The unseen side of men in pharmacy
Since as far back as I’ve known, the conversation around men in pharmacy has mostly revolved around the role men play in pharmacy and the titles which they have – whether it be pharmacy assistants, pharmacists, owners, or any other title. However seldom has the topic arisen about what happens behind the scenes of these titles, and the actual human being that fulfils these roles. Now it’s important to note that while this article does focus primarily on males, this also applies to those that identify themselves differently.
On the outside, all might look great, and the bravado of the title is for all to see.
But unfortunately for many, while the light shines bright on the outside, the dark has found a comfortable and prominent home on the inside.
Like everything though, there is nothing wrong with having two sides. At the end of the day, we all have light and dark parts of ourselves.
“LIFE ISN’T JUST ABOUT DARKNESS OR LIGHT, RATHER IT’S ABOUT FINDING LIGHT WITHIN THE DARKNESS”Landon Parham
It is however our ability to bring our conscious awareness to the things that trouble us, don’t serve us and cause us pain, grief and suffering, that we need to start to discuss more.
And in order to do so, we must first be open to a conversation about some things that might feel uncomfortable.
But let me tell you this.
As you read this article, there is no judgement. Only praise and gratitude for wanting to explore a part of our profession that doesn’t get spoken about but has a huge impact on the wellbeing of men throughout not only our industry, but all industries globally.
If anything triggers you along the way while reading this, I encourage you to explore it.
Take a breath and ask yourself why am I feeling this way. And then keep asking why.
Get to the root reason.
And then don’t try to over analyse it, just sit with it for a bit. Better yet, sleep on it.
The aim of this article is to do one thing, and one thing only – bring things to your conscious awareness.
So, let’s jump into it…
Now now. Before you get triggered by even the word ego, let me just start off by saying we all have an ego.
It’s the little voice inside our heads that’s designed to do one thing – keep us alive.
And if you think you don’t have an ego, the little voice telling you that you don’t have an ego, is in fact, your ego.
So, seeing as we all have an ego, let’s talk about it.
Because let’s be honest, this is something that typically gets labelled as a “male” thing, despite us all having one – ie. “the male ego”.
The ability to “survive” has changed drastically since our primal days from where we used to live off the land, hunt for our food, and face the daily threat of also being hunted as food.
We relied on a herd to help keep us safe, because at the end of the day, safety was in numbers.
And if you couldn’t keep up with the herd, or got rejected from a herd, you would most likely quickly perish.
Thankfully today, we don’t face being eaten by a lion when rounding the corner on our morning walk.
We do however still face the challenge of fitting in, belonging and being part of a herd.
As a result, when we feel that we’re going to be rejected, judged or isolated from a herd, our ego pops up and reacts to the fears associated with that.
We then act in ways to ensure that we don’t oppose the herd, many of which aren’t a reflection of our true selves.
So where do these fears come from?
Over our life and the experiences within it, our ego is moulded to shape our thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and feelings, whether they are good or bad.
From this, our ego creates stories that ultimately shape our actions, reactions or even inaction to situations.
When triggered, our ego uses these underlying stories and beliefs in an attempt to protect ourselves from harm.
“WHEN WE OPERATE FROM EGO WE ARE GENERALLY OBSESSED WITH RIGHT AND WRONG, BLAME AND SHAME. WE ARE NOT ACTING FROM A LOVING PLACE, BUT A JUDGEMENTAL PLACE. WE ARE NOT ACTING FROM A PLACE OF “HOW CAN I SERVE” OR “HOW CAN I GIVE”… RATHER, “WHAT DO I GET”, AND “HOW DO I LOOK”Unknown
However, like the way an autoimmune disease thinking it’s ‘helping the body fight the infection’ ends up killing its host, our ego, when left unaware to the power it yields, results in outward projections of:
- Attack (striking first instead)
- Blame (easy to blame others)
- Deflection (reject feedback)
- Denial (averting the issue)
- Distortion (changing the magnitude of the situation)
- Justifications (justify why)
- Suffering (pain and reality that we don’t want to acknowledge)
Ultimately though, it thinks it’s helping, but actually isn’t. But like our immune system, we still need it for us to function.
