We are steadfast, we are unflinching, we are men…and we are dying
It has been said that we live in a patriarchal society. We see ourselves as the masters of our own destiny. We often unfairly, have better paid jobs and greater representation in both the business and political power houses that governs the UK in comparison to women. We are expected, on the whole, to be quicker in pace and stronger in arm. We are the providers, the protectors, the fixers, the guides, the shoulders to cry on – we are men, real men – but who are we kidding? Probably just ourselves.
Because there’s a huge problem; it’s all a smokescreen, a sweeping stereotype, or at very best, a part truth. Because many of us are not coping very well at all. We are, after all, just men and our world has changed yet many of us haven’t moved with it. But why would we? Why should we? We know who we are.
We are steadfast. We are unflinching. We are men.
It’s a fact that we are all, to a large degree, the result of the way we were brought up and many of us, as men, are the result of a family upbringing that imbued the traditional concept of manliness and all the ‘strengths’ it espoused. Yet the world around us today finds increasingly little virtue in the traditional roles we have been taught to exhibit from the earliest days of our lives.
Square pegs, round holes
So into the world we have gone with our cemented identity and we are proud to be real men, and for a while, for many of us, all has been good. But as time has gone by and as employment avenues into traditional male job roles have become more and more scarce whilst opportunities for all across the board have become common place the gulf between the traditional man and the requirements of a rapidly evolving modern society have continued to widen. This is a reason why many men have fallen head-long through the gap.
- We identify ourselves by our work status but we no longer have work status.
- We build our friendships through our job but we have no job.
- We demonstrate our strength through our silence but then we are never heard and we dare not speak up as this would show our weaknesses.
- We have lost our purpose or feel that we have somehow been duped.
So many of us cower in dark corners feeling that to step out would only be a step into an alien wilderness in which we cannot survive – a place where hopelessness reigns because we don’t feel able to turn to others because we are real men and real men don’t ask for help.
So how do we survive? Often badly.
We wear masks amongst our peers which serves to uphold and further reinforce the stereotype of being the real man we need people to believe we are. Or we adopt lifestyles that allow us to fleetingly dull the inner pain; we take to the bottle or the chemical and often both. But we are acutely aware that beneath this facade that threatens to crack at any moment our voices are silently screaming out to be heard, listened to, acted upon. But the silence of the real man ensures nothing is heard and the real man facade remains in check – maintained all the way through to the point that for some of us – we would rather die than admit “I need help.”
And when we take our own lives, it’s not selfish to us – we do this because we believe we are of no value. We believe we don’t belong. We honestly believe you would be better off without us. We believe that for everybody, including ourselves, we would be better off dead.
Change has got to come
So there needs to be a change, a major shift in understanding across society because being ‘real men’ in the traditional sense is killing us.
But, more importantly, the shift needs to start with us, as men. The first step for us is to recognise that –
There is no strength in silence. A real man reaches out.
Written by T Rigby; Director at Forward For Life (2015)
For more information on the work we do at Forward For Life >>> Get In Touch