When it comes to emotions, there are different expectations for men and women. Women are often viewed as sensitive, and socially acceptable for them to express their feelings like sadness or fear. Men on the other hand are seen as strong and fearless and are encouraged not to outwardly express their emotions. The majority of men find it difficult to express their feelings. Both boys and girls are born with similar emotional capacities. However, emotional fluency is discouraged in boys as they grow older. These cultural norms and gender stereotypes have been circulating for generations, and have been seen to have negative effects on men. Men who express their emotions are often seen as weak. Because of that, many men hide their emotions as they’re afraid of being seen as weak in society. However, suppressing emotions and feelings can have a detrimental effect on men’s mental health.
Boys endure the loss of being forced to separate from their feelings and their mothers on the way to becoming men. They learn to turn away from their fathers and their pain toward work, money, success, sex, drugs, and other distractions. They covertly experience depression, which manifests mostly as numbness, boredom, apathy, limited emotional range, and cynicism. Normalizing the emotional struggle of men helps people surrounding them to join forces to heal the hidden depression.
Statistically, women are more likely to get diagnosed with depression or anxiety, however, men also deal with mental health disorders and mental distress. Over 30% of men will experience a period of depression at some point during their lifetime, and about 9% of men report having feelings of depression or anxiety every day. Emotions that are associated with dominance or strength are viewed as more masculine, even if the underlying emotions fuelling the behavior may be different. But when men are asked to hide their emotions at all costs, those feelings often manifest elsewhere. Usually, they compensate by acting in a way that is more stereotypically masculine.
Part of what makes us human is our ability to express our feelings and emotions. When we suppress our feelings it can have consequences, including mental health disorders. specifically for men, it can lead to suicide. Data from the World Health Organization shows that out of the 421 suicide cases in Kenya in 2017, 330 involved men.
For men to act like a man, is something they learn from childhood, and this is carried on into adulthood. Over time, men become good at hiding their emotions or coping with their feelings in a way that is more acceptable for males. This creates a cycle of toxic masculinity, which can be hard to break once it’s a habit. The solution to this is for men to learn how to become vulnerable and allow themselves to express their emotions freely. However, this is often easier said than done. Here are some of the things that men can do to avoid becoming vulnerable to emotions.
- You need to be honest about the way you’re feeling.
- Find hobbies that allow you to reflect on your feelings and help you tap into your emotions.
- Ask for help; men are less likely to see a therapist than women. Part of it is due to the negative stigma around men and mental health.
Always remember that feelings are natural and we often experience different emotions. As a man choose to believe that the key to your joy is in your pain and open yourself to the darker shades of emotions as well as the lighter ones.