When we are born, we are biologically dependant on our mothers. In the wild - when our early ancestors actually were wild - if a human baby was abandoned by or lost its mother, it died. This life-dependency and the behaviour it ingrains in us is at the heart of much of our 'issues' as men, and particularly in our relationships.
This is most evident in our wanting to please people. Especially the women in our lives.
As boys, almost all of us would have been told by our mothers to behave ourselves; to keep our boyishness (which is the beginnings of our masculinity) in check. This could be as innocuous as being told to calm down, to not be so noisy, to stop fighting. Maybe, we were punished harshly; physically, verbally or both.
In any case, we probably felt there was a risk of love being taken away from us if we didn't sort ourselves out. If we didn't please.
Having love taken away from us is the primary human fear. Because our inner caveman remembers; if mommy doesn't love us, she'll leave us, and then we'll die.
Love is what tells us someone will stay. To our inner caveman (or cavechild we could say), love being taken away equals death.
This 'blueprint' for understanding how love works then becomes ingrained. And so a very common occurrence in men today is a propensity to please, as they fail to shake off the learned behaviour of pleasing mommy.
Except that 'mommy' becomes replaced not only by our wives and girlfriends but by anyone we seek the approval of.
This is why in ancient tribal cultures (including the few still remaining) you will so often find a formal ceremony or 'rite of passage' designed to mark a male's transition from boy to man. From dependant to independent. And this rite of passage will always involve the boy being separated from his mother, either to be alone or only amongst men for a period of time.
I was twenty one years old when I watched my mother die. I felt like a man at the time, but 10 years later, I would say without hesitation that I was still a boy.
While I was never a mommy's boy, something shifted in me when she died. And it wasn't a bad thing. As crazy it sounds, even at the time, I knew this would somehow be good for me.
Within a year of her passing, I left the toxic relationship I was in, was promoted in my job, became more confident, moved into my own place and generally started to be a whole and independent person.
I still had much growing to do, and did grow and achieve more (and am still growing and achieving.) But somehow, as much as I miss her, and wish I could be a better son for her in my current form, I just know that if she hadn't been taken from me, I wouldn't be who I am today.
I've had other rites of passage since then; in the martial arts, military and personal life. And I now create them for other men in my work.
While a man's mother doesn't have to die in order for him to grow into an emotionally whole man, he does have to let go of her. Or more specifically, his need to please her and the need to please people in general.
One of the toughest things for a man to do, but it so essential to real personal development, is to take a good look at his life and identify how much of it has been in the vain of pleasing and seeking approval.
As a man, anything you do in order to validate yourself has within it an inherent weakness and often dishonesty.
For all our achievements, how much of them can we honestly say was an expression of our wanting to contribute? Or were we wanting to avoid being a disappointment? And how much of our being supportive, compliant or 'nice' has been in order to purely serve? Or were we simply trying to 'please' ... which is really wanting avoid upsetting others.
These questions aren't always easy to answer and sometimes we act from a place of wanting to give, contribute and serve, but it can also be tainted by our need for pleasing and seeking validation on another level.
One of the most important pieces in a man's personal development then, is to live and love fearlessly. To cut the apron strings.
So difficult is this, that even as a man who has no contact with his mother, and whose business is personal development, I can say that I still work on this area myself.
But I can also say that the rewards for becoming whole and emotionally independent, for beginning the process of not caring if people approve of you as a person, is beyond anything else you can 'achieve' in your life. The feeling of fulfilment doesn't compare to any relief you might feel from pleasing others.
So take that long, hard look at your life. Reflect on your past, but more importantly, be mindful of who you show up as now. Look at your Facebook page, look at your work or business, look at your relationships. And if you are brave and honest enough to see where you might be seeking approval or validation as a person ... stop it! And start living and loving only from a place of fearless giving and serving.