Make It Stop: “My Dude Is Having A Rough Time And I Want To Encourage Him — But Without Sounding Like His Mommy”

The dude in my life is going through a rough time — career-wise, financially, etc. — and I think it’s starting to impact his sense of, like, manliness. I’m a super nurturing person and I really want to encourage him to keep at it and basically tell him I’m proud of him, but I know sometimes I can come off as a bit … maternal, and that probably won’t help matters with his macho dude provider issues. Do you have any suggestions for how to tell or show someone you’re proud of them without actually SAYING that?

Sometimes our family, friends, and significant others need a self-esteem boost every now and then. I understand your apprehension flat out tell him that you’re proud of him. It might come off as hollow. In his mind, he might spin it out to think, “What’s there to be proud of? I’m a big loser,” and it might have the unintended affect of making him feel worse about things when all you were trying to do was pump him up.

Make him feel like he’s earned your admiration, and you will have a more self-assured guy. It could help if you learn new skills together, not only so it will strengthen your bond, but so he can feel that he’s earned the compliments and it turn, it will restore his confidence in himself.

Think about what you love to do together and master it. Maybe you can decide to cook new cuisines. Always liked going out for Thai food but have never tried to cook it? Try it! Look up some recipes on the Internet, take a trip to the grocery store to source the items, and have some fun. Then you can be like, “You kicked ass on that tom yum soup, honey! Give me another bowl.” and he’ll feel great, which will accomplish the ultimate goal: to raise his self-esteem. Now he can add “incredible tom yom soup-maker” to the list of things he knows he’s good at.

Whenever I’m feeling down, I tackle a new skill. For instance, one lonely winter when I was hopelessly single and unhappy at work, I decided to learn how to cook all things breakfast. I queued up some YouTube videos and old Julia Child episodes and taught myself how to poach eggs, how to make insanely fluffy french toast (the key: baking the french toast for a few minutes in the oven after it’s off the griddle), and cranking out perfect omelets. Not only did it get me out of my funk, but now I’m a breakfast ninja who can wield eggs Benedict like ninja stars.

If your dude doesn’t feel manly, maybe there’s something he could focus on to jack his manliness meter back to “lumberjack gnawing on beef jerky while revving a Lamborghini.” Maybe you could encourage him to learn how to do some light home repairs, or maybe he could brush up on his barbecuing skills. If he loves sports, maybe he could join a fantasy league. I’m just spitballin’ here.

The point is that boosting self-esteem doesn’t have to be a solemn thing; it can be loads of fun. The key is to make him feel that he earned the compliments. Not only will he have satisfaction from engaging in the endeavor, but he will feel better about himself in the long run.

Make It Stop is a weekly column in which Anna Goldfarb — the blogger behind Shmitten Kitten and Shlooby Kitten — tells you what’s up. Want a fresh take on a stinky dilemma? Email [email protected] with the subject “Make It Stop.” She’ll make it all better, or at least make you laugh. Girl Scout’s honor.