When you see a guy struggling, often the first reaction is to tell them to get over it and move on, it’s ingrained in us. “Guys can’t feel this way. That’s not how they are supposed to be.”
“Suck it up.”
Just yesterday this happened to me. I immediately reacted and said, “there’s no way you can stay like this, come on now!” I started giving examples when suddenly…
I stopped myself.
Everyday incredibly strong men, both young and old go through doubt and pain. They feel something is off and the only way they can describe it is by saying something isn’t working. They avoid the world, yes some are brave enough to recognize the experience is the opposite of being strong.. something feels broken. The pressure to be successful, powerful and in control feels like a far reach for many of our guys and it looks like a magical idealism, living the up to the pressure for everything to be successful. Many guys give up, or they obsess trying. They just can’t see a way of getting there.
Something is wrong and standing up every day to face their fears is not acceptable. It goes against the guy code.
Men are not weak when they talk about their emotional and physical pain as intolerable. The worst part is that when it comes to being a guy pain is not allowed. It’s taboo! Many guys can’t fathom weakness, we build a facade around it, we create a sense of being a man for protection. Perhaps sometimes, we just see weakness as a place to toughen up.
But what if it is was something else? If you shifted this pattern of thinking?
They get better!
Why do we need to tell men in our lives that they have to be strong all the time? Why do men need to be reminded how to create a sense of “being a man?” As men, we struggle with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, isolation, even anger. We aren’t talking to men like any person deserves to be spoken to. Our adolescent males are living in at a time that the chains of masculinity are being challenged and there seems to be a void as to how one can identify their internal life. Is there such a thing as positive masculinity? Are we checking in with them? Is there a language and a support that is outside of the norms of toughening up? When we don’t find these things, we ignore the signs. We are doing everything we can to help them succeed and yet missing all the points. Since when did self control equal success which then equals happiness? Can that be overdone in our world?
I have to admit the old-school way doesn’t work anymore.
Being strong all the time doesn’t work!
What if being strong is a defense mechanism? We are learning about the countless college kids that are coming home. The need for building skills around making friends, emotions, and social dynamics. Learning to build a relationship with academics and learning for life not always trying to understand that body and food has to be over-controlled. Learning limits and how to handle sadness and anxiety. Understanding mood instability can be regulated. Imagine being able to create a sense of stability and internal trust when everyone else seems to be fine. If the guys in our lives can’t do this, there must be something wrong with them. These common occurrences are easily challenged. But being just “strong” isn’t going to answer the problem.
Mental Health Concerns in Men is Increasing Because:
- There’s pressure to “man up” or be a man in a new environment, leaving you to have to figure it out on your own.
- Medical professionals ignore isolation and anxiety as a signs of struggle. In fact, they don’t even ask!
- Being a man is just “understood” and behavior is expected.
- Strength and masculinity is associated in contradictory ways. If you don’t have muscles you may not be seen as a “man” and yet on the other side of the spectrum, if you do have muscles then you can’t have emotions.
- Magazines such as Mens Health and GQ are teaching our kids to cut the fat, intensify exercise, adhere to strict meal protocols and when a male can’t meet these impossible demands, they feel compromised.
- Emotions mean you are weak, you should not share.
- Creativity, expression, softness – all are not characteristic of being masculine.
- Being a “Man” feels as though you have to always be a leader.