Today’s society is burdensome, particularly on a person’s mental health. We live under expectations and societal norms that burden our mental and emotional well being. In fact, society today hardly acknowledges the psychological component of human beings at all.
Men today are especially disarmed emotionally. This month is Men’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and we wanted to shed some light on the things that men experience in the world on an internal level, and how we can move forward for the better.
After a long history of raising men with reinforcers like, “Get over it, you’re tough.” “Be a man.” “Men don’t cry.”, we’ve seen men become experts in bottling up emotions; sometimes to the point where the ability to recognize what exactly you’re feeling is lost. When a man does tap into his emotions, it’s often accompanied by an insecurity that expressing those feelings is wrong or weak. Society has pushed a detrimental narrative that it’s not cool to express emotions or to be vulnerable. Many men go through their daily lives carrying an insidious burden as a result of not knowing how to express emotions. There is a negative stigma in our community of men, especially in the black community, that being vulnerable and expressing your emotions is a sign of weakness.
In my own experience, I grew up constantly being told to wipe my tears because, “You should never let anyone see you cry. They will take advantage of you.” In response, I learned to stifle my emotions and frustrations as a survival mechanism. I can see now that having a conversation about what I was feeling would’ve been a helpful solution, and that keeping all of those feeling bottled up was actually a problem. Bottling up emotions can erode our mental health quicker than one might expect.
Allowing ourselves to acknowledge and experience our emotions can take a huge weight off our chests. Finding someone you feel comfortable talking to, whether it’s a family member, friend, and/or therapist is vital. And it doesn’t have to all be a calm conversation. It’s important to be authentic with your feelings. It’s important to find a person or people who understands you and you feel will allow you to share your emotions, raw and unfiltered.
Making Time To Enjoy The Little Things
Men are often put on a pedestal of provider and protector; the fabric that holds everything together for the family. We’ve traditionally been taught as a society that the man is the person in the family to rely on for stability, which leaves very little room for the man to have his own feelings. Over time, the constant pressure of being present for everybody else can result in a mental space that has no room for your own well being. Time goes by faster, the days turn into weeks and the weeks turn into months without ever acknowledging your own needs. It’s important to take some time to ourselves, and even with our loved ones, to do things we truly enjoy.
Doing things that make you happy should be more of an emphasis in our day-to-day. Allocating time in the day to do something you genuinely enjoy, or something that you are being rewarded for should be prioritized. Whether that thing is going to the gym, enjoying a nice walk, or spending quality time with family and friends, we must find more time to fit these types of things in. Even taking some time at home just to sit and enjoy your own company can help.
Being self-aware is essential, especially in our world that is so volatile and unpredictable. Learning and discovering ourselves is a never-ending process, and we should always strive to learn our own personal nuances. Being self-aware can help improve our control of our emotions and make good decisions. Simply being knowledgeable about how you personally would react to a given situation can make all the difference.
Taking it a step further, and not ignoring that you aren’t ok can help shorten, rather than extend, the process of getting through a hard time. Going through tough times is inevitable, we can all sometimes get “lost in the sauce.” Having the ability to say “Ok, this is what’s going on. This is how I feel.”, leads to the important answer to “How and what am I going to do to get out of this.” When we’re equipped with emotional awareness, we can avoid the domino effect of making the burdens of life that are heavy as is, even heavier.
To close, I want to encourage you to not be so hard on yourself. Don’t be afraid and too prideful to ask for help either. There are too many resources at our disposal for us not to use. I know it’s not easy. It’s a myriad of other issues that we face on a daily basis that we have little to no control of. Hopefully, you were able to take away a few tools to implement into your life to make things a little easier. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to seek help and have conversations, because at the end of the day, it will only have a negative effect on us and the people around us.
As NFL legend Marshawn Lynch once said “Take care of your chicken, take care of your mental”. Y’all be safe.