“Just rub some dirt on it.”
“Be a man.”
“Man up and handle it, don’t be such a baby.”
These statements are no stranger to men, and their intention is riddled with mis-guidances and flawed notions. Often these statements do much more harm than good, as they can make men reluctant to reach out for help when it is desperately needed — even in situations where help is absolutely required. The construct of masculinity has instilled a culture where men are not only told to ignore or hide their emotions or pains (both physical and mental), but that they can be actively mocked for expressing such things. This creates a dangerous, volatile dissonance between a man’s emotional well-being and their own perceived social identities.
The Independent Man
While it may seem disingenuous that men in our modern society suffer as a group from societal expectations, the notions around what a man is or isn’t, as well as what they should or should not be are real concerns that have devastating consequences. Even as societal shifts begin to challenge traditional gender roles, the motion in a more fluid mentality of acceptance is not a direction that is adopted by all. There may be many who embrace a more flexible mindset, but traditional gender roles cannot be ignored in popular media. Male superheroes are depicted as muscular, mentally strong, and able to handle themselves in any situation. The expectation of what a “man” should be is still imposed in much more subtle ways through these depictions in media, rewarding their male characters with characteristics of self-sufficiency, handling themselves in a fight, and even their ability to hold their liquor. This is all ultimately an attempt to portray the male as a standalone, all encompassing unit, all boiling down to one simple notion: a man never asks for help.
Why Asking for Help Is Difficult
When it comes to addiction or mental health, it is not surprising that men have an extraordinarily difficult time seeking the help they may desperately need. Even looking at the forums in which addiction is addressed is in contrast to what these male depictions would reward. Seeking help with addiction or mental health requires a man to acknowledge weakness in themselves, and admit it to the people around them. In group therapy, they are required to face all of that again — this time, with complete strangers who are also aware of the stigma of how a man should and should not be. The individual seeking help may have a deconstructed view of societal gender norms, but there is no guarantee that everyone in a group of strangers will believe in the same things. Weakness, group therapy, and vulnerability — all of these are active deterrents to a man confronting and seeking help with their addictions, and they are directly related to how men are perceived by society and portrayed in media.
Regardless of this, we still ask why men won’t seek help when they need it. We must move away from the stigma that a man needs to be able to handle themselves in an isolated environment and need not depend on anyone — we need to live in a world where no person ever feels like they are required to be completely self-sufficient in regards to their own lives, let alone their own mental health or addictions. No man should be expected to just “man up and get over it.” While this is a grand proposal, the shift starts on a much more intimate level.
It Starts Small
When a man wants to talk, expresses emotion, or even cries, it may be a call for help. Believe it or not, most men do want help, but feel like they can’t ask for it because of how they will be perceived. So when someone offers to listen to their problems and emotions, it needs to be genuine. Regardless of what follows, it’s real, and one needs to be truly prepared in their own mind to see a man in a state of complete and uncompromising vulnerability.
Understanding that masculinity comes with its own problems of emotional denial, as well as a lifestyle of self-sufficiency and forced independence is one step towards creating a healthier world where men can express themselves without fear of social ridicule. Allowing men to express these emotions from an early age can deconstruct the stigma of a dangerous style of manliness, and thus lead to a healthier emotional state that can mitigate issues later in life, like compromised mental health and/or addiction issues as a coping mechanism.
At LifeTutors, we can help you deal with the day-to-day struggles of recovery, including mental health issues. We can create a personalized program for you that assists with ground-level living and coping strategies that can impact an individual on a daily basis. LifeTutors supports a sustainable recovery strategy that focuses on living a life independent of addiction. Our goal is to provide each individual with an appropriate support system to help them reach a self-actualized state of being outside of drugs and alcohol, while also addressing mental health concerns. Call (828) 417-7122 today to speak to a professional about the different options available in LifeTutor’s holistic lifestyle approach to treatment. Recovery is a continuing process for each individual, and LifeTutors can be there each step of the way.