One of the biggest issues of modern masculinity is the inability to appear weak, as if being strong and showing weakness are mutually exclusive. The truth is, if you buy into that antiquated set of ideals, you couldn’t be more wrong. And we’ll prove it to you.
I was having coffee outside my local shop 10 years ago when a homeless man crossed the road with his shopping cart of earthly possessions. As he began to push his cart up the sidewalk ramp, it tipped over, all of his belongings tumbling out onto the street. I wanted to help — I knew it was right — but for some reason, I just sat there drinking my coffee, like my feet were cemented in the ground. I watched, hating myself, as a young bearded man ran up and helped him collect his things. My self-loathing only grew. By refusing to be vulnerable and help the weak and less fortunate, I wasn’t appearing stronger. In fact, I was the weakest of all.
In our opinion, showing weakness is actually the greatest strength of all. It’s a vulnerability that’s rare in this world for men, but it’s becoming less and less rare, which makes it a very exciting time to be alive.
Testosterone, in terms of masculinity, plays a key role in our development. It’s linked to many of the things that make men “manly,” from our bodies and hair to our sex drive and muscle development. But over time, it’s given many of us an excuse to allow our egos to run wild, as well. Suddenly, our macho and egotistical actions have scientific backing for their existence and, in no time at all, the modern male has become a sex constantly consumed by competition, one-upping, bullying and discriminating that which is different.
“Boys will be boys,” they say. “It’s a guy thing.” Other words and phrases cleverly designed to give way to toxic masculinity, centered around misusing strength to allow people to mistreat weakness. Generations of women verbally and nonverbally, physically and psychologically abused because they couldn’t possibly understand.
But there’s nothing manly about abusive behavior.
Strength is not simply to be strong. It’s not the ability to overpower. There’s a common misconception here. Not everybody can lift a keg over their head, but that doesn’t mean people who can’t do it can’t show strength, too. And it doesn’t make you the strongest person in the room, either.
Generations of men, on the other hand, have been conditioned to suppress vulnerability. If being strong means you have to hide weakness, therein lies the point you’re missing. In fact, you’re actually lying to yourself and everyone around you as you attempt to save face and uphold a false reputation. But as people, especially men, learn to be more genuine with their thoughts and feelings, they can also sense a fake and recognize inauthenticity with their internal bullshit detectors like never before.
Not to sound political, but we were fascinated this week by a statement made by the President. During one of his rallies, the crowd started to chant for him, and he said, “Stop, you’re going to make me cry.” Whether or not he’s just putting on a show remains to be studied, but what he said next showed a lot about not only how he was raised to view weakness but how the idea of showing it is continually reinforced to be a bad thing.
“If I cry, then you won’t like me anymore,” he said.
Essentially, the leader of the free world, one of the most influential figures in our country, told thousands of his supporters it’s not OK for him to show emotion. That by showing weakness he is not a leader people could respect. Yet the president before him taught so many young people about the importance of standing up for what you believe in and breaking down barriers built up in the past that separated people from one another.
We said we were going to prove you wrong.
If we haven’t already, consider this: When was the last time you felt relief emotionally?
Maybe it wasn’t after having a long, overdue cry, but maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t from telling someone close to you how you really feel, worried they’d be sad or upset, only to find they appreciated your honesty, but maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t after helping someone who appeared weaker than you, letting them feel less insecure for once, but maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t anytime recently, but maybe it will be soon.
We feel the best when we reach out of our way and help others. Actions that we’re nervous to make in front of others, yet we do them anyway out of a sense of what is right and human, those are the actions that make us feel weak but actually make us appear stronger than anyone. I did not help that man 10 years ago, but I’ll never make that mistake again. Just by sharing a quick story about being weak, you grow stronger. By offering a branch to others, our tree grows stronger and wider.
This week’s Man Enough Challenge is to show weakness when you would otherwise exert strength, to make yourself vulnerable for the betterment of someone else’s day. How will you show strength through weakness this week?
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