When I was a child, I was told that a man had to be strong. He did not show any emotion; did not let things bother him; and above all did not cry. He was supposed to be the model of stoic fortitude. Society depended on him to act instead of react, and he was just supposed to internalize his feelings. Well, society you can go to blazes!
Part of my training as a therapist was to understand the impact of emotions. For those who don’t know, emotions can cause pain. The “Things that cannot be cured must be endured” attitude is an interesting theory, but the pain left behind after an emotional trauma or particularly stressful day, if not addressed, will eat away at the body causing such things as headaches, upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, and problems sleeping. (Learn more about stress and its effects on WebMD.com.)
The major hiccup to the male stoicism argument is that if a man decides to follow society’s rules for him and to not be “so sensitive,” he could either end up either with anger control issues, with violent tendancies, or with a self-loathing that could lead to suicidal ideation. Personally, I know what that’s like and it is not a cool place to be.
I noticed that I was conforming my thoughts and emotions to make others happy. I noticed that I was enabling others to walk all over me and I was feeling like crap. Then I got a piece of advice from someone whom I respect that has totally changed my outlook on my role in this social circus we call life. They said, “You are not everyone else’s babysitter” and to “be who you are … which is a really awesome person.”
I agree with that advice and I plan to take it. I refuse to let the opinions of others shape my identity perpetuating the concept of the looking glass self.
As a wise man once said, “If you’re talking about me behind my back you’re in a pretty good position to kiss my ass!” And all I can add to that is please do not take too long, as I have an appointment to fix my give a damn.”