What is it like to be a man in America?
While the question is pretty simple and straightforward, the answer isn’t. Masculinity in America has several different meanings. It is different for different people. And unfortunately, it is often misunderstood - men are often misunderstood.
Most people have created an ideal image of a man in their mind, and anything or anyone that doesn’t fit into the mold of that image has to go through rough phases. He is judged and sometimes even looked down on by society.
Thus, many people are afraid to even ask the question: What does it mean to be a man? And this is what we are going to discuss here. It is going to be a difficult conversation, but it will be enlightening and so worth it.
Men have been defining reality for years
For centuries, men have been at the helm of every significant organization in the world - they ran the world. They made the rules and defined reality. And today, reality is finally catching up with them.
Times are changing today, and the universe is demanding us to evolve. However, that isn’t possible unless we face the reality - a reality that men have created, nurtured, and promoted themselves.
Modern-day men find themselves in the midst of several difficult questions related to their profession, relationships, spirituality, and life itself. And they cannot find the answer unless they start being really honest and transparent with themselves and with others.
However, being honest isn’t always easy, especially in modern times. Today, people are afraid of being real. They are afraid of saying certain things and speaking their heart out. The reason for this is that today we live in a world where people hold each other responsible for the the things they say.
Even when you don’t mean ill, someone may still find a way to hold you responsible for things you say. This is the biggest reason most men are afraid to say things; they try to embellish the reality, and that is the root cause of most issues.
A lot of men are afraid to let their emotions out and be vulnerable
Another unfortunate part of masculinity in America that prevents honesty is men holding back their emotions. Unfortunately, boys are told from a very young age that “men don’t cry” or that “men don’t get upset.”
Words like these leave a mark on the tender mind of young boys, and they grew up with men who are afraid to show their emotions. They start internalizing that, as a male, any show of emotion was frowned upon and not manly.
And unfortunately, this is something that is reinforced by every male in society throughout boys childhoods, both by adults and by their peers. Boys who try to show emotion are called names and even have their sexuality questioned by their peers. And thus, they started hiding their emotions to protect themselves.
But is that real masculinity? Is bottling up your emotions and not allowing yourself to be upset the definition of masculinity?
Suppressing your feelings can cause some seriously adverse effects
Suppressing your feelings isn’t healthy. And when men hide their feelings for a long while, it eventually comes out as anger, rage and hostility.
Your feelings are the language of your soul. They help you express yourself, not only to others but to your own self as well. When you own your feelings and express them openly, you become an emotionally healthy individual. And emotional health is the cornerstone of every successful relationship, whether it is personal or professional.
However, when someone suppresses their emotions and doesn’t let them out in a healthy way, those feelings find another outlet. And sometimes, that outlet can take the form of violence, addiction to alcohol or any other substance, or any other dangerous behavior.
When you ignore or suppress your feelings, you become numb. And the only way to let go of all the numbness and feel deeply is by letting all those bottled-up feelings out. And this is the reason why many men tend to release their emotions all at once through violence, anger and hostility.
Understanding this fact is essential to understanding the meaning of masculinity in America and why it is the way it is.
Examination of gender construction in America
The social construction of gender in America has kept men from being their authentic selves. It encouraged them to shut down and hide their authenticity because everyone else was doing the same too. Everyone is projecting what they were conditioned and taught since childhood.
Unfortunately, many people don't get to the point of moving past the messages, psychological and emotional barriers that were established in their minds from a young age. They grow up into adults who are uncomfortable about being sensitive. They are afraid to demonstrate deep concern and compassion for others because they aren't accustomed to seeing this from other guys.
This is one of the reasons men feel difficulty in expressing their emotions to other men. Even in today’s twenty-first-century world, many fathers feel awkward telling their sons that they love them.
While some men manage to express themselves in front of women, they usually have a whole different dynamic when it comes to expressing themselves to other men. This is the extent to which the gender constructions of society have affected us!
Hiding your emotions prevents you from trusting other men
Another aspect of masculinity in America is that it causes males to have trust issues with other men. While most men would not say it out loud, they have a hard time trusting other males. After all, how do you trust a man if he withholds his emotions and does not share how he's feeling? To build trust, you need to be honest about your feelings and show emotions. And since that is difficult for so many males, they find it hard to trust other men.
Continuously following society’s norms about how a man "should be" can result in loneliness. When you try to hide your emotions and build a wall all around your soul, it gets lonely in there. You can be with a lot of people and they would never know who you actually are.
Toxic masculinity keeps men from being authentic
Another aspect of masculinity in America is that there are so many men out there who are great at socializing and being with people, and yet they are afraid to show their authentic selves, be honest about their feelings, and embrace the imperfect yet beautiful reality. It is like being a chameleon or playing a role.
When you don't trust people, you don't really give people an opportunity to know you - to know the real you. This not only affects your relationships with other men but with everyone in general. You will have a hard time managing your romantic relationships, your friendships, and even your professional relationships. This, in turn, can become a reason for depression, anxiety, and other mental issues.
The root cause of most problems is bottling up your emotions. Until you find a healthy way to let out your feelings and show your authentic selves, things are not going to improve.
It’s time for a change!
A vast majority of men have walked through the better part of their lives being completely numb. They didn’t only hide their authenticity from others but from their own selves too. And this has affected every part of their lives.
It is one of the reasons why so many men are struggling with deep depression, extreme self-destructive behaviors, and poor relationships in America. They don’t allow themselves to be fully present in relationships and really sink into it in a way that is loving and gentle.
And unfortunately, when young men need a safe avenue for honesty and healing, all they get is cancellation and punishment.
But not anymore!
Cancellation and punishment are actually counterintuitive and counterproductive to the whole idea of healing and growing. This is the reason why more and more people are opting for counseling today. They just want a safe space and non-judgemental people to listen to them and give them room to grow.
Remember that you can't grow without making mistakes and applying what you've learned from the past to this present moment. This is the nature of growth.
So, we need to ask ourselves, do we want people to grow or do they want people to continue to hide?
Let's redefine masculinity in America
The world is evolving at a rapid pace today. People of all genders have the right to discover who they are as they go through life.
You no longer need to keep up with society’s definition of masculinity in America. You can choose to break down those barriers and define yourself the way you want to.
You can choose to wear your emotions on your sleeves and be your authentic self. Men have been hard on themselves for a long while, and now is the time to let it all go. To free yourself and your soul from all the prejudices and start the healing process. It’s time to set a new and healthy definition of masculinity in America for the coming generation.
No matter what people have believed, masculinity in America is not a rigid concept. As a man, you can choose to be strong or vulnerable, you can choose to cry your heart out or laugh with your buddies, and you can choose to be sensitive about things.
It is your life, and you get to define what masculinity means to you. And while you are at it, make sure to allow the young generation to choose their own definition of masculinity!