Masculinity. A word who’s modern interpretation is now more of weakness than strength. And rightly so.
Masculinity. A word who’s modern interpretation is now more of weakness than strength. And rightly so. I have struggled at times with my mental health and well being through recent years and have often thought about where the darkness comes from. I believe it is my engrained interpretation of what strength is and how I am supposed to act. Be a man’s man, stiff upper lip, don’t be a girl. This is what masculinity means to me.
Everyone has a different engrained understanding of what masculinity is to them and for most it’s a traditional view. Boy’s will be boy’s, men are strong, women are meant to be subservient and emotion means weakness. ‘Man up’ people say. As if that’s supposed to help.
This indoctrination for me started at an early age, like most people, with assigned gendered roles and a way you are supposed to act. All felt very British. Don’t talk about your emotions, don’t cry, don’t show weakness. But this breeds darkness in someone’s soul, or at least it has done in mine. I have suffered with insecurity, anxiety and a sense that something was missing, or that I wasn’t good enough. It took my 26th birthday to change my outlook.
I was volunteering for the Bernie for President selection campaign in the evening after a day’s work in a job I didn’t enjoy and hadn’t told anyone it was my birthday. I hadn’t arranged anything because I didn’t think anyone would care and I didn’t want the embarrassment of no one showing up, in fact the only person to text me in the morning was my mum. I only told a few people in pub after the campaign session and it felt awful, I actually went home and cried. It was at this low moment I vowed to never experience that loneliness again. I vowed then and ever since to talk about my emotions, invest in relationships with other people and to let some light in, to fight the darkness.
Masculinity taught me not to share and not to deal with my problems, and to shelve the dark feelings we all experience from time to time. This manifests itself in different ways for different people. For some it causes them to lash out on family, friends and strangers, poisoning relationships and allowing unspoken truths to fester. With me it caused loneliness. A deep sense of isolation, even in crowded rooms. I would not say I was depressed, but I was at a low point.
Since that birthday and making the decision to open up, my life has become unrecognisably better. I am very lucky. I have an amazing group of friends who I care about, an emotional confidence and resilience that I’ve never had, and now a voice to speak. The toxic effect masculinity has on society is pronounced and morbid as it poisons minds and restrict people’s emotions to the point where some see no way out, whereas some see no problem at all.
If we are to grow as a progressive and understanding society that allows people to thrive, both physically and emotionally, then the way in which masculinity is spoken about must continue to change. I don’t know how this might happen, I just know my own truth. Masculinity is not strength, is the false impression of confidence.