It Goes Down in the DM: Redefining Masculinity
Updated: Nov 26, 2021
It’s a Thursday evening and another woman’s husband has slid into my DMs. But, before you frown your face, the reason behind his message, and the majority of messages that have made it to my inbox and DMs have had a singular focus--he wanted a referral for therapy and other mental health resources. When I first began #drtaratuesdays, I failed to account that a quarter of my viewing audience would be men, specifically Black men. I incorrectly assumed, like so many others, that men would not be interested in conversations around self-care, parenting, relationships and mental and emotional wellness. Gratefully, I was wrong. Men were tuning in and sharing their stories. I began to hold sessions on men-specific topics, such as Men and Therapy and Men and Self-Care and what I learned is that men desire a space to discuss self-care, men desire being transparent about their feelings, and men desire to have meaningful relationships with themselves, their children, and their partners--they just want to feel safe doing so.
I remember having a specific #drtaratuesdays where the focus was Men and Mental Health, and my guest spoke about his experiences with therapy and how it helped him create more honest and authentic relationships. While he spoke, he began to get trolled by two other men who called him “weak”, saying that “men cannot afford to have the same feelings as females”, and that “men cannot create order as emotional beings”. While my guest was able to expertly navigate these comments, I couldn’t help but to wonder: 1. Why were these men, who clearly felt the opposite of what the topic was, compelled to tune in? and 2. Why were these men steadfast against ‘showing emotions’, except when that emotion was anger?
This interaction showed me that the pressure placed on men, specifically Black men, to “protect” an unhealthy image of masculinity where the only emotion allowed to be displayed is anger is detrimental to not only emotional well-being, but also to physical health as well. How can we expect #blackboyjoy when men feel that they have to police not only their emotions, but the emotions of other men as well? It’s time for a radical redefinition of masculinity. We must allow men and boys the opportunity to feel the full range of emotions freely, understanding that when we encourage emotional suppression, it often limits the way men and boys are able to show up for themselves and others. So, what does it mean to redefine masculinity? Here are some steps you can take for yourself, or for the men and boys in your life:
1. Identify Safe People and Spaces.
We best heal in collaboration with people and spaces that bring a sense of community and safety. It is so important to make intentional efforts at connecting with those that understand the need and importance of mental and emotional well-being. Allowing ourselves to ask and receive help from a safe community where transparency of experience is valued is essential. In this virtual society, beginning with an online community may be a safe space to begin. Identify groups and pages on social media that post the fullness of the human experience, allowing yourself to connect and build your network. When you are ready, expanding to in-person support, such as therapy, faith-based and community organizations in your area may be helpful.
2. Allow the Expression of the Six Universal Emotions.
There are six universal emotions that we all have, regardless of gender, age, etc. They are joy, anger, fear, shame, sadness, and curiosity. For the next few days, identify what emotions arise for you as you complete daily tasks and interact with people in your life. Notice which things bring you joy, which things spark your curiosity, and which things cause sadness. The goal is to allow the acknowledgment of these emotions, noticing where you feel them in your body. For example, you may feel anger in your chest, or joy in your facial muscles. When you notice this connection, allow yourself to acknowledge it, noticing if there are any triggers. Write them down and share with your safe network.
3. Challenge Narratives that Do Not Serve You.
One of the key principles of authenticity is creating our own identities, and
challenging limiting beliefs that we have allowed to influence how we see ourselves. If you have a journal (you can purchase one here, write down common narratives of masculinity that no longer (or have never) served you. On the opposite side of the page, challenge them by writing the narrative you want to allow yourself to experience, and start with one--the easiest one. Allow yourself to build momentum by freeing yourself from this limiting belief.
4. Start a Thoughtful Self-Care™ Practice.
In my blog on Thoughtful Self-Care™ , I talk about the importance of creating and sustaining a self-care practice that speaks to our needs, while understanding any stigmas and resistance we have against creating a self-care practice. By implementing small and consistent practices, we build momentum and develop both an individual and communal self-care routine. Using the 4P’s of Thoughtful Self-Care™ (Pause, Pose a Question, *grant* Permission, and Praise) , begin to identify small ways to acknowledge your needs and grant permission to meet them.
What are other ways you are redefining masculinity to include your emotional and mental well-being? Join our Men and Self-Care private group to share click here
Check out my Dr. Tara Tuesdays video about Men & Therapy.
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