A lot of us feel that we need to hold up a certain image to the world. As young boys, we are told to be supermen - "real men don't cry" - and other lessons to toughen us up. While I'm strongly in favor of encouraging boys and men to stand up for themselves, tackle obstacles, and generally "be men" about things in life. However, just like few people teach us how to SPEND money vs saving it ... few of us ever learned how to know when to ask for help. Instead, asking for help is looked at as a weakness.
When we go exercising, we have to lift heavy, or do more press-ups, or run a couple more miles. While it's beneficial in a competitive way, this unnecessary pressure we put on ourselves has a detrimental impact on our mental health. It's a commonly discussed topic, suicide among young men, specifically between the ages of 20 and 49 in the UK, as the biggest killer of males in that age group. But is this because we are placing undue pressure on ourselves? And is this statistic so overwhelming because we don't know how to ask for help? It seems like it is, but why do we find it so difficult?
How Do We Respond To Our Feelings?
Asking for help means admitting to ourselves that we are weak. At least that's what it appears to be on the surface, but while men have the ability to emote as much as anyone else (in fact, young boys in early life are statistically, more sensitive than girls) there comes a point when young boys learn to repress their feelings. Those oft-used statements, such as boys don't cry, or don't be a girl, sends a signal to us at a young age that being emotional is weak.
We Don't Like Being Judged
This is an interesting point, especially in the social media age. Now, the ability to open up your thoughts and feelings online, as we've seen so many people do from time to time, is incredibly liberating. But while opening up your true thoughts and feelings on social media can result in a lot of words of support, there can be a lot of judgments too. Ultimately, if you are going through a really troubling time emotionally or mentally, there could be other issues tied to it, like addiction. In which case, there are professional resources that every man can benefit from, from The Recovery Village that helps with addiction, to localized counselors and psychiatrists. Professional help is the way out when any man is concerned about being judged, especially by those closest to them. This is the great thing about counseling or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or rehab, because these environments are purpose-built to encourage open thoughts and feelings without fear of reprisal.
It's A Learned Emotional Pattern
As well as men being perceived, in the traditional sense, to be the stronger of the sex, it's all about nature vs nurture. We are the product of our parents, and if we have a strict upbringing, with father figures who are reticent to show off any sign of emotion, this is something we learn and perceive to be normal. But, when we realize that it's a learned pattern, then we can find ways to break out of it.
Overall, asking for help is never a sign of weakness. If anything, as the cliché is on social media that you've been strong for too long. This is an absolute truth. If you are one of those men who is struggling with your emotions, there is always support out there for you. Never think of yourself as alone.