Suck it up, be a man, deal with it, grin and bear it, push through it, take it like a man, take one for the team, buck up, face the music, knuckle up, man-up.
These are the things pretty much all boys hear while growing up. Either from their parents, siblings, friends, movies, or games. There is this idea that has been around since who knows when that boys, men, guys in general should just deal with something, such as pain or misfortune, without complaining. The thought that emotions are only for women and to express yourself emotionally as a man somehow magically knocks you down a peg and requires you to turn in your man-card.
I wish it was easier for me to talk about my feelings. I think it gets easier with time but it should never have been difficult in the first place. “Toughen up and wipe away those tears” may not have been the best approach for dealing with a young boy’s display of emotion. But it’s ingrained in me to bottle it up, to hide my feelings, and to keep a strong poker face. “I’m fine” and “nothing is wrong” are statements that mask what me and probably many other men are really feeling. We’re afraid to be open and vulnerable with our friends and family, so we play it cool. But in reality it’s not cool and we are dying inside just struggling to get out the words. Nobody realizes anything different, and life goes on.
Unlike other men that may have a partner that needs them to be strong, to never show emotion, or be that protector/provider that is romanticized so often, I am lucky to have a wife that actively engages me to talk about my emotions, and even then it is still so hard because of how I was brought up. She’s cracking me though, it’s a hard shell but she has not ever given up and I love her so much for that. She knows these walls exist and she is so patient in allowing me to take small steps in opening up.
Now with a son of my own I am doing everything I can do not fall into this same pattern. Letting my son talk about his feelings and not shutting him down. He is such a sweetheart, so I think we are doing a good job. I suppose we will find out later on down the road.
It’s not about machismo. It’s about the training every man has received from the age of 12. That is about the time when young boys start to realize that our worth is no longer tied to our existence but to our sacrifice. As we go through our teen years, the narrative of male disposability inundates our very being. Those messages flood every aspect of the media we are exposed to. From the movies and TV we watch which extolled the virtue of heroic sacrifice, to the social pressures we face to relegate our own safety as secondary to that of the women around us.
We are trained that stoicism is the only acceptable emotion. That showing vulnerability is shameful. Not because a man who does so is lesser but because it is viewed as attempting to claim inherent worth. A man who dares to show emotion is seen as trying to rise above his station.Jesus_marley (source)
Being strong when all I want is a hug and to break down and cry is a battle I have been facing for months. It’s difficult, with a cracking voice I try to get out the words but only excuse myself to escape the situation. Then I bottle it up and bury it deep inside, knowing that’s not the best way to handle these emotions, but it’s all I know. Since my mother’s death the shell that my wife has started to crack has opened up a lot. This time last year I would have never written a post like this, but so much has changed in just a years time.
Stoicism has it’s place, it’s a great personality trait to have when it comes to being a leader or when it’s time to be brave, but it is only a tool to hide emotion, and it’s how we use these tools that can determine how our mental well-being is cared for.
Here are some resources you can check out if you’re needing some help with your mental health.