We’ve come a long way when it comes to breaking down norms around gender. Women are climbing workplace ladders and men are expected to be fully involved in childcare duties. But it’s important not to count our eggs before they hatch. A newly released study found many men today still feel like they can’t open up about their feelings without being judged.
What they found is most men know expressing their emotions is important—but they still feel like they’re punished for doing it.
These pressures come with real consequences: 39% of men say they at times change their behavior to appear more masculine, with 10% saying they do it “frequently.” More than a quarter of men (29%) say they’ve purposefully not shown emotion or held back from crying in front of others in order to preserve their masculinity, and 22% say they’re “unlikely” to talk to someone even if they’re dealing with a problem they’re having trouble coping with.
It’s a classic example of how traditional gender stereotypes end up restricting and even hurting us. Many people struggle with expressing themselves, but men, in particular, are often specifically taught not to show their emotions.
Talking about your feelings is crucial to your well-being, no matter your gender. It allows you to process your experiences, release stress, and receive support from others when needed. Bottling up your emotions, on the other hand, can lead to a buildup of stress in the mind and body—and substantial consequences for both.
We need to champion vulnerability. That means allowing men to have feelings, cry, and screw up without calling into question their ‘manliness.’ It’s time to redefine manhood to celebrate emotionality and softness—and it’s up to all of us to uphold this new ideal.