I recently had a catch up with a friend of mine – he always seem to have it together and to be honest, I normally go to him for advise; however, when I met with him recently, he was struggling and was dying to speak to someone. I noticed, when I asked him how he was doing, that he was hesitant to say he was fine but said it anyway. So we moved on to work and life in general and then I came back to my first question, how was he doing and this time I added that he could off load and I would listen. From where I sat, he looked so conflicted on where to start and how to start and to be honest, it broke my heart looking at him. Men are taught from such a young age to not show emotions and many suffer alone without ever reaching out for help – hence men have a higher suicide rate. So my friend finally started talking about how he was feeling and what had led to him feeling the way he did – to be honest, he had a lot on his plate and I was surprised why he was not asking for help.
After my conversation with my friend, I decided to reach out to the men in my life and ask for their thoughts on the subject of emotions – and boy did I open pandora’s box. I started paying attention to conversations and to my own way of thinking – I realised that I was part of the problem. I sometimes expected men to have it together at all times and not show any emotions – there seem to be a pass for anger when it was ‘justified’ but when it came to other emotions, I did not have men in mind. Talking to my male friends and family made me realise that society had shaped men into these emotionless gender who are expected to have it all together and not come across as ‘weak’. This is not healthy and we need to start talking about these expectations we have placed on men – to not call men names when they show emotions and listen to them when they want to talk about their emotions.
I reached out to my friend Kwadwo – because he is my go to person whenever I have a question around men. And he was brutally honest about this – when I asked him why men do not talk about their emotions, his answer was “the world taught us that an emotional man is weak”. I was shocked by his answer – but should I have been shocked? How many times have we asked a male in our lives to man up when they had broken down? I felt ashamed, because if we care about people, we should make them feel like they can come to us and talk to us about how they feel. I then asked how he copes when faced with overwhelming emotions and again, he gave me an answer that both surprised and made me sad – “We are supposed to be strong no matter what is thrown at us”. But the question is, why do we think that men should be strong to deal with everything and not talk about it? And why is it seen as weak for a man to talk about how he is feeling?
Where I come from, there are so many sayings that basically supports this notion that a man does not show any emotion – and one of those saying that stands out to me is that “a man is he that can swallow a bitter pill”. This saying simply implies that a man is one that is able to deal with tough situations but the question is, if a man is not able to deal with a certain difficult situation, does that make him less of a man? So Kwadwo mentioned that he had someone ask if he had ever seen a woman die of a heart attack? I did try to argue that it happens but he felt men die younger than women because they have so much to work through and they can’t talk to anyone about it and this kills them – I did disagree with that to some extent but this was his truth and I listened. He had a lot to say on the subject and I could sense his passion – even though he tried to act tough and make jokes about it. He did admit that when he feels overwhelmed, he listens to music – not sure how that solves things but I did offer that he talks to someone; friends, family, therapist, just speak to someone. Because there are too many suicidal and angry men walking around who simply want to be able to talk about their emotions without being shamed.
I recently spoke to someone I admired a lot – while talking to him, I could tell he had a lot on his plate. So I asked how he was taking care of himself with everything happening around him, he answered that because he was a man, he needed to man up and continue. I did not agree and our parting words was that he takes some time for himself. I do have some men get in touch expressing that my writing seems like I am against men – but that is not the case at all. I have a brother, nephew, uncles, cousins and friends I love a lot – it would crush me to know that they are going through some emotional stuff they feel unable to speak to anyone about. Some of my male friends also spoke about the fact that when they do open up to someone else about their emotional issues, they get accused of cheating emotionally if they are in a relationship. Now this is something I felt needed exploring further but I could see where they were coming from.
I heard my male friends out and I think we should break this toxic cycle of expecting our male friends and family to not show any emotions – we need to encourage them to be able to speak about their feelings. My take away from all these conversations was to pay attention to the men in my life and hear them out without judgement when they need me to listen. I hope we can start unlearning all these unhealthy expectations we have on men and understand that, they like women have emotions too and need to be listened to and comforted when they need it. I hope this encourages you to reach out and check up on your male family members and friends and make sure that they are well and listened to when they need to talk about their emotions without judgement. Also make sure you are checking on your female friends too and are looking after your own emotions too.
Thank you so much for always getting in touch and sharing your experiences – please continue to share your experiences so we can effect the change we need.