Men need to realize that they are human. Men need to realize that it is acceptable to feel sad, overwhelmed and at a loss as to what to do. They need to understand that this does not make them weak. It does not make them any less a man. In fact it shows their strength. Because it takes guts to admit that you are not ok. It takes courage
to reach out and say, "I need help.”
And it takes balls to do something about it.
You arrive home from work tired and stressed and wanting nothing more than a warm bath, glass of wine and quiet. Instead you are greeted by a sullen husband, screaming kids and a dog that feels like he hasn't seen you in months. Your husband calmly listens as you describe your day - in detail. He grunts a few times in response and you suddenly feel like he is upset with you. You asked the question that every man dreads and very few actually answer, “what’s wrong with you?"
You get the standard answer of "I'm Fine" and he walks away. You spend the rest of the evening worrying it over in your mind. The, is-he-angry-doesn't-love-me-anymore-I've-done-something-wrong litany goes in circles in your exhausted head and you get frustrated and sad. The next day you reach out to your best friend and talk to her about it. When you get home the next afternoon you sit him down and demand he tell you what's wrong. He gives you an angry response of nothing, tells you that if you keep asking him "what's wrong" - something will be wrong. The conversation goes downhill from there and you both retreat. You feel like he is hiding something.
He knows he is hiding something. But, it's not even close to what you are thinking. He is hiding the simple fact that he is sad. That he is overwhelmed with the stress of life and he doesn't know what to do. He loves you with everything he has. He loves his family and would do anything for them. Except for reasons he can't put his finger on - he feels like his is failing. At being a good husband, a good father, a good provider and a good man. He is facing a slew of emotions that to him are unmanly. They make him feel weak and that in turn makes him angry. Not at you. Not at the kids or the dog. Not really at the guy going the speed limit in front of him. Anger is a manly emotion. It is an accepted emotion for a guy. A man knows that tears, sadness and depression are something he can never admit to. Never show. Not to you, not to his friends and most of all, not to himself.
Over the past couple of weeks I have received four messages from four different men, each coming from different parts of the country, different backgrounds and different living situations. Two were married, one was living with his girlfriend, and one was single. All of them feeling worthless, lost, depressed, and overwhelmed. None of them knew what to do. They felt like they couldn't talk to their wives, friends or family. They were angry, alone and confused. They felt isolated because men are supposed to be strong, confident and good providers. Each admitted that their anger was out of control and one had been contemplating suicide. In communicating with these guys I realized something. How much pressure men are under. From society, from other men, but mostly, from themselves.
We all know the stereotypes. Women are talkers, women are emotional beings and it is perfectly acceptable to cry whenever they need the released. Society expects it, is ok with it and finds nothing wrong when a woman shows her feelings. On the other hand, men are not talkers. Men are doers, they are stoic creatures, and they are strong. They are the protectors, the providers and are for the most part, emotionless. They can be happy for that is accepted. They can show anger and dominance for that is accepted too. Men are programmed from childhood - be tough, don't cry, never show weakness and appearance is everything. If they fail at any of this - well then they are weak.
So they bottle up their emotions. Push them down to the dark recesses of their soul and ignore them. But, over time these emotions build up. Stress triggers health issues, they pull away from loved ones, they work insane hours, and accuse their wives/girlfriends of not loving them anymore. Instead of talking about what they are feeling, they project their emotions onto to those closest to them. The kids get the anger; the wife gets shut out and yelled at. They feel like everyone around them sees exactly what they are hiding and thinks less of them.
They feel isolated and simply, not good enough.
In the US men are four times more likely than women to contemplate suicide. Many men get so overwhelmed with social problems - being out of work, not making enough money, feeling like they are not a good provider, that it builds up and up and they really have no outlet for what they are feeling. Everyone knows that life can be stressful, overwhelming and completely unfathomable at times. But this is especially true if one does not have a way to get it out of themselves. To talk about it, identify what exactly they are feeling and own their emotions.
Men need to realize that they are human. Men need to realize that it is acceptable to feel sad, overwhelmed and at a loss as to what to do. They need to understand that this does not make them weak. It does not make them any less a man. In fact it shows their strength. Because it takes guts to admit that you are not ok. It takes courage to reach out and say, "I need help.” And it takes balls to do something about it.
Men also need to realize that they are not alone in this. That at some point in every man’s life feelings of inadequacy and weakness have arisen. That at some point every other man on this planet has been where they are now and there are so many there right now.
They need to realize that the only way they will become a failure, to their families, to their children and most importantly to themselves - is if they continue to do nothing.
Secrets out, men have emotions We must support them and listen to them, just as we want them to listen to us. We must not belittle their emotions and try to understand them. Which honestly, is more often than not harder then understanding women's emotions.
Men... Own your life.
You will be better and stronger for it. Promise.
But do something and never, ever, give up.
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