Men, those who struggle with expressing their feelings openly for fear of ridicule, appearing weak, their sexuality being brought into question or seen as a moaner. How do we break these stereotypes and show that the only true strong people are not the ones who keep quiet and keep their problems to themselves but the ones that speak out are the ones who are strong by acknowledging something isn’t right?
To make more men talk about their feelings is hard. Is society & marketing to blame ?
When growing up as a young boy a lot of our toys tend to be non conducive to expressing feeling. Super hero toys, army soldiers, scaletrix and a football were my main toys all of which lead towards power, a competitive nature and being the best or alpha male.
Girls toys, on the other hand, tend to help develop care, compassion and emotion. Looking after dolls, dressing barbie dolls and making sure their hair is nice and also expressing themselves through dancing, singing and art.
There has been a definite distinction between how the markets and society has deemed both boys and girls and how they should act.
Pink and blue, one or the other, black or white and it can causes problems for a lot of people to express themselves as children become young adults.
Teenage years , male strength & competition characteristics reinforced
As boys move into puberty and they become aware of the opposite sex as well as competing for the highest grades at school the male characteristics of being strong, more competitive and ‘the best’ is further enhanced as the boys with the highest grades feel great and the ones who fail feel inadequate but don’t tend to express their dissatisfaction as this becomes a trait for teenagers as they move into adulthood.
Adult Males , men of steel or men of hiding the truth?
As we progress from school to the work environment it could be said that a lot of us have well and truly been conditioned to act a certain way to be ‘accepted’ within society.
Men must be strong for their family and those they care about and rarely show pain or dissatisfaction with their life for fear of ridicule or adding more pressure to those they care about.
Every male, whether they like to admit it or not, want to be superheros.
Why is James Bond such a successful brand? Superhero‘s don’t add pressure to the people they are meant to save he just makes their life better and is swarve and charming ensuring they always get what they want and are always perfect in every way.
James Bond is everything that is wrong with society’s perception of the modern man. Having all the material wealth, confidence, the women, the job and the strength. Never one to break under pressure even if tortured, that is what a great man should be?
Even the music industry portrays the stereotypical man with lyrics like
‘…he’s got to be strong, and he’s got to be smooth and he has got to be larger than life.’
Battle of Mind 1st week launch & demographic insight
I have been promoting the new website on Facebook in the hope of reaching out to people that need help, guidance and lifting up and through advertising for a week I have discovered something very, very interesting.
Of all the likes 82% of the 400 likes are female , leaving only 18% men. 1 in 4 of the fans on my Facebook page are men.
Is this symbolic of world’s society and struggling in silence, hiding emotional and mental pain in fear of ridicule, inadequacy or juxtaposition of what a man ‘should be’ in the eyes of society.
It is concerning that the page likes aren’t more well balanced ( but thankyou to everyone who has liked it, I hope you are benefiting from it so far! ).
I will continue to promote mental wellbeing for all but we really must do more to help men come forward and we must stop the embarrassment that comes with the nature of speaking out about having any mental difficulty whether stress, emotive, trauma or addiction more must be done to change men’s way of thinking that suffering alone is more ‘manly’.
So how do we make more men talk about their feelings
A difficult question with no straightforward answer.
In my opinion this is what I believe needs to be done in order to help men come forward : –
- Ensure self expression through the arts from a young age ( painting,poetry,dance,singing,sculpture etc) is compulsory from kindergarten to graduation. We are great expressive people as children but tend to loose it as we grow older and become conditioned by a wanting to be accepted. Self expression is important to release emotion and if you don’t speak about it there needs to be another outlet and art IS great therapy.
- parents must be educated to encourage children to talk about how they feel from a young age.
- Making speaking out and seeking help a heroic act. Courageous, strong and powerful.
- Pin up women saying how they find men that know how to express themselves and in touch with their emotions sexy. It may seem ‘sexist’ but it could encourage some men to speak out as they will feel more desirable.
I believe what has helped me talk about how I have coped with my personal challenges and difficulties really is my keen interest and studies in the visual arts and also having a supportive family.
The arts, the key to unlock suffering alone?
In terms of art I was taught to observe the world in an alternative fashion developing concepts and philosophies of the world around me that someone else may not think about. It doesn’t matter what art you study you are unleashing your emotions on canvas, a musical instrument or through dance and it is liberating.
I am very fortunate as I do come from a very good home (which I left when I was 21 ) and it was probably down to my family background why I am probably still around to tell this tale to you today.
When I had my breakdown I didn’t say anything till I was at breaking point because I didn’t want to burden them with more worries than they already had to deal with and I was trying to ‘stay strong’ for them and my ex partner ( although she wasn’t so supportive of me whilst I became ill, thus why she is an ex).
I know if I had spoken out earlier it is possible that things wouldn’t probably have got as bad as they did and I may have been able to avoid my breakdown.
I kept all my problems within, I took the world upon my shoulders like hercules would have done but the world become too heavy for me.
We men need to speak more openly and be encouraged, I believe by women too, to lighten the load and know things can be better and that your feelings matter just as much as anyone else.
What else do you think we can do to make men speak out and make it feel less embarrassing and actually something worth doing?