This article stems from me spending time browsing through the comment threads of articles I have posted, that contain (as most do) some degree of insight into my feelings, worries and emotions.
When I sit back and mentally collate any common themes or recurring thoughts in the responses, one quite concerning opinion has become very apparent.
Although very supportive and humbling, numerous comments express gratitude and praise for my seemingly rare ability (for a male) to have deep, meaningful, self analytical thoughts and feelings.
And as much as I like praise being heaped on me like any other person, this also pisses me off.
At what stage in human evolution did it become majority opinion that men don’t think beyond the practical and basic? Why is it assumed that we don’t have fears, worries, emotional issues, self-esteem problems? That we don’t stress and lay awake at night wondering if we are doing life right?
This very issue is a cornerstone of the disturbing and growing problem of mens mental illness in our beautiful country.
It is a paradoxical world that the modern man traverses today. We have been raised to be tough, to not bare our hearts, to be resilient and strong at all costs. But we also now live in an age where it is expected that we be in touch with our emotions, that we speak our honest minds, be open and real.
And this is unfortunately perpetuated, albeit between the lines most of the time, by both the male and female of the species. Us males shoot ourselves in the foot at any given chance by acting and speaking like the Neanderthals we are trying to distance ourselves from, but ask most women what goes on in a man’s head and they’ll likely respond with “sex, beer and sport” or something similar. Which in women’s defence we perpetuate as not to appear un-manly. Add to this mass media and how “men” are portrayed and we find ourselves trying to emulate a ridiculous archaic stereotype that only Hollywood could make work. Which simply isn’t possible.
Believe it or not, and back me up here fellow men reading along, but as I mentioned earlier, we too over think everything. We worry, stress, self-loathe, self criticise, fear things and have self confidence issues up there with the best of them. And yes, we even struggle with our emotions. We get sad. We get angry. We get irritated and lash out. We cry, panic and get anxious. We experience everything that women do.
Male, female. We are all human beings. We are not that different yet very different in so many ways.
In my opinion a most glaring difference is our fear of talking, being, acting and behaving true to our nature.
I for one am superbly guilty of this. Catch up with me for a chat and you’ll find someone that speaks and acts vastly different to the words I write. I can’t help it. I’m not wired to talk face to face about my feelings and emotions. Or maybe I simply can’t break free of my assumed social expectation of what a man should be. I’ve tried, but I am always incredibly uncomfortable in doing so. What’s more, I firmly believe that I am pretty indicative of the average Aussie bloke. Scary to think isn’t it. So many guys unable to express themselves adequately in person.
What are we to do? Is it right to deny our true selves and permanently act like all we care about is getting pissed and watching the footy while shagging and eating pizza? Or do we bow to our neurotic tendencies and all become that whining cry baby soft cock we fear being known as above all else?
There is a middle ground I know, but a large part of the problem is expectation. Self and social. What the hell do we, and everyone, want from us?
Now I realise that I am drawing pretty broad strokes here so there’s no need for any tirades of abuse. My intention is to bring attention (sounds like a sweet start to a rap song!) to the unconscious, ingrained pattern of stereotyping what it means to be a man.
I know there is concerted effort in the community aimed at breaking down these stereotypes, but unless we all make a personal mental shift, it basically amounts to fuck all.
It’s not about us guys all getting together, drinking chai, having group hugs, crying and howling at the moon (although that might work for some). It’s not about “empowering” men to feel ok about being open about themselves. It’s about changing our core beliefs, both women and men, from one of assumption and judgement, to one of acceptance and compassion.
We are all in this together. We are all conscious beings who are fumbling our way through this finite life trying to do the best we can. We all experience the same pressures, feelings and emotions.
And the best thing we can all do to help, is to simply remember this.