Boys don’t cry. Be a man. Man up. This type of messaging causes us to interpret male vulnerability as weakness. Tom speaks his truth to help break down the stigma and to remind other males that whatever they are feeling is okay. Reaching out for help when struggling reveals strength, not weakness. Read on to hear Tom’s truth:
UR Enough: Please introduce yourself to the UR Enough community.
Tom: My name is Tom Coyle and I am first and foremost, a father of five great children, and also recently retired professional (urban planner / architect). In a few months I will be 73 and I am enjoying my retirement as it is enabling me to more actively pursue my main interests – visiting my kids and grandkids more, travelling, spending time with a new lady friend, and regular physical exercise.
UR Enough: There are several preconceived stigmas for men and vulnerability. Specifically, many have been socialized to believe that emotion itself is indicative of weakness. Has there ever been a time that you have felt this societal pressure, or have you always embraced your own vulnerability (/emotions)?
Tom: I am probably not your “typical male”, in that I have always been extremely emotional and easily brought to tears. When I was younger, I sometimes felt embarrassed when I would get all teary with sentimental material (books, music, plays, film) as I certainly felt pressure that this was not “a manly” way to react. But as I got older I grew to embrace those “natural” feelings and realized it allowed me to be more open about expressing my feelings and emotions. It seemed that women especially were supportive and seemed to appreciate that I could express my feelings, show my vulnerability in this way. Even though I felt I was a bit extreme is my “sensitivity” – as I was known to even tear up and the old Bell telephone ads where a kid away at university would phone home, or someone travelling would call home to talk to the family – maybe this was a bit much!
UR Enough: Do you think we should view vulnerability in males and females differently?
Tom: No I don’t think expressing vulnerability should be viewed differently between the sexes. But the reality, I think, is that that is not the predominant societal view. Why is that the case? Primarily I think because expressing vulnerability it is actively discouraged by many parents in their boys, and is carried forward by these males and therefore frowned upon by society in general. I think parental influence / attitude is a prime contributor to these views. Just as the notion of “housework” roles are begun and engendered by parents – for example, we leave the girls and moms to do most of the house chores and the boys and dads are allowed to feel this is not a shared responsibility. There are certain “manly” chores that are okay, like mowing the lawn, shovelling the walk and driveway, and fixing the car (maybe). Housecleaning, shopping, cooking and even basic child care, amazingly, even with the young generation, are not seen as responsibilities that should be shared equally between males and females in a household. These attitudes need to change, and that change must start during childhood, with appropriate role models at home. Maybe it’s partly genetic, in that as hunter/gathers it was a liability to show vulnerability to attacking animals or other tribesmen. But we’re a long way removed from the hunter/gather life style and we need to change the basic principles by which we live and survive in our modern society. (As a side bar, I’ve worked a lot in developing countries with remote, subsistence level communities, who are still basically living in a hunter/gather or early agrarian society, and for them, such attitudes may still be valid. Though even in these communities it seems to me inappropriate that the female/women do most of the work and yet are given more limited access to education and special benefits….just saying)
UR Enough: Boys don’t cry. Be a man. Man up. This type of messaging causes many to disassociate vulnerability with masculinity. Do you believe that we should teach our sons to be more vulnerable?
Tom: I’m not sure how you actually “teach” vulnerability, but maybe it is more being willing to allow young boys to express their vulnerability in whatever form it may take (e.g. being thoughtful and kind, hugging and expressing emotions, as well as crying or expressing sorrow or sadness in response to various situations).
UR Enough: From your own experience, if you could share a piece of knowledge with another son, father, or husband, what would you tell them about being aware and coping with your own emotions?
Tom: With my sons, I tried to allow them to express their emotions in any way they saw fit. I certainly let them know, and I would say to any other male….. it’s okay to cry if that is your response. But more generally, I would suggest that you should let yourself be free to feel and express your true responses and emotions to situations. Whatever you are feeling is okay, just let it out, express it. No response is inappropriate, even anger…. provided you don’t physically express that anger that would be harmful to anyone else, or yourself.
UR Enough: In five words, what does the messaging and community of UR Enough mean to you?
Tom: Embrace who you really are!
Watch and listen to Tom speak his truth in The #UREnough Campaign, and become inspired to cultivate your own self-acceptance and speak your truth, too.