re: MENtal health
I made a new friend today. She's a London-based mental well-being blogger and she inspired me to share my perspective on Mental Health from a more gender-driven perspective than some of my previous posts. This topic has been weighing heavy on my mind lately. You can (and should!) check out her site here and follow her on instagram at @becauseysheblogs.
Behind every great man is a great woman, right? Well, I don't really like what that implies. Women are so much more than supporting acts. Much of our society places expectations on men to be strong, dominating leaders and women to be the empathic, loving caretakers, but it's time to change that framework.
I got my BA in Communication Studies. The idea of masculine vs feminine communication styles and cultures was introduced in an interpersonal communication class. Something about this sat heavy in my gut. The cultures and communication styles that I viewed as healthier and happier were identified as feminine. Masculine traits like the need to dominate, being ego-driven, seeking powerful, and need for competition simply didn't seem like good things. It's like I was automatically on the team of villains. I don't want to be those things.
If you know me, you know I like to draw Star Wars parallels where ever I can... Obviously, I'd rather be a Jedi than a powerful Sith Lord. Not just because they're the good guys - I personally identify more with the Jedi value system. The Jedi encompass more of the feminine communication characteristics and values The Sith derive their power from fear, anger and manipulation.
Women are more open than men in talking about emotional wellness matters publicly. I've noticed my female friends are more likely to leave public comments on emotional feely social media posts, while male friends might opt to privately message or show support in a more subtle way. Support is great in any shape or form, and I'm not discounting my guy friends' feedback. I have a bunch of open, supportive, awesome guy friends. I'm simply illustrating a point.
Here's a recent FB post and it's replies. Note the uniformity in who replied ;)
Mentions of things like self-care, positive self-talk or types of mindfulness practice come from female friends more often than male friends. Even passing mentions of feeling anxious, panicked, depressed, centered, peaceful, etc come from women more often. Men have been encouraged, either externally or internally, present or past, to keep those feelings of 'weakness' private. Weakness and vulnerability are not masculine, but they are absolutely essential to elevate one's mind.
We all hurt. We all struggle. It's okay to not be okay.
This is not a pity piece about why men feel they can't share emotional thoughts publicly. I think of it this way: our global human society is collectively evolving to the point that the rigidly defined gender roles and expectations of the past no longer serve us well. Whatever primal, tribal evolution of thought that led to this patriarchal society has served to strengthen these toxic masculine communication traits.
Guys might say, "I'm fine, nothing to see here, move along". Sometimes, that's true, other times it's ignorance, denial, maybe a cry for help? We've all heard those stories about someone falling into a pit of depression decades later realizing that they've been going through the motions for most of their life. Don't waste life.
Guys might say, "My friends will think less of me if I talk about it". If you're really that concerned about what your friends think of you when you honestly express emotions and thoughts, then I have 2 things to say... 1) Get over it, other people's opinions can't hurt you. 2) if you think this way, therapy can probably help you more than you can imagine.
Guys might say, "But I need to be strong". That's weak - Get over yourself. Real strength comes from within. Working on your mental and emotional state can propel you to a more resilient, strengthened state than you thought possible. I've felt that.
"I'll sound too whiny", "It's hopeless", "No one cares", "I don't know how to talk about it", "Therapy is for wussies"....
I've used all the excuses. I've struggled with depression for a long time before I even began to understand what it was. I've felt suicidal - thankfully those thoughts never progressed beyond fantasy. I've been bullied and dealt with the emotional trauma it caused. I've shamed myself for being fat and ugly. I've hurt myself. I've hurt loved ones.
I promise you, if you're struggling, someone else has been there. There is always hope.
So, let's wrap things up with a challenge. Guys, I challenge you to let go, let down your guards, to open up, to be the change. It's okay to start small.
Baby steps. Tiny victories.
Start stripping away the layers of your ego. Meditate. Do yoga. What is your happiness reliant on? Give more compliments. Smile at strangers you walk by. Say hello. Thank people, but do it as sincerely as you can muster. Think about how actions affect the feelings of those around you, as if they were family. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Work on being the best version of yourself. Be better than men of the past. Be better than the powerful men we see in the news, recklessly spewing their toxic masculinity, leaving damaged victims in their wake.
Let's be better. Let's be the change.