"Suck it up and be a man"-- A critique of masculinity
Admitting that you want help can be challenging. This is especially the case for male-identified individuals, many of whom are told from a young age to “suck it up and be a man”.
A so-called “man” in this case, is someone who does not cry when he feels pain; he simply takes a blow and keeps moving. These values of stoicism and strength originate in the concept of masculinity and are transmitted to boys from a young age through parents and mainstream media. While many of these traits are desirable for the modern male, some of them limit and control the ways in which men express emotions and ask for help.
Research suggests that men are less likely to express emotions such as fear and sadness, and are more likely to display aggressive behavior. Many people believe that aggressive behavior is due to the male hormone testosterone, but science tells us that socialization, or the way boys are treated, significantly impacts their behavior.
When male-identified children look to role models in mainstream media, they see strong men in capes that hide their feelings and true identity. They may play with buff GI Joes and digital monsters that are the physical embodiment of armor, something that creates protection from the outside world and simultaneously holds captive inner feelings and emotions that are no longer allowed to escape.
This culture of masculinity makes crying and vulnerability appear weak and feminine, and makes it more unlikely for men to seek therapy. However, therapy and psychological services are extremely beneficial for these exact reasons.
Therapy is often a process of getting in touch with your emotions and removing the layers of armor. Layer by layer, men can learn to feel again. They can connect to deep-seeded emotions that they haven’t felt in years, and in doing so, can learn more about themselves and their behaviors.
Through this process of connecting to their feelings, male identified individuals can begin to make sense of their role in relationships and the feelings that they typically strive to ignore. Increasing their self-awareness in this way allows men to build a stronger foundation from which they can grow into the man that they aspire to be.
Without spending time in their emotional basement, men lack the connection to their true depths and therefore have to expend more energy in order to present the toughness and confidence that comes naturally with knowing yourself.
Engaging in therapy and connecting with your emotions isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, courage, and determination. And those traits, in my opinion, are the values that “real men” need today.