by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA
Are you living in a man cage? While socially, economically and politically, men are considered privileged in most societies, I believe that they are often emotionally imprisoned. While gender roles impact men and women differently, we need to talk about the impact they have on everyone.
In general men are expected to be strong, stoic and not exhibit vulnerability. Showing emotions like sadness or fear may be viewed as weak. If you are a man, do you allow yourself to tell the people in your life how you really feel? Do you let them see who you are as an authentic human being?
Men often shoulder these things alone: Afraid he will fail Going broke Putting on a front that “everything is great” when it is not Spending more than he can afford to create an appearance of confidence and success Believing that he needs to be able to be the sole provider of his family (even if that’s not true) Burying his real feelings Being the “strong one” so his partner can fall apart Solving problems alone and bearing the stress himself Feeling judged if he admits something is too much for him Assuming if he shows his real feelings people will think less of him Avoiding deep human connection because it might reveal his pain Exploding in anger instead of tears Suffering with depression, anxiety or other struggles in silence Not seeking help (medical care, mental health support, someone safe to talk to)
We ALL live in the cage as long as men are in it. Men, women and children all feel the pain when half of humanity is not free to be authentic and genuine. There is more awareness than ever in the media about the many “cages” women must navigate. Let’s bring this one out into the open, too!
If you are a man, think about coming out of the cage. Start small. Begin by sharing things with other people that you have told yourself you cannot. Tell someone you trust about something that is causing you stress. Gradually let people see you, help you, and support you. Find someone with whom can navigate this journey.
If you are a woman, try to encourage men to be more real with you. Show your own strength and make sure he knows you’re both in it together—neither one must go it alone. If you’re feeling something, chances are he does too. If it’s his “job” to be the shoulder to lean on he will probably offer it. I bet having all four shoulders available is stronger for figuring out almost any problem. Take turns leaning on each other and problem-solving together while each standing on your own two feet.
If you have a financial practice, chances are if you are a man you keep many things to yourself. For example, you might have emergency line of credit (and you have had to use it), your last “paycheck” was a loan from the Managing Director, or that you are afraid that you might not succeed. Turn to the people in your life knowing that it’s strong to ask for help. It will not compromise your masculinity and strength to tell the truth.
Let’s join forces to bust everyone out of any and all cages. Human beings are pretty amazing when they are free to be themselves. We will all benefit when we all embrace the fragile, strong, fearful, confident, capable, scared, talented and brave people we are.
Coaching Tip Recent changes in our American society have caused men to grapple with many new things. Men over age 40 have been most affected by job loss in recent times at a time when they are expected to be at the top of the game. The family structure has changed drastically even from the last generation. Cultural messages are more prolific than ever with the internet, social media and the speed of information. All of this means it’s time to talk! Whoever you are, throw open the doors to communication. Try to make it feel safe for anyone and everyone you care about to be real with you. You do the same in return. I think you will be surprised and delighted at the whole new level of human connection possible. It is powerful beyond what most of us can imagine.