Yes I know the "The Man Box " study was conducted by a cosmetic brand, however the results of its survey are very relevant to me personally as a man, and men in general.
Being in The Man Box
The Man Box refers to a set of beliefs about how men should look and behave. It's a social pressure which comes from family, friends, work colleagues, and the media. It means being,
Thing is, once you are in The Man Box it's pretty difficult to get back out again. All that being self-reliant means we aren't used to asking for help. While being tough means we can't truly be self-reliant, because we're supposed to ignore being sad or scared, which means we can't properly care for ourselves.
Then when we finally summon up the courage to get some help, we find that means showing weakness, because then we have to admit that we're feeling sad, scared, or that our anger is out of control.
And to just to make things more complicated, the other 3 on the list seem purposefully designed to trip us up. Sapping our confidence if our bodies don't live up to the ideal; putting our very identities at stake if we're not always up for it; and harming our relationships when we try to resolve conflicts using anger and aggression.
Getting out of The Man Box
If you read articles about why men should come to counselling, you will be urged to be tough not by standing up for yourself in a fight, but by talking about your feelings.
Oh give me a break! If living up to unrealistic expectations is bad for men, then how come the answer is to pile on another one?
Let's face it, picking up the phone and then walking through the door that first time is tough. Thing is, while it won't all be plain sailing from then on, it does get much easier, especially the talking about feelings part.
Counselling though, is not about replacing one expectation with another. It's more about adding helpful stuff in. The problem with The Man Box is not that the things in it aren't useful, the real problems start when it's your only way of doing things.
Counselling can add in,
You don't need to acquire all these aspects to be a 'real' man. The thing about counselling is its flexibility, so you can explore those aspects as and when they arise.
Seeing a male counsellor
Many men prefer to see male counsellors, because the chances are another man will get what it's like to be a man.
On that list above are 2 things that men can find difficult - talking about emotions, and feeling vulnerable, and these 2 things often go together. Being with another man who is comfortable talking about feelings can help you to feel comfortable talking about your own.
Also when men are together we often talk differently than when we are with women, just as women often talk differently when they are with other women.
Being a man I do get what it is like to be a man, and while I am a counsellor, I also get how men talk, because I also have those male conversations. And in case you were wondering, using swear words is fine with me, I use them myself when the situation calls for it.
A final word on vulnerability
Me, I am used to feeling vulnerable, I have had plenty of practice. It comes with all that training and development involved in being a counsellor.
Thing is though there is a big difference between feeling vulnerable and being vulnerable.
Feeling vulnerable is about acknowledging the feeling, rather than pushing it aside or ignoring it. It's also about responding appropriately to this feeling. We can only show our vulnerable side when we feel safe, and that applies as equally to women as it does to men.
Just because you feel vulnerable doesn't mean you have to be vulnerable.
main picture by Olichel via pixabay.com
 The Man Box: A study on being a man in the US, UK and Mexico via Pronundo Global
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I am an experienced therapist in private practice in the Southampton area of England, UK. I see men from all walks of life, dealing with all sorts of problems.