“Don’t be such a p$%@y!” and “Grow a set!” are two statements I’ve heard quite a bit throughout my life that always seem to come from men who have no idea how to be vulnerable and show their true feelings, especially with another man. I’ve learned over the years though, through a lot of therapy and self-reflection that it’s statements like these that tend to fit the stereotypical image of what people think a “manly man” is.
It’s unfortunate, but far too many men who learn how to become this stereotypical “manly man” can trace it back to their own fathers or mothers or some other peer, as it’s typically one of them who taught that it wasn’t ok to show true feelings and instead were shown that anger or rage was the manlier way of doing things in this world. And for many of them, humor was also taught to be a good way of deflecting from getting too vulnerable with another. But unfortunately, even humor frequently was more about making fun of others flaws and shortcomings than engaging in simple harmless banter. And sadly, behind all of these behaviors is nothing more than deep-seated insecurities and scared little boys who never quite grew up feeling safe enough to show their true feelings. Rather, they grew up being taught to repress anything that might ever show them as weak and vulnerable.
I raise these points today because someone I care about resorted to using some of these stereotypical “manly man” statements with me just recently when my hypochondria took over after a silly incident where I couldn’t seem to shut off my mental illness long enough to see things clearly. When I tried to explain this to this person, he was unable to show any empathy and instead resorted to making fun of me by saying things like “Grow a set!”
My initial reaction was to be angry with him for being so inconsiderate and hurtful about a mental illness that I’ve struggled with so greatly as of late. But then I thought about how this very same person has always been so uncomfortable receiving hugs from me, how they’ve constantly struggled having any type of serious conversation with me, and how they’ve resisted opening up to me about anything personal more than not, as each of these traits are ones that tend to arise in families where parents and peers have molded their sons into being what they think a “manly man” should look like.
I am so grateful that my father never raised me that way. Rather, my father was very open with his feelings and I saw him cry quite a bit over the years and he did his best to teach me to be the same. My mother, on the other hand, didn’t like that part of my father, and so, she did her best to help me become the “manly man” she thought I needed to become to be successful in this world.
But ironically, attempting to become that “manly man” never made me successful one bit. Instead, it often left me bitter, disconnected, and out of touch with my heart and soul. But thankfully, all of my health issues I’ve gone through over the past bunch of years have helped me to shed all of that “manly man” bullshit from my life and get more in touch with my true feelings and nature. In other words, I finally allowed that scared little boy to emerge in this world and express his true self, no matter who was present.
And you know what? I’ve become a far more compassionate, unconditionally loving and accepting person because of it. Which just so happens to be the very reason why I was able to quickly move away from anger with a person who was playing the stereotypical “manly man” role oh so well with me. And in its place, I found love and light in my heart to accept their shortcoming, knowing they too were probably raised to be a “manly man” by people who were only able to teach the very thing they learned themselves from their own peers when they were kids.
Hopefully one day, this illusion of having to be a “manly man” to make it in this world will be fully purged from society. And in its place will remain men who are ok to get in touch with their truest feelings and who have a strong level of compassion and empathy, even when it comes to showing that to another man…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson