Be a Man- Dilemma of
masculinity and emotional expression

Emotion is an important ingredient of our life. It makes us feel alive, feel connected and be human. When we are aware of our emotions, we are able to communicate our needs and wants as a social being. Hence, it is important for all human beings to express their emotions, whether pleasant or unpleasant emotions.

How often do we hear these phrases around us?

‘Be strong’,

‘Be a man’,

‘Boys don’t cry’

Since early childhood years, men are taught to be strong and not be vulnerable. They learn to not to express their emotions or they wouldn’t be accepted by others. The concept of masculinity is fed to them which impacts their behaviours, thoughts and emotional expression. Masculinity is socially constructed and ‘being a man’ is associated with their gender identity. Men are supposed to be strong, tough, aggressive, successful, handles money, opinionated, muscular, etc. does that ring a bell?

Most men end up having difficulties related to expressing or describing their emotions and handling distress well. They may say ‘I am feeling sad or happy’ but not the exact emotion like hurt or guilt. The reason lies in the fact that they have never been taught to articulate their emotions as it’s not ‘being masculine or being a man’. This leads to majority of the men engaging in violence, domestic abuse, and suffering from substance use, and mood disorders. It ruins their relationships with others while affecting their personal and occupational fronts.

So, what can be done?

1. ACKNOWLEDGE – It is important for men to acknowledge that they have unpleasant emotions and can’t describe it. (Remember that the first step towards change is awareness).

2. UNDERSTAND EMOTIONS – Try to be emotionally literate. Have a journal where you can write down your feelings (use emotional wheel to identify your feelings). While tying messages, use emojis.

3. OWN IT – Use the “I” statement to own your feelings. You can say “I feel hurt” instead of saying “You are always mean to me.”

4. COMMUNICATE – Ask yourself how you are feeling. Communicate your feeling to others so that you and others can understand your needs better.

The key to learn these skills is practice, practice and practice.

Though crying or being vulnerable is considered as “no male qualities” but remember that these are unrealistic standards set by society. It’s okay to experience pain. It’s okay to not be okay. It doesn’t make one a bad person. In fact, it makes one human and improves one’s connectivity with others. Not talking about suffering is an unhealthy way of coping. Express your emotions, show your vulnerability and that will make you a better self-equipped person.


Author: Sandeepa Kaur is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at TherapHeal and has her own YouTube channel called Mansa: Mental Health and Wellness.
Dr. Amanpreet Kaur is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist at TherapHeal and a Research Fellow at The George Institute for Global Health, India 

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