Updated: Oct 30
“Toughen up”, “man up”, “strong and silent” is the narrative that men have been met with growing up forcing us away from having confidence in our actual personalities whilst moving us towards an ingrained idea of what it means to ‘be a man’. Whilst there is value in learning resilience as we move through life, we can realise the difference in suppressing confidence in our true selves. To make change, for the sake of our emotional wellbeing, it take conscious effort to identify and reshape these narratives.
Let’s look at a few of the classic narratives surrounding masculinity, and why we must rewrite the rulebook to inspire confidence.
Men Do(n't) Cry
As young children we are told “big boys don’t cry” when we fall over, or when something upsets us. As we move into adult life we see comic books such as The Sun publicly humiliate sportsmen and celebrities that we respect for crying at pivotal moments in their career. We are taught to morph sadness into anger, to change our natural instinct and suppress us from the cathartic release of tears.
No two men are the same, and perhaps there are some people out there who are genuinely able to see the positives in most challenges. This aside, now is the time to rethink our ‘go to’ emotion during sad moments. Processing sadness properly can help us to appreciate the richness or joyful moments in life.
Men do cry, we must cry if we want to - to have healthier conversations with our loved ones, to express sadness instead of anger, and to fundamentally communicate clearly. If you don’t believe me, check out the brand ‘Boys Get Sad Too’ where you can see that thousands of men have literally got the t-shirt.
Some of the strongest men I know cry of joy, cry in movies, or cry when they are sad. Crying is not owned by girls.
Men Can(’t) Open Up
"Opening up is one or the bravest things you can do”
Many people come to a time in their lives when they batter with some form of anxiety, depression or mental illness. This process is not black and white, it is confusing and hard to understand on your own. The ‘go-to’ response for many of the guys we have spoken to about their mental illness journeys have, at some point, felt that they can handle it on their own - they feel that for men, that is the only option.
In a recent conversation with Dr Nick Prior, Psychiatric Doctor and Co-founder of mental fitness resource Minderful, he said that “when we have a physical illness or an injury we know what to do. When we have a mental illness, our minds are thinking unclearly. That is exactly why we need to reach out for help.”
The first conversations about our feelings may be some of the hardest you have, just like many cuts hurt more before they get better. It will get easier.
Men Can(’t) Feel Insecure
Have you ever felt self conscious before you took your t-shirt off on the beach? We are projected what ’the perfect male physique’ looks like every time we open Instagram or pass a magazine in a supermarket. Freddie Flintoff stated the media’s torturous approach to his weight gain as one of the key reasons he has suffered through bulimia for over a decade.
In order to work through insecurities and find the value in our ‘flaws’ we must normalise these conversations. Finding out that someone else in the world feels the way that you do can be a huge weight off your shoulders. Start the conversation. You will find that many people feel that way that you do.
Men (Never) Change
Many people believe that a diagnoses of anger issues, depression, eating disorders and anxiety is essentially a life sentence. This is untrue. You can recover, fully, from mental illness with the right guidance. Equally, you do not have to have a serious mental illness or a diagnoses to make change. People spend their lives reading self awareness books, seeking understanding. Not because they are broken and need fixing, but because they are curious, open to learning, and open to happiness.
You Are(n’t) Worth It
Many people believe that they are not worthy of help - they believe that their challenge isn’t bad enough, or their feelings are not worth adding stress to the lives or their loved ones. In the wise words of every L’Oreal advert ever, you are worth it. The likelihood is that people close to you sense something is wrong but cannot put their finger on it, or that they would be upset to find out you didn’t feel you could open up. You can only have that first conversation once, after that you are practicing each time you open up. People dedicate their lives educating themselves to understand how they are best placed to help you. You don’t have to break down before you have therapy or seek help.
Your mental fitness is something that you should exercise in the same way that you exercise your body. Try it, even if you feel food, simply to inspire confidence and think about things differently.
Men Can(’t) Wear Wear That
We are allowed to wear fragrance, but not foundation? It’s ok to use shower gel, but not face wash? All lies. I have seen moisturiser with a hint of fake tan on many mates bathrooms. I have my own skincare routine that forms part of my self care routine in the morning. If a guy has a blemish, why shouldn’t he get to cover it up too? The limits that we have created for ourselves are being blurred, and it's about time too.
Anything that enables us to be confident in ourselves, without harming others, is ok with us.
What narrative would you like to rewrite? We would love to hear from you. DM us on Instagram.