Editor’s note: This article contains a mention of suicide.
Ernest Hemingway, a writer during the 1920s-50s once said: “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”
Men are raised from a young age with the image of the ideal man. An adult that is ambitious, competitive, and stoic.
Parents play an enormous role in fostering these aspects in their child whether it be a father acting as a role model or the age-old phrases, such as “men don’t cry” and “stop acting like a girl.”
Society’s views of men only stress this even further. From many millennia ago when humans were in tribes as hunter-gatherers to the age of kings and emperors and to now, traditional masculine values have become ingrained in society.
Thus, a vicious cycle is born where expressing emotion and femininity is ridiculed among men and that mentality is passed deeper and deeper with each following generation.
Therefore, traditional male gender roles are detrimental to you, me and all other boys out there. The inability to be vulnerable and put your heart out on display locks you in a cage with just yourself and your emotions.
There are people that want to help you, but you’re just too scared to try. Why should this fear even exist in the first place?
That gender norm was a byproduct of an older society and we as the modern generation must realize that to be traditional, does not mean that it is right. We must adapt and create support for those boys going through that exact same thing by normalizing the conversation of our feelings and eliminating the scorn for it.
A male’s comfortability in speaking about their emotions should be our own choice and not be dictated by the society that forces people to conform to its will because of the higher rate of fatal suicides, the more likely chance to emotionally isolate themselves, and greater difficulty in dispelling stress.
The single difference of being comfortable in speaking one’s emotions creates the enormous ramification of a higher rate of fatal suicides among men.
A 2013 study by the 2013 study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that “people who bottled up their emotions increased their chance of premature death from all causes by more than 30%, with their risk of being diagnosed with cancer increasing by 70%,” as written in a Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia Health Agenda article.
The mere act of “sucking it up” can create a whole slew of health complications for everybody and to go past its physical effects, there are even distressing mental tolls on one’s self-esteem and anxiety levels. And the only way to combat this issue is to take it head-on and open yourself up.
The process needs to be streamlined especially for men that have the expectation of themselves to adhere to society’s ideal image. The reason for this is that all men are less likely to see therapists and other mental health practitioners for support as according to Healthy Debate, only 35% see a doctor before committing suicide unlike the 58% of women that do.
That disparity only highlights the harmful nature of the fear of being seen as a lesser man. The act of seeing a therapist can genuinely help and significantly decrease the chance of repeated suicide attempts. The socially constructed restriction hampers any progress towards reverting back to a healthier mindset.
According to Very Well Mind, a study on the difference in suicide between sexes found men have a greater resolve to use more fatal means to die by suicide than women based on the fact that they are more likely to shoot themselves in the head.
Due to an unbearable determination, this must indicate that the reason for the despair must have left them without any hope of improvement.
Maybe that hope won’t come internally, but through a conversation about that reason, males can receive the motivation externally and start a journey to reconstruct their life.
However, their relationships and environment can counteract the steps to restoration.
At a social level, male gender norms continue to deteriorate the lives of men and boys through the greater likelihood to emotionally isolate themselves.
According to Good Therapy, British research found 1 in 8 male Britons have no close friends and just 51% have two or fewer close friends.
Common among men are relationships founded on the basis of activities and acting as a group, but these do not create meaningful, singular friendships. Stacked upon the disdain for speaking about one’s emotions between males, which could foster profound connections by invoking empathy, young men are at a loss.
In addition to generating friendships, the sharing of sentiments can feedback into relationships and make them into stronger bonds that could last a lifetime leading to turnover from the collected data.
According to the New York Times, the matter is further worsened by the manner in which boys are taught to view male-to-male camaraderie in that an extensive social network facilitates a competition defined by who is closer to being the “ideal” man.
The limited emotional interaction that occurs is overshadowed by friends attempting to not appear as vulnerable to one another despite a friendship encompassing that vulnerability. Companionship is a link that should allow people to take the good with the bad and support people whether they are at a high or low.
However, that idea is sullied and bastardized by a lack of empathy and gender stigmas that created that competition in the first place.
For the third reason as to why engaging emotionally as a man should be second nature, there is the difference of ability to destress between sexes.
Data from the American Psychological Association has revealed that more women are able to manage their stress and even more recognize its importance.
A line between the discrepancy and gender norms can then be drawn. The aforementioned conversation of emotions would directly contribute to the gap because a lack of comfortability to perform that action would drain men of one of the best methods of relieving stress.
Moreover, the fact that comparatively fewer men believe that dealing with stress is important, continues to correlate with the destructive nature of male gender norms in that men are subsequently taught to be stoic and unexpressive with the issues that they experience.
According to a 2005 WebMD article, men often deal with that strain by relying on group activities including sports such as golf, but in doing so they often do not take the time out to actively speak about their feelings and problems.
Indulging in enjoyable hobbies, while it succeeds in its purpose in reducing stress, it is merely a distraction that grants the mind time to rest. Unlike simply divulging into one’s hardships with a listening friend, activities do not give the same emotional support that the care of a friend who understands would be able to give.
Additionally, hobbies can take a large amount of time to exhaust frustrations and those types of conversations can be a great opportunity for development within the friendship.
In spite of this, others claim that the concepts of stoicism and emotional suppression do create better and more successful men.
One such example is that men who cry when they are at work or receive negative feedback based on their performance are then seen by their peers to be less effective workers and have less potential to rise within the company.
In the pursuit of a better life, men should close themselves off in order to not harm their chances. Within a world of a rising living cost and stagnant wages, a smaller chance at that successful future could prove to be the end of their life within that economic standing leading to an even worse spiral downwards into despair.
Other supporting information includes that some young, adult males report having been ridiculed within their social network for not being manly. Through the mocking, the mentality of not showing any vulnerability can then be cultivated to which it can be applied to when they join the labor force and not face the same discrimination in the previously mentioned evidence. In addition, the idea can teach grit where the trait can be useful in dealing with harsh times and create the unwillingness to back down.
Although being impassive can have its benefits, its long-term effects cannot be ignored due to suppression acting as only a short-term solution to heavy issues that unfortunately also bring long-term health concerns and only worsen the mental toll.
Kristalyn Salters mentioned that locking up emotions is not the same as managing them, it only hides them away and stockpiles it until you eventually explode.
An emotional outburst could lead to horrible situations with the people around you. Friendships could be lost and the bond between family can be torn. With the hope of suppressing the outburst even more, drugs and alcohol may even come into play leading to more serious conflicts.
Regarding one’s health, the subduing of feelings could lead to a multitude of diseases like cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure. Consequently, suppression can lead to death and in comparison to its alternative of speaking about one’s emotions with others, the effects are appalling.
The choice for men to safely speak about their emotions should be their right without ridicule because when compared to women, they have a higher number of fatal suicides, are more likely to isolate themselves at an emotional level, and have a harder time dealing with stress.
Despite claims that the suppressive element of male gender norms can produce more successful men, they can instead lead to worse issues of health problems and a growing mental strain.
Therefore, everybody, whether you are female or male, should let that boy or man know that you are there for them. Also, pulling the conversation out from them to let them realize that someone does care about their feelings and emotionless facade doesn’t have to be upheld for anybody especially for a reason that only seeks to harm them.