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Men — Are we set up to fail?

We are constantly bombarded from all angles of society about what it is to be a real man. More often than not we allow ourselves to be defined by ideals that are bestowed upon us, such as:

  • What we should look like
  • How we should act
  • What tattoos we should wear
  • The car we drive
  • What type of job we should have
  • The type of house we should own or rent
  • The partner we choose
  • How we are meant to be as a father etc.

Is it possible that it all ultimately sets us up to feel a sense of failure?

Are we given a perfect picture, an unachievable one, yet one which may appear to be very real?

The problem is that we are taught to see life as something outside of ourselves, something we can do, we can get, something we can achieve. If we don’t then achieve our goals it is because we have done something wrong. Life for most of us is never about being who we truly are and honouring what we feel.

As young boys we are taught to toughen up, to be a man. Yet all that this achieves is to create a concrete fortress around us. Naturally loving tender boys are told how to be from the outside but are not supported to honour their feelings and stay with their innate, tender nature.

Why is it that we as men pride ourselves as supposedly needing to be the ‘tough’ and capable ones – unable to talk about what burdens or hurts us?

We have the capacity to feel and express our feelings exactly the same as women do, yet we are often cut down when we attempt to do so. Men get labelled as ‘gay’ or as ‘sissies’ when they choose to not join in with the aggressive male world.

It is as if we go into auto-pilot about what a ‘man’ should look like and be like and then accept it as the way life is.

We often see men in gyms striving for the perfect toned body, men in offices working all hours to provide his family with a lifestyle he believes and thinks they will want, providing his family with food on the table – all the while not realising that in truth his family are actually starving of the time and love they desire most – the love he brings naturally with his tender presence.

But do we ever give ourselves the time and space to challenge such ideals?

Note I am not talking here about the extremes where men have reacted to the 'status quo'– where men take up alternative lifestyles, take up extreme sports, etc in order to be different from the crowd. I am talking here about challenging other more sinister ideals, the ones that say “no, you cannot be open, you cannot be tender, you cannot feel the world as you once did as a boy – that you must leave that innate tenderness behind”.

I am talking here about challenging the right to claim those qualities that we dare not show for fear of being seen to be weak, about showing how naturally truly caring and loving we are as men.

As men in particular we shut down that part of ourselves that does indeed feel, that has the ability to ‘sense’ what is going on around us, ie, to be sensitive.

Rather than express from such a place we settle for the ‘safer’ conversation about something outside of ourselves, something that shows off our knowledge in front of another; something else we can use to compete with other men, however unconsciously. We pour such a huge amount of time and effort into what is outside of us that we forget about the most important part!

We forget about ourselves and leave the tender loving boy behind

There is the real inner strength of how real men naturally are, and there is indeed great freedom in giving ourselves permission to open up, to be tender in showing how much we care. It actually is empowering to be able to express how we feel, to express our love for another, to acknowledge that which hurts us. Ironically, this is the complete opposite to what we think it means to be sensitive.

As men we all feel what is really going on, but largely do not want to admit it. Is it possible that deep down it is this role model we long for, but are afraid to admit to, even to ourselves? We wait for someone else to test the waters first, to show us it can be done.

Rather than being the one to toughen up, what about being a real role model and giving other men the opportunity to see and feel that is ok, that it is, in fact, normal for a real man to be naturally, super loving, sensitive and tender?

Now that would be a courageous man indeed!

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    By James Nicholson