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Not So Much A Knight, in The Not So Shining Armor

Not So Much A Knight, in The Not So Shining Armor

How a REAL man treats a woman:
He never tries to change her, he loves her for who she is
He doesn’t need words to understand her
He never gets threatened by her success, he encourages her dreams
He protects her emotionally and physically
He never disrespects her
And a REAL woman never ‘settles’ for less

Sounds like you have read this before, right? Well, it is an excerpt from the multitude of posts around how a man treats his partner. As women finally get to celebrate their individuality and progress, the role of the men in their lives is evolving. He is no longer a stereotypical bread winner, he is a true partner who embraces her complexities, who stands by her dreams, who loves her enough to both give her space and protect her.

As a young woman, I completely subscribe to above and I’m glad that gender roles are changing (finally!). But just as we get bombarded with such content I cannot help but wonder, are we creating just another version of the age old  ‘knight in shining armor’, shoes too big for a mere mortal to fill?

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The “Real Man”: Big Expectation, Bigger Heartbreak

As young girls we have grown up dreaming about a partner who is romantic like Brad Pitt and protective like our fathers. As grown women we dream about a partner who has all the 10 qualities that the post on the ‘real man’ has listed, and then some. Even before we enter into a relationship we have an image of the man we want. Imagine the rude shock when he doesn’t understand why she is angry even after three days of silent treatment (he is supposed to ‘get’ her if he really loves her).

Imagine the pain when he only gives an exasperated sigh when she cries instead of swooping her into his arms and apologizing profusely (he is supposed to never hurt her if he really loves her). The sheer horror when he seems threatened when she starts earning more than him, what happened to celebrating her dreams and standing by her? The let downs seem to be endless – he screams at her, he is not always dependable and sometimes he doesn’t seem to care about anything – are our men just not good enough?

I would like to offer an alternate (and probably controversial) explanation.

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The Truth About The REAL ‘Real Man’

He is Human. He is sloppy sometimes, jealous sometimes, angry sometimes, callous sometimes, and confused about what the hell you want most of the time. The ‘real man’ is not a dreamy cross between the heart stopping Brad Pitt and the dependable dad, it is this guy who is blankly staring at you without any comprehension despite three days of silent treatment. So should we do him a favor? Should we just tell him what’s up and move on (of course after sufficiently fighting it out!)

The fact that a man is not able to understand his partner sometimes  may not mean he doesn’t love her, it probably just means that he is neither a mind reader nor her identical twin. The fact that he is initially threatened when she earns more doesn’t necessarily make him a swine worth dumping. Maybe, just maybe, he is struggling to get past his own early conditioning of traditional gender roles, of course, stereotypes are nonsense, but maybe he is in the process of evolving, just as she is.

Let’s Stop Kidding Ourselves, This is The Real Deal

So the guy WILL scream at you, as much as you scream at him (or a little less if you are lucky or a little more if you are not so lucky), he will not always be able to protect you (especially when the beers have been one too many, in fact, you may find yourself struggling to drag the big fellow and drive him home!). He will be disrespectful and unsupportive on multiple occasions, just as you are. This is not because he is an anti woman chauvinist, it’s because, well, that’s how most people are irrespective of their genders.

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They have their highs and lows, virtues and vices. There is no clear good or bad, black or white, and your guy is just another piece of (hopefully) lovable grey. To be honest, thank God for that, had he been sheer perfection romancing you like Brad Pitt, you would eventually get quite fed up and yearn for…well..something more real!

So this is my humble submission – there is no knight in shining armor, and if you are honest with yourself, you don’t want one either (because you sure as hell are no damsel in distress!). We are surrounded by real men who are inconsistent just as humans are, and they are surrounded by us women, who are also inconsistent just as humans are.

So next time he turns away when you are sobbing, go right ahead, and have a fight, but pray don’t dwell on the ‘real man’ article you read last week, because that ladies is as imaginary as it gets!

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Featured photo credit: De Telegraaf via telegraaf.nl

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard.

The Keys to Learning Anything Easily

Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

Curiosity

Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

Patience

Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

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Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

A Feeling for Connectedness

This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

How to Self-Taught Effectively

With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

1. Research

Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

Learning the Basics

Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

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Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

Hitting the Books

Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

Long-Term Reference

While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

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2. Practice

Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

Check out this guide for useful techniques to help you practice efficiently: The Beginner’s Guide to Deliberate Practice

3. Network

One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

Here find out How to Network So You’ll Get Way Ahead in Your Professional Life.

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4. Schedule

For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

Final Thoughts

In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

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Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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