Parlor Talk: A Man's Worth
Society tells us what a man is worth. It tells us that he is strong, stoic and competitive. A man refuses to let anyone walk over him, but he also refuses to ask for help. He chooses his own path, independent, fierce and courageous. If only it were so simple to turn on the man “switch” and be these daring heroes, seen on TV. Sadly, men are human beings and this isn’t TV. Traditional masculinity is hurting men, and they can’t even talk about it.
A lot like John Wayne or Chuck Norris, we are told to man up when we feel emotional. The pressure to remain emotionless robots and toughen up leaves men vulnerable to the debilitating effects of suffering in silence. The effects of this social construct have incredible consequences. Per the Good Man Project, suicide, alcoholism, and heart attacks are common amongst men who cannot cope with the pressure to never feel anything. This attempt to be statues is killing men.
This “traditional masculinity” creates a sense of arrogance. A real man doesn’t need anyone. Not even medical professionals. In fact, men can expect to die five years earlier than most women because of the refusal to be honest with doctors. Not only are society’s standards making men sick, but they are not letting them get the help they need.
Refusing help doesn’t always have to be medical, this type of masculinity can put a man at odds with everyone else. Men are told to be competitive, from sports to business, they are supposed to be cut throat and ambitious. Mercy is weakness and a man never gives or asks for help from anyone. This type of worldview can isolate someone, make him feel like he has no one to turn to.
The same masculinity used to define men is the very prison that limits them and can stunt his growth emotionally. This emotional repression creates rifts in relationships. Most men are unable to connect with their children, friends, and even their spouse. Slowly it separates a man from those who care for him until he is a husk.
Many men feel that they cannot express themselves or the pain they feel from not measuring up in society because emotion is a “feminine” quality. In fact, concern over body image is traditionally seen as a “female issue” but this just isn’t true. Men are exposed to just as many societal pressures on their bodies as women.
What does a man look like to you? Odds are you thought of a tall, muscular young man with a full head of hair. Unfortunately, most of us don’t hit the mark in all these areas. Body dysmorphia, according to the Body Dysmorphic Disorder foundation, is defined as an unnatural or obsessive preoccupation with your appearance. The unattainable role models that Americans are exposed to cultivates a feeling of inadequacy that increases the risk of developing this mental disorder. From leg lengthening to gain a few centimeters, liposuction and hair transplants those who suffer from this disorder pursue whatever it takes to be a "man."
A particular form of body dysmorphia among men is a preoccupation with the muscularity of the body. The men who suffer from “bigorexia” are in a constant battle with themselves. They look in the mirror and see scrawny and weak men, even though they may be at peak physical performance.
Those who suffer from "bigorexia" are not your typical bodybuilders, they go to the extreme. Often implementing drastic drugs usages, such as steroid or stimulants, they do whatever it takes to get bigger. Some men even get pectoral or calf implants to appear larger than they are. Often, this does nothing for them and they continue to seek to satisfy the deep desire to be “buff.”
Society has placed an incredible strain on men, and it has silenced them from speaking out. While women can express emotion, and make a change, men are resigned to sit in the shadows and suffer. Traditional masculinity has failed them, it is a void that eats the lives of men away. It refuses to allow men to emotionally express themselves and confines them to lonely lives of inadequacy.
No man will ever meet society’s unnatural standards of perfection. Instead, you must accept who you are and love yourself. Stop being afraid of being labeled as a “sissy” for expressing the emotions that make you a human being. Cry, laugh, dance and wear whatever color you want. You don’t need to be another person’s version of a man, you need to be your version.