“The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.” -Leonardo da Vinci
We have heard too often in recent times about the harmful and destructive language that we use for boys and men. Lately, we have seen a decline in these sayings but our attitude towards masculinity still remains outdated. We, humans, shed tears to protect our eyes and to show our emotions. We cry when we are upset and the act of crying acts as a painkiller, which is why we feel better after we cry. But sadly, men are told frequently growing up to “be strong” and “be a man” which leads to internalizing feelings and the inability to express themselves verbally and physically.
The inability to express feelings through words does not equate to a lack of feelings. Men feel pain. Men feel immense, deep pain that needs addressing but men may fail to display it at the right time. Men feel it is important to express their feelings and emotions in the right venue and time if they express their feelings at all. At times, the pain may come as physical symptoms such as stomach pain or headache. Some men bury themselves into their work so they can escape from the realities and pain of the world. Some have become so good at hiding their emotions that they do not even know how to comprehend their feelings.
At times, men who express their emotions are laughed at and perceived as lacking masculinity, which may lead to shutting themselves again. Buying into these stereotypes or gender norms can be further damaging and lead to loneliness and inner pain. While women enjoy venting to their female friends, men hesitate to open up to their male friends due to the fear of being perceived as weak. This is probably why men usually seek female counselors to discuss their issues if they seek help at all. Things are worse for men who have suffered domestic violence or sexual abuse because this means admitting to a weakness that is conflicting masculinity and manliness. The fear of being judged on opening about their feelings will lead to pushing the feelings aside. The emasculation of men who express love and compassion for loved ones is another consequence faced. In some societies, men who change diapers of their babies are criticized for doing so and men who express love to their spouses are disapproved by their families.
Women who are vulnerable are not criticized for being so whereas men who are vulnerable are disparaged and ridiculed which is probably why some men think twice before showing compassion and affection in public or exhibit their true emotions. Some cultures also expect men to showcase their virility through their body language and otherwise even if they prefer not to. All these expectations put a lot of pressure on men, confusing men on what is right and wrong.
Men need a place to show their emotions too. Although there has been a positive change in the way society sees men who express their emotions, we have a long way to go. This blog post was triggered by a number of male clients I spoke to who had never before spoken about their personal and professional issues before with anyone and was hesitant to do so. I also spoke to a few men who were genuinely surprised when asked about their feelings and inspiration in their workplace because feelings are not a place they associated to the workplace. Being aware of the feelings you experience at the workplace can help keep a check on your stress level.
What you perceive as a gigantic problem in your personal and professional life may not be as big as you think. All you need to do is seek help and you may find multiple ways to navigate around it. You may be surprised how trivial a problem can be when you get the right help.
If you feel you would like to learn more about yourself or be more aware of your feelings to improve your personal and professional life, please book a complimentary intro session with me. I look forward to helping with your personality development and get you the success you need in your personal and professional life.
Hamna Siddique is a career and leadership coach focusing on confidence and personal development.
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10 thoughts on “Why Men Struggle to Express their Emotions?”
Love this! So important to acknowledge how these expectations can interfere with people’s personal development and ability to grow.
So important that we encourage men to express their emotions. Parenting and educating young boys needs to put more emphasis on developing emotional characteristics of little guys. Why do we focus so much on compassion with little girls and bravery for little boys? Lots to think about in this post!
Thank you Ashley.
Speaking as a man and as someone who gave up caring what other people think about him, this does not entirely encompass the totality of my experience with talking about and expressing feelings. Yes, there are toxic masculinity cultural elements – very strong restrictions sometimes. Yes, men speak about feelings less often. But we do speak – sometimes with incredible depth of feeling. Due to gender culture differences, we have a different way of sharing amongst ourselves. What we do not often do is speak of feelings with the same vocabulary as the women in our lives. If you want to understand what men have to say about their feelings, you may need to learn a whole new language. And trust me – the pallet of words, metaphors, and allusions we use can be radically different from anything you were expecting. This can include such cryptic methods as understanding silences. Subtle nods. A quick pat on the shoulder. Maybe some words. It is nevertheless valid and communicative. We have learned to communicate about feelings in a way that you have to listen most carefully and intently to hear.
Thank you for your very elaborate comment.
So well written!
So many times I have seen men bury emotions and dive deep into their work. I love this post. It is very eye-opening.
Thank you so much for writing this. It is a topic that I deal with my clients a lot because they are ex-military and have a difficult time with understanding and gaining emotional intelligence. Also, raising a son that is a Cancer moon-sign he is extremely sensitive and I see how he struggles with this:/