There's no shame in being honest about who you are or how you feel. Society in many ways - including the media, have a part to play in changing these ideas - Ryan Allen, Men's Wellness Advocate
Society always evolves and we hope that as it does, we are more open to celebrating indifference and being more tolerant. This, unfortunately, is not the case at all, and before you sit on the soapbox and proclaim otherwise, you might want to take a seat and rethink the act of asserting your disagreement. That's the issue, that we are facing - just because of the luxuries of the internet at our fingertips, we seem to think or find the necessity to voice our opinions, and for some less tolerant use this as a mechanism to stir hostility and toxicity across the web.
I used to think negatively about the internet and was less of an advocate, but over time, that changed and I realised, the internet wasn't the problem at all, it was simply the reflection of society exposed. When I was young, born in the 70s, it was a different world without the internet. Life was different. Relationships were cultivated because we had fewer distractions and then Jobs created Apple. The world as we know it, back then, was changing and with the rise of the world wide web, a new type of social connection was unfolding, not knowing the sheer realities of its impact on our existence, would change the way we live, interact and think.
It seems odd that despite our technological advancement, our capacity to connect on a human level has been eroded so far, that although we think we are connected, we are more disconnected than ever before, which is impacting our mental health. The digital era has offered us so many positive benefits that it would take forever to list them, and I am grateful, but like anything good, there's a dark side too from cyber attack to trolls and all manner in between.
Men have carried burdens for years, a dark secret world, they know too well, and it is a debilitating and imprisoning one. Some can break free while others stay chained. I call it the D-word depression and around it is filled with shame and so much more.
Shame can be defined as a feeling of embarrassment or humiliation that arises in relation to the perception of having done something dishonourable, immoral, or improper. While shame is a negative emotion, its origins play a part in our survival as a species Psychological Definition of Shame
When I began to look up the varying definitions of shame, I was struck by the variety of terminology and none gave a clear view of shame, with suggestions that it was something one did and not felt. Then I went to the psychological meanings which offered some interesting descriptions and seemed far more relevant for the blog. The psychological definition talks of the importance of our existence as a species and that it's a negative view of ourselves that can impact us greatly.
Men are more likely to steer away from the word shame, vulnerability and never say the D-word as it's still quite a taboo subject for the traditional masculine types, who regard it and anything associated with feelings as wrong or weak. It's a struggle and an internal war within men. Even though we as a society, are far more open about gender, body image, sexuality and numerous inequalities across the world, men are still bound, by peoples perceptions of them rather than liberated from caring less about opinion and more of their emotional survival.
But, we also have to take into account the media, and in particular, social media for their approach to disclosure and for many celebrities, who have opened up parts of their lives, are often ridiculed by the public with comments shared at lightning speed within seconds. So, it shouldn't be surprising to hear and realise men are not willing to open the door to their truth, which many have held secret for years from sexuality, emotional trauma and much more. Even the likes of TV personality, Philip Schofield, battled for years with his personal life and somehow, much later in his career was able to find the courage and pave the way for others to talk, whatever the matter may have been. For him, it was his sexuality, but with the support of his family and friends, including his co-host, Holly Willoughby on This Morning was able to find freedom through opening his door to the public.
“Do I know who I am? No. I think if I'm honest, looking you right in the eye now, I'd say I'm still pretty confused.” Philip Schofield on the Happy Place Podcast
Dead to self or disclosure
There is a fine line between openness and disclosing one's truth to the world. I'm trying to refrain from using the word authenticity, but in a very noisy world, it's important to stay grounded and live with a sense of clarity about what's important for ourselves. Staying bound or imprisoned in our heads is no good thing, so being true to ourselves and others takes time and skill, but it's worth it. I don't know about you but living in my head for much of my teen years caused enormous pain and anxiety, that I'd never wish that upon anyone. It was exhausting and the more I remained silent or intimidated by societies view of my true self, the more numb I became, living a fake life on the stage of humanity, so others would accept me, but the truth is we can never please everyone or be accepted, it's just how life is. People have tribes and it's our responsibility to find our own, but never dilute who we are inside and out to be accommodated.
It may sound morbid, but there's no comparison to true honesty, of owning your life on your terms rather than being pigeonholed by people who have no interest in elevating your life or who even care. Our world has indeed transformed but to what extent? I would say that people feel deep levels of shame, hidden under an exterior that's carefully and skilfully draped with facades that are built like a fortress that no one can enter. Humanity has evolved for good and less so, as we are tied to tech, eyes down, tapping away while life and living pass us by.
Anxiety continues to spread and is far worse than any microbial, with an ability to imprison people of all ages, gender and race, and this goes unnoticed until either disclosure is claimed with pride or rejected for a life of silence. For me, the first is my mantra. You may read this and think, no-one, cares or wishes to know your deepest or darkest traumas, but that is simply not true. It is clear, those who play the same tape, over and over, end up in worse situations that ultimately lead to horrible ends by their own hands. People may appear to have it all sorted out, but we never know the real story or the highly edited and curated social feeds, that never display the reality. But, things are changing for good on that front.
Whatever life throws at you, you can rise stronger than before. We can never please everyone, even the greatest celebrities with wealth many would wish for, are also bound by moments of darkness, living in self-destructive states of depression with trolls carrying sacks of hate, smeared across social media platforms. No one is immune to anxiety - the pandemic confirmed that for many of us. Men have the potential to transform their lives, but it takes one step at a time towards cracking open the truth. The more we talk, the lighter the shackles.
"I always thought it was me against the world and then one day I realised It's just me against me." Kendrick Lamar
There was a time when disclosing your thoughts and feelings, as men, would not be viewed well but questioned and labelled as a gay thing, rather than, a human thing. Sounds absurd, but in our modern world, people still have these views, who might not voice them publicly for not being politically correct but someone will make their verdict known on a social feed, be assured of that. Throughout history, men have been marketed to in TV, film and advertising as archetypes of strength, and don't get me wrong, I'm all for that, just get the balance right.
The London Advertising agency, BBD Perfect Storm and its sub-division, New Macho are challenging this notion of masculinity, with great success, as more than linear, but rather 3 dimensional and multi-faceted. When I interviewed them on the Hey Ryan Podcast Show (Episode 9) it was refreshing to hear their take on the subject, but also enlightened by the proactive efforts to create change. As anxiety continues to engulf a large proportion of men around the world, it's not surprising, we have an epidemic that's not declining, so we must encourage and remove the building blocks surrounding the stigma of disclosing depression. Only when we normalise anxiety across genders, can we see a lasting change that no longer keeps men silent anymore.
Anxiety causes pain for us all, however big or small, it exists and by disclosing it, you take away its power and grip, towards a lighter and happier life, that we all deserve. Be kind to yourself and put yourself and your mind first, surely that's a good thing for a better future.
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