People always find it easier to categorize things in life to help them create a sense of order. This is especially true of things they don’t completely understand. To make sense of the world around us can be difficult at times, but dealing with confusion and fear from what is unknown to us can be more difficult. While our natural inclination is to define and label things, people, and experiences, often we do so as a simplification to more complex realities.
One of the biggest categories we define (and that’s been defined for us since our birth) is gender. We’re taught to believe that men and women are supposed to be certain things and act certain ways, and if we fail to live up to these social standards of behavior, then we are less than the sum of our parts. Many men believe that in order to be masculine, they shouldn’t show emotion.
But this is incorrect thinking. It’s okay for men to be emotional.
The Human Experience
The fact is, as human beings, we experience emotion – whether we show it or not. Men may not want to cry in public, but they feel perfectly fine flying off the handle watching their favorite sports team in a hotly contested game. That’s an outward expression of emotion. What makes this different from experiencing a reaction to a poignant scene in a movie?
Furthermore, as we’re taught as children to behave a certain way according to our gender roles, we grow up and teach our own youth the same behaviors. The age of the strong, stoic male has led to men becoming emotionally distant from people and the world around them. Most violent and sexual crimes are committed by men. From terrorists to school shooters, men have been embattled with ideas about right and wrong when it comes to the inner versus social self.
The Effects of Denial
When generation after generation perpetuates the idea that men shouldn’t be emotional, there’s an internal struggle that has more consequences that carry more weight than just propagating gender stereotypes. Here are some statistics to consider:
- Suicide is the biggest cause of death for men under 25.
- 76% of suicides are male suicides.
- Men are more likely to become dependent on drugs and alcohol. For alcohol, men are nearly three times more likely to become dependent on it than women.
- Men are less likely to access psychological therapies.
- Men have significantly much lower life satisfaction than women.
- 73% of adults who go missing are men.
Ask yourself why – why is this true about men? Likely, the truth is more complex than this blog could do justice. But a lot of it stems from depression, which runs quite deep when men struggle internally to define their true selves as human beings. Men are often told to “man up” or “take it like a man” when they experience loss or sadness. But what does any of that really mean? It sounds like a suggestion to remove one’s self from any appearance of humanity.
Suppressing feelings comes with long-term cognitive and emotional damage. Internalizing any emotion can lead to psychological problems that, when left unaddressed, have the potential to become fatal. Men seem to be afraid of losing their sense of masculinity when expressing sensitivity; afraid that this will make them undesirable to women, in jobs, and as role models. They often see it as a loss of power.
While these may be topics for another blog, the fact still remains that harboring inner turmoil is destructive. And fostering a wide range of emotions can come with significant advantages. Don’t be afraid – it’s okay for men to be emotional.