Men. From early childhood, we are taught to be rugged, assertive and above all manly. So strong are these messages that entire marketing campaigns are created for guys about what it means to be a man.
Dont believe me? Open up any mens magazine and look at the ads. From razors to sports, its all there in high-testosterone color.
But are these messages doing guys more harm than good? Moreover, are they causing an epidemic of men in our society who feel isolated, abandoned, and alone?
I say the answer is ‘yes’ big time.
In fact, Id be willing to bet one of the major reasons guys struggle with loneliness is because of ridiculous masculine blueprints that permeate American society.
Dont get me wrong. Im all for being manly. Its one of the things I help guys with as they try to project an outward image of confidence to the world.
That said, the idea of being manly has become so bogged down with rules that its causing an epidemic of male loneliness from coast to coast (Baker, 2017).
Im a counselor who specializes in mens issues. Folks, I cant tell you how many guys (straight and gay) have walked into my office feeling sad, depressed, rejected, and angry about the condition of their lives.
While their stories may be different, they all share one common bond loneliness.
From the Iraq War Veteran who cant bring himself to talk about his recurring nightmares out of fear of being judged to the Fortune 500 executive who doesnt have a friend because he cant let himself be vulnerable.
All of them are devastatingly lonely
In my experience and based on observation, here are five of the biggest reasons weve got a problem with lonely men in America. Moreover, its also why this worsening epidemic is literally killing them.
Want a solid reason for male loneliness its this: So many of us are taught that to be a man, you have to pull yourself up by the bootstraps.
Translation: Dont whine about your sh-t.
Heres the problem. Some of us cant pull ourselves up because we suffer from depression, anxiety or a mix of both. No man wants to be seen as weak. To avoid this perception, its easier to clam up and not admit to sh-t.
Which leads us to our next point.
This one is a major reason so many guys are lonely. It is ingrained in us from the time of birth that real men dont talk about their feelings.
And you know what?
Most guys would rather talk about anything other than whats going on inside. Its not that they dont want to. They do.
But because of toxic male constructs, they fear being judged. And that fear leads us to our next point.
Just yesterday, a middle-aged man walked into my office and confided in me that he was extremely lonely. When I asked him if he has any friends, he said, No.
While each guy is unique, a common thread youll find with lonely men is a lack of close friendships.
You may be wondering why?
Its simple. To be friends with someone as in real friends and not bros, you have to be vulnerable. That means sharing feelings.
Thanks to faulty male blueprints, its just not something dudes do. Ask the guy in your life about what I just mentioned and hell confirm just what I shared – without hesitation for real.
Theres nothing wrong with being assertive. In fact, the ability to go after what you want in life is a gift. But the messaging around this can often be caustic.
Not every guy is born with a chip to be alpha. For reasons we dont fully understand, some men are just naturally more confident than others.
For the guys who arent, they are made to feel as if they are less than a man because they arent behaving to expectations.
Rather than try to become something they are not, many choose to isolate and withdraw inward.
And that right there is a huge reason why guys are lonely.
The research tells us that most men bond through shared, intense experiences. Examples include serving in the military or team sports.
But what happens if you dont partake in those life events or when friends from those experiences are gone?
For guys, its a real problem.
Think about it. How many opportunities really exist on this front as you age? Not many at least from my experience.
There are some options.
Examples include joining a gym, signing up for a marathon or joining a hiking group. But wow, thats just super hard for most dudes to do the longer theyve been lonely.
So whats the answer? Well, I cant say for sure but I do know this. The hypermasculine messaging around manliness that permeates our society needs to be addressed.
If its not, well continue to be plagued by this problem.
References Baker, B. (2017, March 9). The biggest threat facing middle-age men isnt smoking or obesity. Its loneliness. Retrieved from Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2017/03/09/the-biggest-threat-facing-middle-age-men-isn-smoking-obesity-loneliness
Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T., & Layton, J. (2010). Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review.SciVee. doi:10.4016/19865.01
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