The concept of what it is to be manly has been around for as long as time has been flowing. A ‘manly’ man has become a stereotype that is still often expected of men around the world. To be manly is supposedly to be physically strong, mentally strong and emotionally strong. Physically strong in the sense that they can perform hard labor tasks and lift heavy things. Mentally strong in the sense that they don’t show signs of struggle or difficulty, whether they feel them or not. Emotionally strong in the sense that they don’t show emotions that are perceived to be negative, full stop. In essence, a man should be able to carry the weight of life on his shoulders and not crack.
This stereotype is harmful, dangerous and incredibly toxic because it leaves no room for expression or any sense of release. As humans, we are capable of thinking and feeling so many things at once and so we need the opportunity to let everything out. To box up and label what a man should be like this is only going to do more damage than good to who a person is. There should not be any ideal version of what a man should be like and no man should have to feel like he has to fit into this ideal. Naturally, this concept applies to women too, in the sense that they shouldn’t have to feel like they need to strive to fit a certain ideal or label.
To be physically strong is beneficial for many reasons: it may be required for a specific career, like a search and rescue position or construction, or it can help with more mundane things like moving house or landscaping. But it shouldn’t define what a man should be. A man can be physically strong if he wants to be, not because he feels like he has to be.
To be mentally strong is an entirely separate idea. Struggling to cope with whirring thoughts, depression, anxiety or any other mental health issue is far more common and subsequently (thankfully) talked about in a much more open way now. Thus, the stereotype that men should bottle up their struggles and push them aside is far too dangerous to keep encouraging. It can lead to very dark situations in the long run. So, whether you just need a friend to talk to about something or attending a residential addiction treatment center would be highly beneficial for your well-being, there are plenty of ways to be more open about your mental health and any struggles you may be facing.
In a similar sense, emotional strength isn’t and shouldn’t be associated with presenting a steely exterior and hardened expression. Emotional strength is being able to express your feelings through laughter or tears and then being able to deal with them before moving on with your day. Breaking the stereotype that men shouldn’t cry is one of the most important goals of this topic and should be encouraged. Vulnerability IS strength and needs to be celebrated.
Do you tend to adhere to or breakaway from stereotypical social norms? Let me know in the comments below and thanks for reading!