The difference in how our ego shows up though, is our ability to become consciously aware of the stories it is feeding us, and the actions it is encouraging us take, and not to take.
The Will To Survive
As a part of our own being, the ego’s ultimate fear is also of its own demise.
It likes to be loud and proud, but when acknowledged and silenced, it too fears that we are growing an awareness to it.
“THE EGO, HOWEVER, IS NOT WHO YOU REALLY ARE. THE EGO IS YOUR SELF-IMAGE; IT IS YOUR SOCIAL MASK; IT IS THE ROLE YOU ARE PLAYING. YOUR SOCIAL MASK THRIVES ON APPROVAL. IT WANTS CONTROL, AND IT IS SUSTAINED BY POWER, BECAUSE IT LIVES IN FEAR.”Deepak Chopra
When we develop an awareness of our ego, it quickly quietens down.
This however takes work, conscious thought, and the ability to recognise when our ego is starting to reveal itself.
But most importantly, it takes courage to step into the fear and to do something.
To do this we must:
- Become aware of how we demonstrate the projections of our ego listed before
- Pause and breathe
- Acknowledge the presence of the ego
- Recognise that those thoughts, feelings, and beliefs no longer serve you
- Reiterate you’re not interested but value it’s input
- Re-assess the situation
- Respond without ego
The first sign that our ego is about to pop up usually resonates in the heart, gut or breath – our heart beats faster, our gut clenches, or our breathing quickens.
“ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW AND OBSERVE IN YOURSELF IS THIS: WHENEVER YOU FEEL SUPERIOR OR INFERIOR TO ANYONE, THAT’S THE EGO IN YOU.”Eckhart Tolle
By calming ourselves with a pause and breath, we’re able to reset our fight-or-flight response and look at things in a different light.
We then need to take the opportunity to acknowledge the presence of the ego and what it’s trying to do for us (to keep us alive). To do this, simply call it out with words like “I hear you” or “I feel you”.
Then we want to break away from these old stories by letting the ego know that it doesn’t need to protect us. Using words like “I’ve got this, it’s OK” help to reprogram our ego to recognise that it doesn’t need to alarm itself with the situation at hand.
Now we don’t want to go to war against our ego. At the end of the day, it can be either our greatest ally, or biggest enemy. One thing is that it’s a part of us. And the way it acts is based on previous experiences. So in order to reprogram it, we need to recognise that we do value it, but we simply don’t need it anymore. To do this, we can use words like “Thank you but I’m all good”.
Lastly, we re-assess the situation and respond without ego.
Our response can come in many forms including verbal and physical.
In the pharmacy setting though, we’re likely to be using words to convey our thoughts, emotions, beliefs and feelings.
But through our words, we also have the ability to shape and foster positivity or create negativity and unhealthy behaviours.
Your Words Have Power
Have a spoonful of concrete and harden the f### up”. This. This statement alone has created generations of men (and those that identify differently) who now have the limited ability to communicate their feelings openly and honestly.
And unfortunately, it’s still one that gets thrown around with little regard of the intended and unintended consequences.
“BUT BY FAR THE WORST THING WE DO TO MALES – BY MAKING THEM FEEL THEY HAVE TO BE HARD – IS THAT WE LEAVE THEM WITH VERY FRAGILE EGOS. THE HARDER A MAN FEELS COMPELLED TO BE, THE WEAKER HIS EGO IS.”Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
It’s also something you may have heard growing up, or unfortunately even today.
If that’s the case, I want you to take a moment to close your eyes and think about when this was first said to you.
How did it make you feel? How did it make you not feel?
If you could have done something different in that very moment, what would it have been?
