Mark White, MEUS Founder
First things first: I am who I am. And part of who I am means being a man in today’s society. But while all of my own experiences have led me to where I am today, and they are exactly that – my own experiences. So while I don’t claim to have all the answers to anything, and most definitely not to the men’s mental health crisis we are part of, I can provide insights based on my own individual journey. And in reading mine, I hope that you might feel inspired to reflect on your own.
When we are younger, we have very little understanding of how external situations and events shape us, or how they play such a huge part in shaping us into the man we believe we are supposed to be. As we get older we become more hyper-aware of outside influences and judgements. Questions like ‘who am I?’, ‘why don’t they like me?’ or ‘why don’t I look like him?’ start cropping up. And while these thoughts provoke strong emotions, these complexities become internalised as we strive to put on a tough outer shell. These feelings of inadequacy and insecurity are rife, while it appears that other people don’t seem to care.
What I’ve realised now, is that other people definitely did care. The truth was that we all suffered, but we all tried so hard to hide this suffering in fear of looking weak. Why didn’t we know that others felt the same? Why do we feel the need to bottle up these emotions? The answer has since become clear: because we didn’t feel that we had a safe space to fully express ourselves. The society that we grew up in and that we exist in now (albeit which has come a long way already) is not a place where men feel free to live without judgement, without pressure, and without expectation.
It goes without saying that judgement is always going to exist. As long as there is love and hate, there will always be judgement. So when thinking about what we must do in order to create a society where men can talk openly about their mental health, we must take this into consideration. There are critical stages throughout our life when we must be willing to get curious, to explore new paths and to open ourselves up to new opportunities. We won’t find these things out if we allow ourselves to be dictated by judgement and stigma. We must put ourselves in situations where we are consumed by the situation, not the problem.
The sooner we can tune into information that adds value to our lives – be it through podcasts, books, videos, mentors – the sooner we can unlock our spirit and purpose. And in uncovering our spirit and purpose, we not only gain a stronger sense of who we are, but who we are in relation to other people. In turn, we must start acknowledging our insecurities. We must use them as superpowers that work for us – not against us. This can deepen our understanding of what it means to be a man in today’s society, as well as what it really means to be human.
On a more societal level, education is a powerful tool that we must get better at harnessing. Education creates new spaces and opportunities to nurture a culture of all being in this together. We must embed this understanding from a young age, creating a space for empathy and allowing people to look at both mental and physical fitness. We must encourage boys to feel all their feelings, and give them the tools to manage them all – be it stress and anxiety or joy and happiness.
And finally, what I truly believe to be the key when it comes to cultivating a society in which men are no longer afraid to express themselves or embody their emotions: community. We all need our people. And through conscious communities, we can form valuable connections with others through support, identity and relating. While we’re all on our own individual paths, we can go further when there are other people involved. The feeling of having somewhere to belong is such an incredible feeling, and is something that many of us either take for granted or don’t fully understand the potential it holds. As men, we must acknowledge that there is support out there, and normalise reaching out for support.
With an open mind, our power is untapped. Men must work with each other, not against each other, in bringing together a society that exists as a safe space for us all.