I've been in much reflection lately of how society has defined masculinity and the toxic elements that are included in that. With my birthday coming up on April 17th, I've also been looking inward and am grateful for the growth I have had as I've gotten older.
There's been times where I would hide my emotions and would try to find somewhere private to cry because I didn't want to be a burden for anybody else around me. Even at 28 I find myself doing this from time to time but check myself in knowing that it's okay to cry even if other people see. I've learned that it's okay to show my emotions and to be vulnerable, but admittedly there are still times that I feel I need to have my guard up due to the abuse that I have faced in the past as well as other experiences that I have had.
Bringing things into a bigger picture, men need to know that it's okay to cry and to share their feelings. Heck I cried in private last night before falling asleep and wanted to cry earlier today after a sleepless night. This was because I was feeling alone and wanting to talk to my mom, which is something that has been present from time to time since she passed away in 2018. Thoughts of her not being present for my 29th birthday were in my mind last night as well as today and I found myself at a stand still.
My mind was racing and I began to spiral because I initially got triggered by something which brought on other feelings of being unwanted and insecurities deriving from what they call "Fear Based Thinking". I would normally speak to my mom in these circumstances for guidance but the fact that she isn't here and I have to deal with it on my own has been challenging, but I know I'm growing more when doing so.
The more I learn about mindfulness and mental health, the more I understand "Loved Based Thinking" and the qualities associated with that. Focusing on loving ourselves enough to provide reassurance that things are okay and that new experiences, relationships, surroundings and other factors in life are not those of the past but are those of the present. When focusing on "Loved Based Thinking", I've told myself that I'm safe, I'm cared for, I have people that love me, if I need to cry I can let those tears out and it's okay to be vulnerable. I then turn to the things that I enjoy doing which contribute to my wellbeing and try to recenter myself when doing so.
A societal problem is that men are often told that they have to be "tough" or that they have to be "strong" in these situations, when really we just have to be who we are and offer acceptance to both ourselves and others. How many times have you heard folks say things like "be a man", "man up" or "quit being such a pussy"? I have heard this numerous times throughout my life and sadly I still do from some people.
Let's dissect this a little bit, "be a man" or "man up" meaning what? What does it mean to "be a man" or to "man up"? My view on this is to honour that some men like to be big or ripped, physically strong and have hair on their body, will have an ego the size of their muscles, will most likely know the ins and the outs of a vehicle, will be into sports, will be able to build things, will most likely hide their emotions and let things bottle up inside etcetera, etcetera.
Other men prefer to be the body type of their choosing, be well groomed, feel fabulous and love themselves regardless, will carry humility, will know little about vehicles, sports and building things but will perhaps know more about other things in life, will openly cry when needed, they may be sensitive and will understand that it's okay to be vulnerable. News flash fellas, out of everything I've said above, women or non-binary folks can have these traits too so why do we feel that they are directly associated with masculinity? That's toxic masculinity in itself.
Second thing to dissect is "quit being such a pussy"...if I had a dollar for every time I have heard this in my life whether it be in the men's locker room or elsewhere, there's a number of things to reflect on here. The first is that one of the most sacred parts of a woman's body is being brought into this phrase in a negative way, you know, the part that allowed you to come to life, from where you entered the world that you live in today. Another thing to draw attention to is how it is often said in a derogatory way to belittle somebody else while also making women inferior when doing so. Men, we really need to check each other and honour that part of their being. Now if we were to flip the script and say something like "be a pussy", wouldn't that sound more empowering and less toxic? Think about it, be something that has so much power within it that it can bring a new life into the world, cleanse itself and do so much more.
Coming back to when we hear these things, I feel it's important to call it out, to challenge it and to empower one another in accepting each other for the way that we are. We also need to support each others emotional wellbeing and normalize things like crying, being vulnerable and talking about our feelings. Part of this is also unlearning toxic behaviours that we may have learned along the way from generations before us so that the generations after us can be taught the healthy ones.
When unlearning these toxic behaviours, we have to look inward as well as outward. While looking inward, think of that young boy or young man inside of you that has been hurt and speak to him. Find out what hurt them and begin the process in helping them heal. While looking outward, think of any harm that you may have caused somebody else in your lifetime and although it may not happen right away, do your best to reflect on what you could've done differently. When you feel capable of doing so, sincerely apologize and try to make amends but also respect boundaries if those that you have hurt may not want to talk to you. While doing this, focus on changing for the better and to grow into the healthier, best version of yourself.
Closing things off, I'm going to say love yourself, accept yourself, be kind to yourself and continue to be present while focusing on your growth. Focus on love as oppose to fear and know that it's okay to cry, it's okay to share about your feelings and it's okay to be vulnerable. Never worry about crying again!