How do you feel when you see a grown man cry? A close friend. A brother. Your Dad. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, you’re not alone. The Cure sang ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’ in their classic 80’s anthem. It’s built into our collective psyche. Men aren’t supposed to cry. It’s just not what men do is it?
Time to call bullshit.
A couple of weeks ago I posted an article called ‘What Real Men Cry Like’. It showed photos of young men crying and explaining why they were ok with it. Crying to them was a positive thing. I loved it. We had a lot of engagement with the post, most of it positive. But we also had some negative comments that I found really offensive. Here are just a few.
“You bunch of pussies.”
“You bunch of gays.”
“What lefty ideals are these? ‘Av a word.”
And my favourite, “Do you cry in the shower like that when you wank?”
Right now Rising Vibe has around 2000 followers on Facebook. It isn’t a small number, but it isn’t massive either. It really made me wonder, if I could get such negative comments like this, from a relatively small number of followers, what does that say about the society we live in? Boys don’t cry. End of.
Is it any wonder then, if men feel like they can’t talk about their feelings or show emotion, that depression is rife? And is it any wonder that suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45? Let that just sink in for a minute.
I’ve just spent two days with a very male dominated leadership team. The business has been going through a lot of changes recently. The department is in freefall and people aren’t feeling good. There is obviously a lot of fear and anxiety, but it’s manifesting as rage, anger and resentment. Why? Because it’s much easier to show up this way than to say, “I’m afraid.”
Rising Vibe is all about helping people feel better so that they do better. But we can’t feel better until we’re honest with ourselves about how we’re really feeling. It’s the only way we can move forwards. Men seem to struggle a lot more with acknowledging the negative feelings that are way down on the Rising Vibrational scale – fear, helplessness, anxiety, insecurity. Brene Brown says the biggest shame trigger for men is being perceived as weak. Men are ashamed of these negative emotions as they indicate vulnerability. So, they’re ignored, denied and pushed to one side. But what we resist, persists.
Over the two days with the leadership team, a lot of emotion came up. It was uncomfortable for some male delegates. There was a lot of banter and a lot of piss taking, which is generally how men deal with the discomfort of emotion with each other. This is really unhelpful. I asked them how, as leaders, would they be able to support their anxious teams through this massive restructure, when they were themselves unable to sit and listen to someone share their emotions. What kind of role modelling was this? My feedback was clear. It was no wonder their teams weren’t confiding in them and being honest about being afraid, when their leaders couldn’t be honest with themselves. It was also unsurprising that there was a lot of rage and resentment. It’s much safer to be angry. It’s much more manly. Boys don’t cry.
We run some amazing online development programmes at Rising Vibe, which are taken up 99% of the time by woman who want to work on themselves, by themselves. I’ve had a few men call me up and tell me they’d like to do a course, but they’re afraid. It’s much easier for them to do the work in the corporate world as they’ve been told to do it. The decision has been taken away from them. But wanting to do the work for yourself is a much bigger step.
So let’s call out the men. We need more of you to say I feel afraid or unable to cope and I want to do something about it. We have to encourage the men in our lives to be ok, with not being ok. It’s the kind of role modelling we need, not just in business but as the father’s, uncle’s, brother’s and family friends to the boys and young men in our lives. Going back to the ‘What Real Men Cry Like’ post, I discovered that all of the negative comments were made by men. I looked at the picture of the guy that made the shower comment and discovered he was a very young man. It was very insightful for me.
We can’t feel better or overcome our feelings of stress, anxiety and overwhelm unless we admit to them and own them. It isn’t easy for a lot of woman to do this, but my God it’s difficult for men. So men, ignore the bullshit. Ignore the banter. It’s the people that make the nasty comments, laugh and take the piss that are the most afraid. People don’t make comments like that from a place of calm and ease. Seeing another man cry is obviously a trigger and is bringing up all the shit they are going through themselves. So they attack and they blame. Much easier to attack and blame, than to acknowledge and own.
The one thing that unites us all regardless of gender is our vulnerability. All of us experience it, have experienced it and will continue to experience it. So let’s just embrace it. To be honest and open about how we’re really feeling makes us human. It makes us real. It makes us accessible. It builds trust and meaningful connections. And from this place, we can feel better.
It’s Stress Awareness month in April. Please go to the website to download a copy of the Rising Vibrational Scale . Lets encourage more men to be comfortable with vulnerability and role model it.