This week is mens health week and got me thinking about how I was horrified when I went to a health event a couple of months ago and there was a story that ended with this punchline.
It was supposed to be funny, to get a bit of a rise and enliven the crowd but for me it was a dangerous reinforcing of the fact that we discount what men maybe experiencing by telling them to ‘man up’. The story was about a couple of men that weren’t coping, they were lost, going through heartbreaking experiences and were pretty low and the response (admittedly from a woman who knew them very well) was to ‘man the f*** up’. How is this funny, what message does it send to a huge crowd attending and how can we change this philosophy that men can’t experience their emotions – that they have to hold it all in, not talk about it and feel even more isolated because of the fact that people discount what is happening by telling them to be something else.
I am not exactly sure what ‘man up’ means but I think that it suggests that you need to suck it up, be strong, cope, pump your muscles up, not complain or cry. The reality is that life has us all feeling challenged, completely stressed, trying to hold all the responsibility, lost, having a lack of confidence or experiencing life events that bring us to our knees. An emotional response to what life presents is part of life, it is valid to experience sadness, anger, fear just as it is to experience happiness and joy. Yes it may be uncomfortable to hear it but its even more frustratingly uncomfortable when feeling something, finding the courage to talk about it and being shut down in the process.
We have come a long way in the acceptance that we all have emotions and that we need a space to explore and express but we also have a long way to go. I think it all about awareness for all of us that are on the receiving end of expression– what message does our statements, clichés, actions send to someone asking for help. I encourage you to think about your responses when someone is experiencing grief, sadness, life challenges, anger, isolation and listen – truly listen and support rather than blurting out something that has them withdraw, feel misunderstood or sends a subtle message that they are not good enough. Lets stop this phrase of ‘manning up’ it is destructive and discounts the reality of experience.
Health is not just what we put on our mouth or how much exercise we do, our emotional and mental health is as important too, and men are no exception – please seek help when you need it
and be in touch if you want to explore something more right now.