Myths That Could Be Holding You Back
There are a lot of “myths” of masculinity and what it means to be a man—a lot of false beliefs, unhealthy expectations and even lies that can hurt your health, your relationships, and your happiness. We, men, face numerous pressures from society, our dads, our significant others, and ourselves about who we’re supposed to be. These myths can do serious damage. The problem is, many of these pressures are not talked about. The pain often goes unnoticed, and many men hit barriers about even getting help in the first place. The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. That’s why Denver Men’s Therapy exists, and why we do the work we do.
This blog will help you see more clearly what’s causing some of the problems you’re dealing with. It will remind you that many guys deal with these issues and you’re not alone. Most importantly, it will give you the next steps to solving the problems. Now, let’s look at a few of the biggest myths of masculinity, and what they may be costing you.
1. Myth of Masculinity – “Weakness”
The myth of weakness is based on false beliefs about what it means to be “strong” and the expectations that men should always be strong and stoic. One of the most common fears that men express to me in counseling is that any “chink in the armor” of confidence, independence or problem solving is somehow “weak.” They worry that even needing counseling in the first place is a sign of weakness. Likewise, many men worry that being vulnerable (i.e. honest and open about feelings and concerns) and asking for help is somehow “weak” and unacceptable.
These could not be further from the truth.
Think about it: did you ever hear things like “big boys don’t cry,” “suck it up,” “don’t be a baby,” “don’t be a pussy,” etc. growing up? Did the men in your life demonstrate a wide range of feelings, or was it mainly just anger? Unfortunately these messages, and what’s been demonstrated to us, has instilled unrealistic and flawed beliefs that men aren’t supposed to have sensitivity and should be “strong” all the time; that anger is the only acceptable emotion to show.
Here are some of the biggest “costs,” or damaging effects of this myth.
Do any of these look familiar to you?
– Chronic or toxic anger
– Loneliness & isolation
– Substance abuse
– Trouble communicating
– Failed relationships
*Helpful tip: recognize that being vulnerable (i.e. feeling uncomfortable but choosing to be open and honest) actually takes way more strength than hiding, avoiding the problem, or suffering in silence. If you are vulnerable enough to ask for help, you are STRONG and have the right to feel proud of that.
2. Having it All Together
Most of us guys are logical problem solvers. We like to figure things out quickly, tackle the solution, and get things done. We all probably know the stereotype of the guy who is unwilling to ask for directions on a road trip and drives around lost for hours because he’s too proud to ask for help.
The man in this scenario has bought into the myth that men “should always” have all the answers, all the knowledge, or at least be able to figure it out on their own. The flawed belief is that if you need to seek help, there’s something “wrong” with you.
A big way this comes up in counseling is “should” statements – men beating themselves up because of all their unreasonable beliefs about how they “should” be. Here are a few examples:
- “I should have it all together”
- “I should be able to deal with it on my own”
- “I should be able to handle anything”
The problem is, this just isn’t realistic, for anyone. Everyone needs help sometimes, with something. It’s just part of being human and there’s nothing wrong with asking for help & guidance.
Here are a few of the biggest costs of this myth:
– High stress
– Shame and embarrassment
– Suffering in silence
– Lost time, potential & happiness
*Helpful tip: What would you say to a buddy or someone you care about if they asked you for help with something? Would you shame them and tell them they “should” already know the answer? Probably not. So don’t do this to yourself. Accept that you can benefit from help and trust the experts at Denver Men’s Therapy to guide you through it.
3. Sex, Money, Power
The basic thinking behind this myth is that “real men” have lots of sex whenever and with whomever they want, make lots of money, and have power over others in their work and personal life. Obviously, this one is pretty pervasive and sets up a lot of unhealthy expectations & pressure that men put on themselves, and unhealthy behaviors trying to meet them.
Now, think of some of your favorite movies, TV shows or video games. How are the heroes in these stories portrayed? I was watching the show “Californication” recently, and the main character Hank seduces amazingly gorgeous women numerous times in every episode. He talks down to them, betrays them, hurts them, and how do they respond?
They tear off their clothes, fall into bed with him, and swoon over what a charmer he is. In one episode he brags to his agent about the number of women he’s bedded, implying that it’s in the multiple hundreds. It struck me how gross, unhealthy and unrealistic this portrayal is, and how badly it distorts people’s ideas about how men are supposed to behave with women.
Movies like The Wolf of Wall Street or video games like Grand Theft Auto (GTA) glamorize rich, angry, violent, power-hungry, sexually promiscuous male protagonists. When men have flawed expectations about how they should act and what they should value, it not only leads to destructive and dangerous habits, it causes unnecessary shame and embarrassment.
Here are some big costs of myth #3:
– Damaging or dangerous behaviors
– Destructive relationships
– Disrespecting or hurting women
– Substance abuse
– Chronic stress
– Low self-worth (“I’m a failure” “I’m a loser” etc.)
*Helpful tip: Catch yourself next time you’re in the comparison trap of putting yourself down because you don’t make as much money as ___, or don’t have as much sex as ____. Remind yourself that you’re making healthy choices for yourself, that you have solid values, and that’s what real men do.
So which of the myths did you identify with? What are they costing you?
The myths of masculinity are largely based on outdated social norms. As of 21st-century men, it’s time we redefine masculinity on our own terms. It’s time we become more well-rounded, healthy, fully integrated men. At Denver Men’s Therapy, we’re dedicated to this: helping you become the best version of yourself.
So what are you waiting for? What might you be losing by continuing to put off asking for help? Whatever you’re dealing with, you’re not alone. We’re here for you and we can help. We’re trained specialists in EMDR, treating trauma & PTSD, depression, anxiety, grief, relationship issues, confidence, navigating life changes, and more.
by Tad Lusk, LPC, EMDR trained, author, musician