Men Don't Talk...And It's Killing Us
I want to talk about something important, the fear of talking. Being a man, it’s something that I personally experience every day in some way, whether I’m dealing with it myself, or witnessing it in other men.
Now, I don’t just mean talking in the general sense. If anything men talk too much. We talk too much about sports, achievements, cars, gadgets, and just about anything but ourselves.
Think about it. When’s the last time you saw a man, especially with another man, having a conversation about anything deeply personal and hard that they’re going through? It doesn’t happen often.
As a therapist, one of the hardest questions I can ask a male client is “…and how does that make you feel?”
Talking about yourself, not your work, or family, or likes, or hobbies, but about emotions, struggles, losses, and other hard topics is not an easy thing for a man to do…initially.
See, one thing about this fear of talking; it’s learned.
There are certain messages that are told to men from a very early age. They’re things like “man-up”, “toughen up,” “be a man,” “don’t cry,” “take charge.” I’m sure any man reading this right now who grew up in America can think back to a time they’ve heard these messages.
See, they’re all part of this concept of “Masculinity.” It’s a category of traits, different in specifics for everyone, but generally the same, that men across the nation are placed in. It’s what we judge ourselves by.
The fear of talking about true, deeply personal things is, in actuality, the fear of finding out you’re not a real man. It’s the fear that you don’t measure up to this proverbial yardstick of traits, and that something is inherently wrong with you, and you’ll be exposed.
In reality, our own thoughts and emotions are reflecting a dichotomy present in our American society where the two categories of “masculine” and “feminine” are perceived to be opposites of each other. Where there is this automatic assumption that if a trait is not solely masculine, then it is feminine by default, and vice versa.
An example from Man Enough’s video “Why Men Don’t Talk” is thinking of what people call a girl who likes sports and playing in the mud; a “tom-boy,” which in and of itself is not perceived as necessarily negative, given that it is associated with masculinity. Now think of the many things that people call a boy who likes easy-bake ovens; “queer,” “gay,” “sissy,” etc.
So why does this happen? It has to do with a number of factors, but primarily the societal and direct messages people receive from a very young age. Because of this, boys and men are ostracized from groups of other boys or men, many times, because of a perception based on biases against these “feminine” traits. This is perpetuated by the bias of masculinity to be above femininity (a whole other issue that I’m not going to get into detail with here).
The fear of being ostracized or found out to be “lesser-than” is, many times, the primary drive for not talking and opening up about real and personal things.
The important thing to realize today, for men, is that these fears are largely unfounded and based on incorrect assumptions about the world and humanity. What happens when men start to open up to other men is a realization that we have shared struggles and shared fears. Opening up brings community.
Once a man realizes that masculinity is not dependent on always being in charge, stoic, dominant, and put-together, the man experiences the freedom to embrace his humanity instead of striving for the social construct of “masculinity.”
When it comes down to it, the striving to be “masculine,” or be a “real man” is a striving to please someone else’s ideals. To align with a society that has no real interest in our well-being. True masculinity is found by embracing the fact that we’re all human, and all have things we struggle with.
The national suicide rates overall are on the rise. It’s the second leading cause of death for people in the US between 10-34 years old, and the 10th leading cause of death overall, according to the CDC. The CDC data also shows that the suicide rate for men in the USA is 3-6 times higher than that of women!
Men, not talking is not only robbing us of a more balanced and accurate sense of self, but it is actually killing us!
Instead of struggling alone in silence and isolation, wouldn’t it be better to share with other men and find strength, guidance, and sometimes help with those things we struggle with most?
If you’re tired of struggling alone, and need someone to talk to, reach out to someone. There are opportunities to connect with other men, groups, and professionals. A good place to start for peer support is Evryman.com which facilitates men’s groups across the nation. For more content on male issues, check out wearemanenough.com.
If you’re in need of a more professional type of support, or are struggling with things like depression or anxiety or body image, there are a number of online therapist directories out there. Two of my favorite are goodtherapy.org and psychologytoday.com.
If you’re in the Central Arkansas area and would like to work with me, you can schedule a 15-minute free consultation HERE, or just click on the contact link at the top of this page.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the national suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.