I don’t know about you, but as a young bloke I always found it difficult to talk about problems or challenges I was facing in life. In fact, I still do!
Even though these days it seems “acceptable” for men to talk about our problems – definitely more than it was for our fathers and their fathers before them – it’s still hard.
I put it down to two things that have the power to shut us up and make us feel even more awful about ourselves as we struggle through challenges:
Shame and burden.
When something goes wrong, we feel ashamed to talk about it. We don’t want others to know we have messed up, because it means admitting that we’re not perfect.
Whether it’s a big mistake at work, your girlfriend has left you, you’ve done something silly in public, or you’re getting bullied and you don’t know what to do about it. Whatever it is, sometimes it feels like admitting it to others makes us look weak. We hate that it’s happened, and we feel shame to even say it out loud.
Shame can also make us worried that by admitting our mistakes, we’ll lose our status. Most men – whether they’re 16 or 60 – have a desire for status at school, in a job, in their friendships or relationships, and so on. So when we drop the ball, and especially when we don’t know how to handle it, we feel that sharing it will change other people’s opinions of us and we’ll lose our sense of status.
The other feeling I believe many of us associate with sharing our problems is that we don’t want to be a burden. We don’t want our mates to feel like they have to help, or that they have to worry about us. They have enough going on in their own lives…why should they stress about us too?
We all feel this way some times, but at the end of the day it’s what we do with these feelings that really matters.
Imagine for a moment that your best mate was struggling with something. He was going through a rough time and needed some advice or support. Would you want him to suffer on his own? If he shared his challenges with you, would you think he was a burden?
If you’re a good friend, the answer is obviously “Of Course not! I would be honoured that he asked for my advice or support. I would be happy to help him.”
And so, if we turn the tables and realise that our friends likely feel the same way about us, it makes it a lot easier to reach out and ask for their support.
Even if you’ve been brought up being told that you should keep your problems to yourself, we all need advice and support from others sometimes. We shouldn’t feel ashamed, and we shouldn’t feel like a burden.
Sometimes stuff just happens in your life. Things that make you feel really bad – maybe anxious, maybe sad, maybe embarrassed or ashamed. Sometimes it might be your fault, and sometimes it’s just an accident or a part of life. The thing to remember is: bad stuff will happen to ALL of us at some time – every single one of us and our mates. Knowing that, I find it easier to ask my mates for advice.
So the next time you’re struggling with something, do one of your mates the honour of trusting him (or her) to help you out. I have in the past, and I can tell you that our friendship has become even stronger because of it. Good friends are honest with each other.
And if you don’t have any mates you trust, go see a counsellor. We can all benefit from having someone to bounce ideas off, or admit our shortcomings to. Counsellors are great because they’re trained to help you work things out. They’ve got lots of experience and they won’t break your trust. Make an appointment, get stuff off your chest and ask them for advice. You’ll feel so much better that you did.