Too many men live under this nameless fear. A fear that drives them to chase relationships with toxic people, to stay in jobs that slowly destroy them, and to live under constant fear that they will be “found out”. As if that man is wearing a mask, that they are somehow worth less when scrutinized by their peers. And that constant fear that they will stand as tall as they can in that mask, only to be shown that they are invisible within the twin maelstroms of Rejection and Indifference.
It’s not only women that live under that cloud of doubt, that shade of impending doom. We men hold all kinds of fear. The kinds of fear that keep us up at night, that keep us on-edge and second-guessing every choice and every step, that slowly narrows the scope of our ambition and longing until nothing remains but that which we fear most: mediocrity. When we achieve, we are actually seeking what we should have been able to find in our deepest and truest selves: the sense of love, acceptance, and belonging that remain part-and-parcel of oneness.
We do not easily accept defeat. Many of us take it as a grave wound, a stigma that forever marks us as “less-than”. These marks can be small, but they build-up. Like a wound constantly opened-and-healed over decades, the bitterness and resentment build up in many of us until we do something we regret most: we drive away the people that lessen the pain in those fleeting moments of contentment and connection. We mean no actual harm, we just lack the ability to express that pain.
Communicating that pain is the most vulnerable and telling thing that any man can do. When one is speaking to you directly from the heart, it resonates. He trembles; his voice becomes low and uneven. Tears are verboten, but they lie just beyond the farthest periphery of the meaning. Men know many kinds of bravery, but this kind of bravery rides side-by-side with terror of the variety that would as soon rend its hosts asunder as be exposed to the light of day.
Six million men diagnosed with depression every year.
That statistic should be telling. We often arrive at the age of maturity without the skills or acumen necessary to be the men that we often tell each other we should (and often must) be. We tell each other through media and social pressure that we must be strong, stoic, and enterprising without fault.
Feelings are to be shoved aside as they are distractions from “the work”. Relationships must only be made and kept if they benefit us through image, material, or “the work”. In-short: We must be Atlas, and the world must ride astride our shoulders for us to be “true men”.
This narrative… this belief… could not be farther from the truth, and too few of us speak of this falsehood to each other. When we do, we are labeled soft; effeminate. We are told that we don’t live in the real world, that we don’t understand true masculinity, that we are less-than for succumbing to our feelings.
The real truth of the matter is that we are all terrified and hurt. Some of us in our own very secret ways. Some of us temporarily escape through relationships, some through drugs, others through other activities both illicit and not… and others still decide that they cannot bear the shame and regret. We mourn their passing each day, and we are lessened by their passing.
If we are to grow and survive as liberated men, we must bolster each other. We must speak words of praise and strength during the dark times, that our fellows might be fortified for the struggles ahead. We must be unafraid to speak our truths, to voice our hurts and our fears no matter how irrational and disjointed, and to be free enough to shed our tears and grieve for what was and what is.
This man beside us also has a hard fight with an unfavouring world, with strong temptations, with doubts and fears, with wounds of the past which have skinned over, but which smart when they are touched. It is a fact, however surprising. And when this occurs to us we are moved to deal kindly with him, to bid him be of good cheer, to let him understand that we are also fighting a battle; we are bound not to irritate him, nor press hardly upon him nor help his lower self. — John Watson, “Courtesy”
That man beside your or in front of you is entwined with his entire being in a struggle that encompasses everything that he was, is, and what he thinks he will eventually be. Maybe he is afraid of leaving the only job he has ever felt skilled at, maybe he is fighting his sexuality, or perhaps he is fighting both angels and demons that lie at the core of what he is and how he was raised. That man might be struggling against the grasp of memories tearing at his flesh, he might be fighting to be a better man than his father was, or he even may be fighting the worst enemy that could be wished upon him: his own self.
We too feel alone.