The Happee Times
Invest In Your Happiness
Mard ko bhi dard hota hai (Men also go through pain)
“What are some struggles that you go through as a male that you wished were talked about more?” did not attract many answers.
“Do you wish your emotional expression was accepted and validated as much as that of females?” attracted some hidden smiles and huge internal nods. And that’s how we got the answer to the question asked previously.
You should continue reading this newsletter if…
If you identify as a male..
If you have a male member in your family or..
If you think males make up a considerable part of our society..
If you sit and give it a thought, it is almost funny how our society puts us into boxes the moment we are out of the womb. From “you get to wear pink and you get to wear blue” to “you get to express your emotions freely and you don’t”, we are prescribed to this long list of expectations, roles and responsibilities that we have no ‘real’ choice over.
On asking a male why he prefers to stay silent instead of expressing when he’s struggling in life, he said “we are men and we’re expected to bury it down”.
When talking about ‘men’s mental health’, we have to start by assessing the barricading on their emotional expression. We often get to hear “aadhi problem share karne se hi theek hojati hai” but we need to reflect on the fact that for males “share nahi kar paana hi hamari sabse badi problem hai”.
Tracing back to where the roots lie, our society has since times unknown portrayed the image of ‘a perfect man’ also known as ‘the macho personality. You’re lying if you didn’t, just now, picture Salman Khan’s intense expression with his strong physique, saving the actress in a movie. I’m by no means saying that him in that character is a perfect man. What I am trying to convey is how we are conditioned to think of a certain list of characteristics when we hear the term “masculinity”; strong, tough, protector, brave, heroism, charm etc.
Boys are fed with these constant suggestions since childhood. Even casual sexism like “Oh, you lost in a match with a girl?” to “Stop crying, you’re not a girl”, every cue counts. These cues give messages that crying is something that belongs to females and being a male means “ladke nahi rote”. Crying is as normal of a manifestation of emotion as is laughter but it is treated as something that shows weakness or sensitivity, words that stand feet apart from the societal ideas of ‘masculinity’.
As Ayushman Khurrana narrated beautiful poetry, he said that society teaches us “Gentleman bano but man ka gentle hona kharab hai”. Sensitivity and vulnerability are concepts associated with ‘femininity’ and since men are supposed to be ‘strong’, they are expected not to practice being any of those words.
What are expectations and why do we confine to them? It all comes down to acceptance. As children or as adults, we want to feel accepted, and for that, one needs to be “man enough”. You either embody the list of manly characteristics prescribed by society or you get rejected. The pressure of being “man enough” stops men from opening up about how they feel.
Famous figures like Justin Baldoni, American actor, and filmmaker, have beautifully talked about opening the conversation, about being “strong enough to be sensitive” and engage in “real talk”, a talk about insecurities, low self-esteem, fear of failure, body image issues and anxiety faced by men.
“What are coping mechanism in times you know you’re struggling?” Answers like Music, Sleep, Food filled the room.
It has been seen that when it comes to dealing with emotions, escapism is more common in males because approach-based coping brings up emotions. Escapism is reflected by methods of coping that help us avoid or escape the problem completely. Sleep, binge eating and alcohol are a perfect example of escapism.
Accompanying escapism are methods of distraction and a choice of externalisation. Distracting oneself means using other forms of stimulation like watching a movie to put the emotions in the back seat. Even though these coping mechanisms seem to work in the short-run, which make us use them repeatedly, it is pretty clear that they also have nothing to do with actually dealing with the emotion.
There is no shame in feeling or dealing with the emotion. We’re humans and emotion is a basic component of our being. Emotions that are undealt with, pile up in our minds and are manifested as something else.
Have you ever noticed yourself being annoyed at your spouse/ family for no good reason? They forgot to do something miniscule but you feel irrationally irritated? That might be a result of the, undealt with, anger that you felt at your colleague this evening. When we choose not to deal with emotions, they get manifested in ways that we fail to understand and we also end up displacing them on others. In situations like these, even the action of sharing with a close one your emotion of anger, what led to it and how it makes you feel can help you feel lighter, understand your own situation better as you verbalise it and eventually helps you move on from it quickly instead of carrying it around for another week.
Different coping mechanism work for different people in different situations. The only way to figure out what works for you is to try them out.
How to identify if your coping mechanisms are healthy:
- If you feel that you let yourself sit and be with your emotions freely
- If you are dealing with your emotions head-on instead of turning your back on them
- If you’re expressing them in ways that are beneficial for you as well as the people that surround you
Breaking the stigma
It is essential to consider the fact that not only men but we as a society have subscribed to these ideas of masculinity. It is an unconscious fear of not being accepted that drives men to escapism instead of choosing vulnerability. All of us are actively contributing to these rigid boxes through our belief patterns, words and behavior.
Parenting plays a huge role in breeding these patterns, unconsciously or consciously. Before asking your son to man up, define for them what that means. Don’t let them be tough, strong, or emotionless because, honestly, these scripts are getting old and are detrimental to their well-being. Make sure that when you ask them to man-up, they know that it means to be themselves, fully and freely, and to be able to take down the iron shield and express their heart and be confident in their choices.
As rightly said by Justin Baldoni, we need to change the script from “Boys will be boys” to “Boys will be human”.
What can we, as a society, do?
Not react. Its rare that men attempt to open up and be vulnerable. We need to treat that as ‘normal’, because it is. Be mindful of what you say or how you react to it. Don’t go with the old “it’s ok, stay strong”, empathise with them and tell them that they can cry if they feel like it.
Unsubscribe to these old scripts about what one is supposed to be. What one is supposed to be is human and emotions, feelings, vulnerability, fear, guilt, feeling weak, and inferiority are all ‘Human’.
After reading this newsletter, I hope we can all embrace males being emotionally vulnerable and shift our conditioning from “Mard ko dard nahi hota” to “Asli mard wahi hai jisse dard hota hai”.
Our society desires gentlemen who can protect, but as a society let's also take charge of protecting and preserving the gentleness of our men.