Since the time we are born, we are assigned certain roles and these roles come with a set of do’s and don’ts. It’s like your life manual and the very first role we are made to play or one that is assigned to us is the ‘gender role’. The manual has gotten everything; even how much of the male or female traits are you supposed to exhibit in any given situation. This manual is nothing but our programming as children. Yes, we bring our own set of traits to this world but the societal roles are more than an integral part of us.
Speaking about gender roles… many of us believe that men are heartless creatures, they don’t even cry at the most emotional movie scene, C’mon! Do they even have a soul? Rather, what to question here is; Is this actually their trait or their societal programming?
Expressing emotions ‘as is’ is something that does not come naturally to men or even if it does, they are pretty good at hiding it. Why? They do feel things, of course, they are humans; for instance, they do feel miserable after a break-up or after a bad day at work; It’s just the fear of being judged or not fulfilling the masculine expectations overpowers these feelings. They can’t turn to fellow male members because all they’re going to get to hear is ‘bro, get over it’ or listen to other superficial sympathy dialogues, and approaching the opposite gender would portray them as ‘not manly enough, not macho enough’. So where do they go to express themselves? Actually, nowhere. It stays within, till it surfaces as a health issue or erupts as an angry volcano.
Honestly, we at Adveka don’t blame them. If we ourselves do not create a safe space for young boys to express themselves from the very beginning, let them cry without being called ‘a weak girl’ let them actually feel each and every emotion as it comes naturally to them, it’s going to lead them to be more stoic as grownups, suffering silently within. They want to be heard without the judgemental eyes putting them down, for going against the role or traits they are ‘expected’ to exhibit. They have observed these traits in the men around them when they were growing up and have maintained these expectations right since then. Not getting too attached, not portraying themselves as too needy, not wanting to seek help in tough times, taking in the responsibility of the entire family, they have been programmed to hold on to these societal beliefs of masculinity and everything against these would be a direct attack at their self-esteem and self-identity. Expression of emotions will be something new to them. But can we as a society change this? Can we teach our young boys to just feel and express as it is? Can we talk to the men in our life without judging or questioning their masculinity?
With the number of mental health illnesses increasing in men and the increasing suicide rates, it’s time to understand the societal programming they are operating from and actively bring a change to that. It’s time to ask men ‘NOT TO MAN UP’ and rather ‘SPEAK UP’. It’s time to break these stereotypes and LET THEM JUST BE. Their silent suffering needs a voice. Many men do not seek mental health support because they’re constantly playing their gender role and fear the consequences of emotional expression, but for how long will they keep it inside? It’s important to acknowledge this today before more men go down the road where emotions are a mystery.
This article has been written by Aashni Shah, a budding psychologist, and part of Adveka Foundation.