In many cultures, the ultimate sign of manliness is toughness. Women can cry when they feel happy or sad, but a man’s man is expected to stay dried-eyed no matter the occasion.
Boys are conditioned from childhood not to shed tears whereas their sisters get hugs and kisses for freely expressing their emotions.
The rules of manliness in most places have it that men can cry, alright, but they should do so away from the public.
Is it healthy to suppress emotions just to meet up with the societal expectation of toughness? Can men cry? If so, when and when where can they shed tears?
Science says tears are healthy
Yes, tears are beneficial to health. Crying provides a natural outlet to emotions. Bottling up things can be harmful in the long run. People who keep their feelings locked up can develop serious medical problems like high blood pressure.
According to Healthyplace.com, crying allows people to express happiness, sadness, frustration, fear and nervousness, etc.
One can also process these emotions in the process of crying. Afterwards, the person should feel relief because they have had an avenue to let it out.
There is a link between crying and men’s mental health. Since men have been conditioned not to express emotions, mentalhealth.org.uk has reported the following side effects:
- Men are less likely to report mental health problems
- They are even less likely than women to seek help for mental health issues
- Because men are not always open to talking about their problems, they are unlikely to understand signs of mental problems in themselves
- Since they are not likely to disclose their problems, they may decide to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol
- According to the suicide statistic in Great Britain, in 2017, 75% of people who died by suicide were men
These facts show that manliness comes at a cost, which can be detrimental in the long run.
When men can cry openly: when men feel comfortable enough to let their emotions
1. While watching football
If you follow any sports tournament, it is not uncommon to find weeping fans cheering for their sports heroes in the stands. Football fans can openly cry when Cristiano Ronaldo scores a last-minute goal for their favorite football club, but they better not let their friends see them cry over a broken heart.
2. When no one is watching
If you are an avid social media user, you may have come across a disgruntled man writing about their lost love. Usually, his ex is a terrible person who did him wrong and he definitely has to come and call her out on social media. But, according to him, he isn’t crying about her, not publicly anyway.
In the example above, if the man in question had taken the time to mourn his loss, he wouldn’t feel the need to lambast her publicly. Ironically, it is more acceptable for him to vent online than to take the time to process his emotions.
3. Men are not allowed to cry any other time
Apart from cheering with eyes full of tears for your favourite football club or crying alone in the toilet, men are not allowed to cry anywhere else. Men can cry, but just not when people are watching.
When is it not okay to cry?
As much as it is healthy to release emotions, there is such a thing as too many tears. Men can cry, but not on these occasions:
In the case of a catastrophic loss, say a flooding or fire incident, it will be wise to postpone tears and evacuate rather than waste valuable time shedding tears. This goes for both men and women. You are allowed to take stock of the events after they have been taken care of.
2. In professional settings
Keeping your cool in professional settings is applicable to both men and women, too. The responsible thing is to discharge your duties impeccably and then find the time to process your emotions when everything is calmer.
3. Crying all the time is a problem on its own
Too much of everything is bad. Men can cry, but when they cry all the time, it can be a sign of an underlying problem like depression and anxiety disorder. In which case, they’ll need to seek the help of experts.
In Nigeria, it is normal for women to show a range of emotions through crying, but men are not allowed the same liberties. We have shown why the cultural expectation of manliness can be harmful in the long run.
This article was first published on AfricaParent.com
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