It’s been talked about for generations. What does it mean to be a man?
As young boys we are told, “Hey, don’t cry. Men don’t cry.” And as we reach our elementary years, it’s about how athletic we are compared to other kids in our classes. If someone wasn’t the best, well, they were the “sissy.”
Then, rolling into adolescence and college it’s about who is the biggest drinker and who can bring the most girls home with them.
As someone from a single-mother household, I often find myself contemplating masculinity. Of course, it stems from not having a male father figure and I ask myself: “Am I even a man? I never had another one teach me things like sports, fishing, drinking and camaraderie.” All of these things I had to learn on my own or with the help of my mom.
All of this has been ingrained into the male brain since birth and I am no exception. But what I have been seeing from myself and others is that this behavior, is in fact the worst type to adopt. It distances men away from their potential partners, their emotions and their communication abilities.
Why? Because suppressing our emotions creates a mental block to revealing how we truly feel.
Joe Ehrmann, the legendary NFL football player, tackled this subject in a TedTalk in 2013.
He talked about the three myths of masculinity: athletic ability, sexual conquest and economic success.
Ehrmann explained that boys with exceptional athletic ability receive more worth than those who do not possess the same skill, and that sexual conquests are connotated with men having a “cool” factor to them and that networth gives a man self-worth.
The problem with measuring by these factors is that a man can never achieve it all. He will never have the same athletic ability has he did in his college heyday, he will never sleep with enough women and he will never achieve enough money.
All of these behaviors are destructive, rather than constructive.
People may ask, “What the heck are we supposed to do now?” Well, what we can do is to teach the next generation of young boys that it is completely normal to express their emotions and that not doing so will only hurt them in the long term.
What we have to do as men is break the chain of silence we were forced to endure as children. Let’s take the time to express how we feel and be in tune with our emotions.
Now, this is easier said than done. It would be easy for me to return to my old technique of holding in all my feelings until they bubble up into a force that I do not recognize. I refuse to live like that anymore.
Let’s start more conversations about masculinity, how it impacts us and what it means to all of us. Because if not now, when?