In Part 1 of this essay (Oct. 8), I examined why it’s so hard for men to ask for help in a culture that we so often hear seems to favor men. It does, but at what cost?
I pointed out that, in a patriarchal culture like ours, men are also victims of patriarchy. The cost is men who are emotionally stunted as a result of being taught to suppress their emotions, and it’s an institutional problem.
Almost all of us were told at an early age, “boys don’t cry, be tough, man up, walk it off, don’t show your feelings, take it like a man.”
In this second part of the essay, I’ll briefly address what we can do to change the emotional landscape for men to ensure that we create healthier, happier and more inspiring men for the good of all of us, the men who will follow, and the planet we live on.
Not all men, of course, accept the role of retroactive masculinity. There are men who feel who feel perfectly comfortable with being emotionally vulnerable, perfectly capable of seeking help however the need may present itself, including talking about their feelings.
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Unfortunately, while norms are changing, it won’t happen overnight, as these norms are deeply embedded in our culture. It’s taken 50 years for the societal landscape to change for women when their womanhood was questioned when they began to pursue degrees and work outside the home.
Today, evolutionary imperatives are showing us that the emotional landscape for men needs to change. It requires that we make it okay for men to explore their inner landscapes; to make it okay for them know and manage feelings and how to effectively relate talking about them, and most importantly, how to ask for help and not be afraid of being emasculated.
So how do we go about making the changes that need to happen to create healthier, happy, and more inspiring men for the good of us all?
As parents, we must teach our boys to talk about their feelings starting at an early age, letting them know it’s okay to have them. Institutionally, we need school districts, teachers, coaches, and parents to consciously change the way they respond to our boys’ emotional vulnerability. We all need to take responsibility for changing this paradigm that doesn’t serve anyone, least of all, our boys and our future men.
Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. Asking for help, when you need it, helps make you a good and better man, and the world needs these men now more than ever.