February 2023

By Mike Shaw, Founder, Initiative for Performance Optimization & Self-Empowerment (iPOSE)


Man up! Originally a rally cry of American football players calling out a man-to-man defensive scheme, the term has evolved into a decree of masculinity when showing resilience in the face of adversity. I know this is gonna piss off a lot of pseudo tough guys, but I’m going to deconstruct the whole concept of “man up” Why? Not only do I find the term misogynistic, I think the concept can ultimately be damaging to the psyche of men. After all, I am a champion for all things related to men’s health, which extend way beyond teaching others how to attain ripped abs and strong pecs.

Let’s start with the most commonly accepted definition of the term from the Oxford English Dictionary; to “man up” is to “demonstrate toughness or courage when faced with a difficult situation.” Toughness and courage are admirable qualities for sure, but are they solely attributable to men? Have you ever seen a woman give birth? Or protect her family? Or perform heroically on the field of battle? This is 2023. Girls and women compete at the highest level athletically. They face adversity at school, in the workplace, at home, and socially.

In adopting the “man up” ethos, we have built a belief system that challenges our ability to recognize and honor our feelings of fear, sadness, emotional and physical pain, weakness, and anything else not connected to the most rudimentary definition of bravado. Where does this leave us? Depressed, unfulfilled, non-communicative, and unhealthy. To achieve balance and realize a life rooted in love, joy, and abundance we have to give ourselves over to the truth that we experience a full range of emotions. If we continue to swallow and suppress every emotion that doesn’t measure up to a Neanderthal definition of manly, then we are condemning ourselves to a life of disease and suffering.

Stress, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, etc. are all on the table. Each time we suppress our feelings, we deny ourselves a full, healthy experience. We deny ourselves the opportunity to learn coping mechanisms. We never illuminate our path to the place that allows us to seek answers to questions and experience real growth. Ultimately, this self-denial chips away at our esteem and tells us that we are not worthy. If at our core we feel unworthy, why would we go to the gym, or eat healthily, or meditate, or be open to learn? We wouldn’t. Sure, we may make attempts to start something new that will eventually fall by the wayside, but who can blame us for quitting when our subconscious has been trained and conditioned to tell us we are not worth the effort?

The good news is, we can start correcting this today. All we have to do is take that first step. Don’t get bogged down with looking for the finish line. Enjoy the scenery that comes with each new step. Here’s a conceptual prescription for recognizing your stressors, honoring them, and ultimately facing them and building the true strength that neutralizes them and empowers you to operate in abundance and positivity.

Belief Release Exercise

I want you to pair a physical exercise or challenge with a stress, problem or belief that has been weighing on you. Create a symbol that represents your stress, problem or belief. You will carry this symbol during the exercise. The symbol can be anything from a piece of paper with the belief written on it, to a photograph or a memento. Prior to engaging in the physical exercise, spend 30 minutes of focused meditation with your chosen issue. Upon completion of your meditation, awaken your positive energy with a splash of cold water on your face and begin your exercise. Allow your subconscious mind to speak to you while you’re exercising. If you don’t “hear” anything, it’s okay. We spend years burying these thoughts and feelings. It may take some time to bring them to the surface. It may take a day, or it may take ten, but you will have your epiphany.

When you do, discard the symbol you’ve been carrying. Burn it, crush it, bury it in the ground, or simply throw it in the garbage. You’ll know you’re ready because you will feel the freedom of moving forward without it.

There are many psychological benefits that come along with physical exercise:

  • Improved Mood
  • Reduced Stress
  • Improved Coping with Stress
  • Improved Self-Esteem
  • Pride in Physical Accomplishments
  • Increased Self-Satisfaction
  • Improved Body Image
  • Increased Energy
  • Increased Confidence
  • Decreased Symptoms of Depression

Sample Exercise Scenario

To shed your stress, problem, or belief you must walk to the top of a steep hill. Once there you may set your belief down and leave it forever. Walk for 45-90 minutes. You may complete this journey on an uphill hiking path or on a treadmill set to 5% incline. Feel free to indulge in a celebratory ritual at the top of the hill. (Think of the scene from ‘Rocky’ as he shed his self-doubt by sprinting up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and danced victoriously.)


Michael Shaw is the founder of iPOSE, the Initiative for Performance Optimization and Self-Empowerment. Michael specializes in improving his clients quality of life through Guided Introspection, Highly Intuitive Language & Listening (HILL), Self, Process and Influence Mastery, and superior Fitness and Nutrition Programming. In addition to adults, Michael works with teenagers and young adults to help them build healthy self-images, life skills, and strong bodies. For more tips on reaching your physical and emotional peak performance, or to inquire about working with Michael, please contact him at