Yes, men suffer anxiety too. We’re just not supposed to talk about it.
We’re exposed 24/7 to all the horrendous things that we should be worried about – health, finances, erectile dysfunction, job security, relationships, aging, climate change, hair loss, terrorism… it’s a really long list!
But as boys growing up we’re also handed the list of things in life that we’re supposed to be responsible for: Provide for your family, protect women and children, always be strong, look and earn like Brad Pitt or Dwayne Johnson, know how to fix anything… it’s also a really long list.
But here’s the catch – ya gotta do all this while never breaking a sweat or letting on that you’re the least bit frightened. Be the strong one for everybody else. Don’t display weakness. And for heaven’s sake, don’t go asking for help.
So, guys, how’s this working out for us?
Fortunately, most men don’t resort to such extreme measures. But even the less radical methods of coping can be damaging to men and those close to them. Studies have found that about one in five men will suffer some anxiety disorder during their lifetime. But psychologists suspect that those numbers are underreported cuz we’re not supposed to talk about it.
Kinda like “jumbo shrimp” or “act naturally,” masculine anxiety almost seems like an oxymoron. But the old myth that men are, or should be, macho, testosterone-driven super-heroes has caused more violence and grief than we can imagine.
Psychologists tell us that, at the root of all these destructive behaviors, is fear. And fear shows up as anger, hate, anxiety, aggressiveness, violence and guilt. How, then, do we rid ourselves of fear, anxiety and self-doubt?
And no, the answer isn’t to just rub some dirt on it!
The real answer is a two-step process.
Step one is to embrace an enlightened, healthier and more balanced view of masculinity. Let’s call it Manhood 2.0 and decide that it should hang on to the best aspects of traditional manhood, let the toxic ones go, and add a number of vital new traits such as vulnerability and emotional intelligence.
But how do we get past the entrenched ego-response that wants to resist any threat to the strong macho image?
The secret is to use traditional masculinity to debunk traditional masculinity stereotypes.
No man wants to be duped. Which is precisely what the old machismo has been doing to us. Men love to believe themselves to be logical and rational. How can you look at the statistics I’ve referenced above and draw any kind of logical conclusion that traditional masculinity is serving us or those we love, well? The fact is that, by any yardstick, old-school manliness is failing us miserably. Traditional masculinity is a scam and no man is willing to put up with being scammed.
Step two is to make the decision to let fear go. While that sounds too easy to be true, it can be done.
Barring some form of genuine mental illness, worry and anxiety are mental choices that we make. Some external circumstance occurs and we choose to let it frighten or worry us. The proof that it’s a choice lies in the fact that plenty of other people, faced with the same circumstances, don’t become frightened or anxious. They make a different choice. We, however, have been choosing to be frightened or anxious.
To be fair, the vast majority of people are making the same choice. And the world around us reinforces that choice 24/7. We’re told that we’re supposed to worry and that anxiety is normal and natural. Because we’ve been trained and conditioned to be fearful, it has become a mental choice. We’ve been practicing this choice for so long that it’s become a habit and a belief.
Again, let’s use traditional masculinity to debunk traditional masculinity stereotypes.
Most men don’t like being told what to do. We prefer to see ourselves as independent thinkers who make our own decisions. Then why have we, and why do we continue to think in the way we’ve been instructed to think, after we’ve proven that that thought process doesn’t serve us in the least?
As with any ingrained habit, it takes time and practice to replace the fear reaction with something that’s more useful. But the point is, you can stop worrying. And when you do, your life, and the lives of those close to you, the lives of those you’re responsible for, will be infinitely better.
I am so optimistic that the world, and the majority of men in it, are gradually coming to recognize the massive flaws in traditional masculinity. Far too much anger, aggressiveness, violence and pain have come from it. Now, increasingly, conversations about vulnerability, mindfulness, emotional intelligence and other Masculinity 2.0 topics aren’t just in the media, they’re becoming part of casual conversations.
If you worry too much, or if there’s a man in your life who worries too much, please get in touch with me. I can help you make a different choice.