Sound familiar? Given its the way that most boys are lead into adulthood by their fathers, grandfathers or elder bothers its hardly surprising that men see crying (or expressing their feelings) as a shortcoming.
The overriding truth is men do get emotional, and surprisingly they show it very openly, but perhaps not in the most obvious way.
Picture the average football ground at 3pm on a Saturday, or given the hold cable TV has on football, anywhere between midday and 7pm on a Sunday afternoon. The crowds are showing the full spectrum of emotion, from joy to sadness, happiness to anger.
The players themselves outwardly express their emotions. The mass huddles when a goal is scored, a tap on the butt when a good pass is made, or when the goalkeeper pulls off a file save. Anger when a decision is made against them. These are all the same emotions that the average male would encounter outside of the football stadium, yet the outward display is poles apart.
“Big boys don’t cry” and “take it like a man” are all too familiar phrases uttered to boys as they are growing up. Is it any wonder that men fail to display their emotions? Given most boys idolise their fathers, and never want to disappoint them, hearing these two phrases is enough to stop men feeling anything.
The stereotypical perceptions of masculinity are continually driven by TV, advertising. Real men playing the “hard men” is the norm. Except its not the norm. Like sex in the movies (and on TV), it is far from what most people experience in reality. These images generate unrealistic desires and fantasies that are scarcely achieved in the real world.
The macho images may well have served the movie industry well in the early 1900’s but they have no place today. The myth that men should be capable, strong, silent and emotionless is outdated and should be confined to the history books.
An ever increasing number of men have been identified with having a mental health issue. Almost 50% of men feel worried or low, with money, work and security being the most common factors.
Unfortunately the old fashioned image of men has contrived to make men hide these fears. It leaves them feeling stigmatised that they are weak. The become embarrassed and find it almost impossible to admit to anyone they are struggling. The size of their issues don’t seem to make any difference, and they will almost never seek help or assistance. they “put up” with things that should be dealt with before they spiral out of control, not wanting to be ridiculed for seeking help.
Sadly, they often start to display these issues via other means, excessive alcohol/drug use or violence & aggression. This then leads to a downward spiralling of events with regrettable outcomes.
As the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 is suicide, it is time that the misconception that big boys don’t cry needs to change, and change quickly. It is OK to talk. More importantly it is OK to listen and be supportive. Being there for your best mate just isn’t wading in when a bar room brawl erupts, it goes much deeper. Providing emotional support for your mates is far more important. Forget the “its not manly” to talk, providing emotional support is far more important than throwing the odd punch every now and then.
The sooner the perception of what it is to be a man changes the better. Far too many young men are taking their own lives. We need them to feel it is OK to reach out and seek help. Not make them feel a failure.
How would you feel if it was your son, brother, best mate who committed suicide and the last message they left you was “I just needed to talk but I was too scared to ask”!