Opinion: Why some men need to stop feeling so abused by

Lee Suckling explains why most men need to stop feeling bad. Photo/Getty Images


“He has a bit of a chip on his shoulder.”

That’s a saying most of us have heard before, probably a long time ago when it was all the rage, and probably said by someone from an older generation.

Yet I couldn’t help but think, as I wrapped up HBO’s The Staircase, which features Colin Firth’s portrayal of alleged wife-killer Michael Peterson, this guy was living life with a “chip on his shoulder.”

This personality trait is something I recognize in some of my male relatives, but I’ve never been sure how to define it. That “chip” is somehow more and less than direct arrogance. It is a feeling of being “hard to do”.

As if the world owes you something. Or like you’re always behind, but it’s always someone else’s fault and not yours.

Unusually, that chip on the shoulder seems to be a specifically male trait. Women don’t really seem to have that chip, perhaps because when you earn 83 cents on the dollar and your physical rights are often threatened, your sense of being left behind is more literal than figurative.

Why do some men feel so abused? In my experience, those with the biggest chips seem to come from the most privileged group in society: they are usually straight, white, middle-class men. Somehow, despite not experiencing discrimination like the rest of us, they can still feel like the world is out to get them.

A shoulder chip is “an ingrained feeling of resentment stemming from a sense of inferiority and sometimes marked by aggressive behavior.”

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Supposedly, the term originated during the 19th century in the United States, where tradition had it that people who wanted a physical fight would carry a splinter of wood on their shoulder, daring others to knock it down.

I’ve met quite a few guys in my life who walk like this: angry, seemingly holding unspoken grudges, easily provoked, with a constant feeling of being unfairly treated. And guess what? They have all been straight white men from decent socioeconomic backgrounds.

They have always been, in every sense of the phrase, “average Joes”.

This low-key, not-quite-aggressive, not-quite-inferior hostility pervades the life of someone with a chip on their shoulder. He could envy anyone with a better paying job than him. You may be convinced that all bad luck, whether it’s a basic bad day, a car accident, or the loss of an investment, is something “done” to them by a higher power to punish them.

And when all is well in the world of one with a chip on his shoulder? Somehow not so happy. He’s a little wistful, like he’s waiting to feel wronged again. It might even look like he’s in discomfort because his chip rests firmly on his body.

Lee Suckling asks why men have a chip on their shoulder.  Photo / Supplied
Lee Suckling asks why men have a chip on their shoulder. Photo / Supplied

What has society done to these men to make them behave like this? I wonder. Like a lot of things, I’d say it starts in childhood and I guess it has to do with how you perceived your parents to treat you, especially compared to your siblings.

Maybe your birthday presents weren’t cool enough. Maybe you weren’t the “smart” one. Maybe your brother was a better athlete than you. For each individual, I am sure it is different. I find it hard to believe that a chip on the shoulder could be the result of genuine, objective handicaps in life. Like those faced by women and minority groups. Rather, just the perception of them.

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Of course, no one with a chip on their shoulder recognizes it. They would be very offended if you told them. The rest of us, therefore, only live with men with splinters on their shoulders.

Maybe one is your husband, your dad, your brother, or your co-worker. We allow these men to get on with their lives unchallenged with said chip, knowing that if we ever try to mention it, we will become the target of their reluctant nature.

Forbes magazine argues that a man can wear the chip on his shoulder to fuel greatness. Having a chip on your shoulder can keep you sharp and alert. The feeling of having “something to prove” is what can lead you to excellence, something that I, as a queer person, know very well.

However, the world would be a better place without tokens on men’s shoulders. If you think you might have one, consider addressing whether it actually improves your performance in life. Perhaps it is your perception of yourself that always trips you up, and not some external factor?

Mindful, a wellness website, tells you that you can change your vindictive mindset to one that says, “I deserve to be here.”

And you deserve to be here. We all do. Victimizing yourself only creates limited expectations and puts you in a cycle of negativity. Throw away the chip and realize that everyone struggles, everyone suffers, and everyone feels disadvantaged at times. This is not a “you” thing. It is a human thing. Both you and the rest of us will be much happier if you accept that.

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I leave you with an appointment. “The Buddha creation myth alleges that a young prince grew up surrounded by luxury, sheltered from all the ills of the world. Unhappy at every moment of his privileged life, the prince ran away to see the world, then decided to live as a beggar, vagabond. , Left behind.

“Unhappily realizing that this made him no happier than the privilege, the prince meditated on the Buddha. Many adherents understand his philosophy that all life includes some suffering.”

Mark Manson’s The Fine Art of Not Giving a Fuck uses this parable to point out the following: Everyone will be unhappy until they figure out what’s important to them and where to focus their energy. Perhaps a lot of chips could be taken off your shoulders not by a fight, but by concentrating one’s efforts on what satisfies you.