It’s NOT Alright for Men – Addressing the Unique Challenges Men Face Today

By Angela Cox

You may often hear the phrase “It’s alright for men” in modern-day conversations, usually followed by reasons why men appear to have it much easier than women. This perception is rooted in societal beliefs that men, by virtue of their gender, naturally enjoy more privilege and fewer struggles. However, this common saying overlooks the unique and significant challenges that men face in today’s world.

The reality is that men grapple with their own set of insecurities and pressures too, yet these struggles are often dismissed or ignored. From the stress of performing in high-stakes roles to the expectation of emotional stoicism, men encounter hurdles that can be just as difficult, if not more so, than those faced by women. By shedding light on these challenges, we can better understand and support the men around us. “Equality” is the talk of the century, and by all means, it shouldn’t be biased toward one gender.

The Shifting Nature of Coaching – My Experience

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, my coaching practice primarily focused on working with women, addressing their personal and professional development. However, since the pandemic began, I have noticed a significant shift in my clientele. Today, I primarily coach men—an 80% male-to-female ratio in my one-on-one coaching sessions, to be exact.

This change in the nature of coaching has been eye-opening. Yes, men face many of the same insecurities as women, yet their struggles often remain unspoken. They confront issues such as self-doubt, fear of failure, and pressure to meet high expectations. While women may feel more comfortable discussing these challenges, men often grapple with them in silence. This is mainly due to social pressures and the expectations created by society. 

What this means is, that despite their outward appearances of strength and confidence, many men feel isolated and alone. They may struggle to balance personal and professional responsibilities, as well as manage the expectations placed upon them. The shift in my practice has made it crystal clear that these challenges are just as prevalent for men as they are for women. As professional coaches, it’s essential to acknowledge and address these issues to provide the support men need to navigate their own journeys.

Exploring Men’s Challenges

Societal notions about masculinity fuel strong preconceived ideas about how men should behave, what interests they should pursue, and how they should present themselves. These rigid and narrow perspectives can suppress individuality and creativity, leaving many men feeling confined and unable to express their true identities.

Emotional Suppression and Limited Emotional Vocabulary

From a young age, men are often taught to suppress their emotions, viewing vulnerability as a sign of weakness. This conditioning can lead to internalised stress, difficulties in understanding and expressing emotions, and challenges in developing healthy coping strategies. Additionally, societal expectations can limit men’s emotional vocabulary, making it harder for them to articulate their feelings or seek support when needed. This simply means that men also have emotional needs but are unable to express them through normal conversations.

Stigma and Shame

The stigma and shame associated with facing mental health issues can be significant obstacles for men seeking help too. The pressure to maintain a façade of strength and the fear of judgment from others can prevent men from reaching out and accessing the support they need. This reluctance can exacerbate mental health challenges and increase feelings of isolation.

High-Pressure Work Environments and Performance Demands

Many men find themselves in high-pressure work environments with demanding performance expectations. The constant need to excel and meet targets can take a toll on their mental health, leading to stress, anxiety, and burnout. There is a lot of attention & awareness around women’s rights & working conditions for women, but sadly the attention toward men & their working conditions isn’t in the spotlight at all. So, the fear of failure and the pressure to consistently perform at high levels can be overwhelming for men, impacting their overall well-being.

Traditional Masculine Ideals and Gender Stereotypes

Cultural factors and traditional masculine ideals, such as being tough, independent, and self-reliant, can hinder men from seeking help and expressing vulnerability as well. These ingrained expectations may create a sense of unrealistic ego and prevent men from reaching out to others for support. Challenging these stereotypes is crucial in promoting a more inclusive and supportive approach to men’s mental health.

Intersectionality and Unique Experiences

It’s essential to recognise that men’s experiences are not uniform and are influenced by various intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. This intersectionality plays a key role in understanding the diverse challenges men face and tailoring support systems accordingly. An inclusive approach that acknowledges these differences can help promote equality and holistic mental care for all.

The Human Element in the Workplace

While we talk about the unfair societal notions towards men as a norm, when it comes to the workplace, it’s entirely more unique. As we mentioned briefly, society often paints a picture of men as strong and confident leaders in the workplace, but the reality is far more complex. In my experience as an executive coach, it’s evident that powerful, executive men can often feel invisible and alone, both at home and in their professional lives. Their roles might command authority, but this doesn’t always translate to feeling seen and valued as individuals. At work, they may face a lack of genuine connections and support systems, which can contribute to a sense of not belonging.

