tell Us About Male Violence and How to Stay Safe
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Published Date: Wed, 08 May 2024 23:46:04 +0000

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