Off-the-cuff remarks like this, and others that are easily dismissed as being “just jokes” when queried, can leave longlasting impressions, create a poor culture in your workplace, and be the seed for not only poor team performance, but accusations of bullying and unsafe work environments.
Long-story short, this behaviour unchecked can quickly escalate.
As a result, it’s vital that as men, we become much more consciously aware of the words we use, and the true intentions behind them.
Now all of this might seem like common-sense.
But unfortunately, these remarks often blurt out when we’re facing a whole bunch of stress or simply preoccupied with something else.
When we’re busy or under the pump, we often don’t give too much thought about how our words could and most likely will be interpreted.
So here’s one simple way to check-sense yourself before saying something that might be interpreted in an undesirable way. Ask yourself “would I say this to my young child”, or “would I be happy if my partner’s employer said this to them”.
If the answer is no, then reevaluate how you would convey what you’re feeling in a constructive way.
But what if you’ve already said something, what then?
Just remember that you’re not just a man, but you’re a human too. We make mistakes.
But it’s what you do with those mistakes that truly matters.
As a male, and I’m speaking from experience here, if you’ve been coded in a way that you have to put on a brave face and say “everything is OK”, then we often lead ourselves to falsely believe this, sometimes to the point that it becomes detrimental to our own wellbeing.
But on the other hand, if we also become so comfortable sitting in our own darkness, fearful of what our efforts to step into the light, embrace change, and create a better environment for ourselves, might award us, we’ll forever find ourselves feeding our ego.
And while it might seem comfortable to wallow in our own pools of darkness, focussed on our own perceived shortcomings, mistakes and grievances, it doesn’t serve you. And not only you. It doesn’t serve your business. It doesn’t serve your patients. And it doesn’t serve your loved ones.
Now you might be wondering why I am ending on this.
“WE CAN EASILY FORGIVE A CHILD WHO IS AFRAID OF THE DARK; THE REAL TRAGEDY OF LIFE IS WHEN MEN ARE AFRAID OF THE LIGHT.”Plato
It’s been a crazy few years. There’s been a lot happening.
And sometimes our darkness has overcome us. It might still be overcoming you.
So take this moment to forgive yourself. To recognise that you are human and that there is still a lot to learn.
Because the day we stop learning, is the day we die. But we must learn.
And in order to learn, we must be open to receiving knowledge, wisdom and guidance from others.
We must be open to exploring those parts of us we don’t want to. And so, I encourage you to start talking about this.
Dropping your guard and revealing your true self.
And as a male, I also encourage you to help others on their journey to navigate this as well.
So to end, here are my top tips to start having a discussion and start breaking down these social masks:
- Create a safe environment (safety is paramount for an open and honest discussion)
- Remove all judgement (you’re there to support, not judge)
- Understand the other’s point of view before giving any feedback (there’s two sides to a story)
- Get permission from the other person to give constructive feedback (they can’t get angry if they gave you permission to do so)
- Reinforce safety and reiterate that they are heard
- Invite conversation
- Finish up with a couple of questions to make sure that there are no unresolved issues (for example, “is there anything your gut is telling you to say?” or “anything left unsaid?”)
- Follow up on the discussion to work through any other points By quietening your ego, being conscious of your language, and embracing the darkness to turn it into light, you are no longer just a gender or title in pharmacy, you’re a human being.
And like a mirror casts a reflection, so does our conscious and subconscious actions to those around us.
So you. You have the power to shape not only your own life, but other lives as well. You just need to embrace your ability to do so.
About The Author
Zamil Solanki works with healthpreneurs — from individuals to large multinational organisations — to help them overcome unique challenges and achieve their goals through curated training programs and tailored holistic solutions. Unlike other coaches and consultants, we pair global research and techniques with our own experiences, having grown our own pharmacy by $4 million and exiting it for 3x the industry average multiple.
To do this, we focus holistically, using five key pillars: mindset, planning, leadership, marketing and sales and specialising in workflow, innovation, automation and systems.