Swimming Swans

Intelligent, brave leaders may give off an aura of control and decisiveness, but they often find themselves struggling to navigate uncertain waters. This can be likened to the image of a calm swan on the surface, while beneath the water, it is paddling frantically to stay afloat. These men may question their next steps or feel lost despite their outward success, creating internal tension and anxiety.

Pressure to Provide

Men in high-level positions face immense pressure to provide for their families and excel in their careers. This pressure is further intensified by the expectation to embody perfection in every aspect of their lives. The old saying comes to haunt them again: “They are MEN. Of course they should be able to handle it”. Or “It’s alright for men. They have it easy” or “They have male privilege. What’s the problem with a little pressure on their shoulders?”. This is quite selfish, and the burden of constantly proving themselves can lead to stress, burnout, and an overwhelming fear of failure in men.

Struggling with Self-Worth

Even men who seem to have it all—successful careers, financial stability, and prestigious positions—can struggle with self-worth. They may find it challenging to identify qualities they genuinely love about themselves, leading to internal conflict and dissatisfaction. The pursuit of external validation and achievements can sometimes overshadow their sense of personal fulfilment and identity. Let’s look at a few honourable examples.

1.   Michael Phelps: The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety despite his incredible achievements in swimming. Phelps faced challenges with self-worth and turned to mental health treatment to address his struggles.

2.   Chester Bennington: The lead vocalist of the rock band Linkin Park, Chester Bennington, achieved international fame and success, yet he struggled with self-worth and battled depression for many years. His struggles ultimately led to his tragic death.

3.   Anthony Bourdain: Celebrity chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain was known for his adventurous spirit and successful career in the culinary world. However, Bourdain dealt with long-standing feelings of insecurity and depression, which he spoke about in interviews.

4.   Robin Williams: Renowned actor and comedian Robin Williams brought joy to millions, but he struggled with depression and self-worth issues throughout his life. Williams’ vulnerability and openness about his mental health have sparked important conversations about the challenges even successful individuals face.

5.   David Goggins: Former Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner David Goggins has shared his journey of overcoming trauma and finding self-worth in his memoir, “Can’t Hurt Me.” Despite his achievements, Goggins speaks about his ongoing struggle with self-doubt and the importance of pushing himself beyond his comfort zone.

So, these examples demonstrate that even men who achieve great success can face personal struggles with self-worth and mental health. It’s important to remember that success does not shield individuals from the complexities of human emotions and challenges, and it’s NOT Alright for men, all the time.

How to Support the Men in Your Life

Encourage Open Communication

One of the most impactful ways to support the men in your life is by fostering open communication. Start by asking them how they are doing and expressing genuine interest in their well-being. Create a safe and judgment-free environment where they can openly share their thoughts and feelings without fear of ridicule or criticism. By normalising discussions around emotions and mental health, you can help break down the barriers that prevent men from seeking support.

Be attentive and patient during these conversations. Men may not always be comfortable sharing their struggles immediately, so showing empathy and offering your support over time can make a significant difference. Let them know that their feelings matter and that you are there to listen.

Offer Coaching for Men

Men’s coaching can be an invaluable resource for those navigating challenges and aiming to grow personally and professionally. Coaching provides a structured and supportive space where men can explore their goals, aspirations, and obstacles with a trained professional.

Coaching helps men develop a deeper understanding of themselves and their values, allowing them to build confidence and clarity. Through coaching, men can work on improving their communication skills, managing stress, and setting achievable goals. This process can empower them to overcome challenges, navigate high-pressure environments, and achieve personal and professional success. Whether it’s seeking guidance for career advancement, emotional support, or personal development, coaching can provide the support men need to thrive.

Final Words

it is crucial to acknowledge the unique challenges men face in today’s world and the impact these challenges can have on their mental and emotional health. Societal expectations, rigid stereotypes, and pressures to succeed in high-stakes environments can take a significant toll on men. By recognising these struggles and encouraging open communication, we can help break down the barriers that prevent men from seeking support.

Providing empathy and understanding to the men in our lives can make a meaningful difference too. Whether through open conversations or connecting them with coaching resources, we can create a supportive network that enables men to navigate their challenges and grow both personally and professionally.

We invite you to explore coaching options for men, whether for yourself or for the men in your life. Encourage the men you know to seek help when needed and remind them that it is a sign of strength to acknowledge their challenges and work toward solutions. By fostering an environment of support and empathy, we can contribute to the overall well-being and success of the men around us.

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