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Redefining Masculinity for better Mental Health

The idea “A man has to be the breadwinner” have been imbibed in our minds from many generations. Even in today’s workaholic modern world, the concept of ‘Masculinity’ still plays a colossal part in our society. The traditional perception of masculinity likes to obey certain rules where in a man is culturally trained and socially pressurized to behave in a certain manner. Core tenants of ‘manliness’ as expected by traditional norms are toughness, power & NO Femininity. These ‘kowtow expectations’, imposes potential challenges in the overall mental well-being and authentic self-expression among men. Of course, some of these mannerisms are agreeable & gels with natural drives for ambition, adventure, natural genetic wiring, & seen as a demarcation personified to men.

Causes of conventional Masculine Narrative:

Societal expectations of being masculine acknowledges men to be strong, stoic, and self-reliant. This not only discourages their emotional vulnerability but also imposes a threat to their manly identity and puts a quell in seeking professional help no matter what they are going through. This triggers the feelings of isolation, emotional suppression, and poses anxiety, depression & serious behavioral issues. This leads to constrained relationships at home & also exhibited in an unacceptable manner at the workplace or with colleagues.
Traditional Masculinity which sometimes is comparable to the concept of toxic masculinity, enables unsafe & wounding traits of ‘toughness –being strong, aggressive & dominant’; ‘Power– men are worthy of money, status and influence’ & ‘No femininity rejecting all feminine traits viz; emotions, accepting help, domesticity etc’. This “man up” or “toughen up” attitude when one is hurt or facing challenges leads to intensive emotional suppression, triggers feelings of guilt and shame, anger and rage, rejection of empathy toward oneself & others thereby hindering one’s overall success.

Tips to Reprogram Masculinity: The Do’s!!!

  1. Openness to seeking and accepting help: No one is impressed by exhaustion, stoicism, & struggle. Accepting a helping hand from others & acknowledging makes one feel connected, supported, and valued .
  2. Focusing on yourself. Endeavor your personal development without criticizing, judging, those who exert a limiting belief on masculinity.
  3. Stop controlling attitude and do not get disguised by others’ opinions, characters, and choices.
  4. Express genuine emotions by recognizing the cause & effect of the issue
  5. Be empathetic & extend shoulder & ears to those who are feeling the same way.
  6. Welcoming & adopting emotional intelligence
  7. Understand that strength lies not only in physical prowess but also in emotional resilience and open conversations without feeling ashamed or weak.
  8. Cultivating support groups or communities that promote inclusivity, respect, and acceptance, fostering a sense of belonging and understanding to share experiences, challenges, and triumphs.
Traditional masculinity resists seeking mental health support. Ignoring emotional struggles resorts one towards workload, extensive physical activities, risky behaviors, drugs, and alcohol abuse exacerbating depression, trauma, and anxiety. This not only worsens the psychological and behavioral symptoms but also precipitates psychosomatic or physical issues such as chronic pain, arthritis, & other disorders rendering one more irritable & isolated.
Modern, progressive masculinity is a more open, healthier concept & approach of being the one who isn’t afraid of authentic emotional expression of genuine struggles or feelings and welcomes gender equality. This masculinity recognizes the repercussions of suffering alone & the benefits of seeking mental health support. So, acknowledging one’s emotions & feelings, and understanding how to get on them greatly benefits personal health, work life-balance, and relationships. Therefore, it is important to overcome the traditional masculine narratives, & create a space where men feel empowered to be their authentic selves and prioritize their mental well-being.
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