I've often wondered if the notion of “be a man”, men are not supposed to show weakness should not be seen differently. Boys just like girls are human beings and have feelings. They should be allowed to express their feelings and feel safe to show weakness and vulnerability. Teaching self-sufficiency is great, but I believe there needs to be a balance on when to reach out or speak out.
Over time I have watched this happen and the part of raising men to bottle their feelings or telling them from a young age to be tough/be a man has never sat well with me. Sadly, it leads to boys teasing one another on this subject, and eventually men doing same. Many men feel the need to not be vulnerable or act like it is wrong to cry. This unfortunately, could play out on so many levels with men taking those bottled feelings or frustrations out on the people closest to them or the society at large. They would rather find ways to cope and some of these ways could be negative coping mechanisms. In some instances, young men act out to get attention, which they would hardly ask for. But even that attention could be withheld from them due to bad behaviour. Then it spirals out of control and becomes a point of concern.
I was speaking to a group of young adults with whom I volunteered, and on this day, everyone was encouraged to speak openly. It was striking how much they had to say! We had a panel of 3 of their parents. One of the young men, 18 years old, was bold enough to tell his mother (who was on the panel) some things she did that upset him. He had told her before, but she was not really listening. On this day, she heard him loud and clear and took him seriously. Then the best part, she apologised to him, right there publicly, and committed to doing better. It was obvious that they have a great relationship, but the thing with people we love is that we could easily take them for granted.
Stephen Boss (popularly known as DJ Twitch) passed away in December 2022 from what appeared to be suicide. It shook so many people. He was a ray of light. He and his wife, Allison Holker, danced all the time. On so many occasions, when their dancing popped in my feed, it lit my face up. How could someone who seemed so happy be so sad and no one knew? So all the happy we saw and were inspired by was unreal? Unanswered questions that we may never get responses to. Some of the people who seem the happiest or strongest, have the deepest pain. This is just one of many cases, it was made public as he was a celebrity. Simply checking to see how someone is really faring could make tremendous difference.
Guys tend to tease the soft ones, sometimes making it hard for them to open themselves up to that sort of mockery or criticism. These same boys grow up to be brothers, husbands and eventually fathers. Many carry unseen trauma which is a result of the built-up frustration. The world could be cruel, at the same time extremely loving if you are surrounded by the right people. But how do you find people you are comfortable enough to be vulnerable with? People who won’t judge but listen when you need to let it out. People who will lovingly rebuke you, but help you get back on track?