Gender stereotypes and stigmas exist for both men and women. For example, assertive women might be viewed as less likable or less hirable. Similarly, men are often penalized for straying from masculine stereotypes. Men often face backlash when they don’t adhere to the societal ideals of masculinity. If you show vulnerability, act nicer, display empathy, or express sadness, these can all become perceived as a sign of weakness in a man.
It is not only troubling, but it discourages you from behaving in ways known to benefit you and your friends, family, peers, and co-workers. Let’s examine the misconceptions surrounding certain men’s behaviors and why these stereotypes harm and over-generalize the complexity of men’s emotions.
Misconception: Showing Vulnerability Is Not Manly
More often, men are conditioned not to ask for help or be vulnerable. Studies show that males who ask for help become viewed as less competent, capable, and confident. Further, showing vulnerability might have you perceived as having a lower status. It is problematic, as not seeking help when you need help or admitting you need help can lead to other negative behaviors and thought patterns. It also hinders your likelihood of continuing to develop a healthy emotional range necessary to handle different challenges and situations appropriately. Therefore, you might turn to drugs, alcohol, and other harmful substances to help cope and suppress stress and anxiety. Over time you risk developing a substance dependency.
Being Friendlier Is Less Attractive
You might think that being nicer to people would create the perception that you are calm and unassuming. However, research has found that more communal and agreeable, warm, caring, and supportive men are often viewed as less masculine. Furthermore, such perceptions could even limit your opportunity for growth in a professional sense.
Additionally, in a professional setting, more men in management positions who advocate more for their team than themselves were judged as being lower in agency and competence and more likely to be considered for job dismissal. Unfortunately, given the psychological cost of being friendlier at work, you might be less likely to engage in social and healthy behaviors both personally and professionally.
Displaying Sadness Is Weakness
Many men in the United States are socialized to be stoic. You might wonder what happens if you show emotions outside of anger, aggression, and assertiveness, such as sadness? Research shows that men who display sadness could become labeled as “weak” or “too unstable” for expressing such emotions. They could also become identified as more emotional and less reliable. It is problematic because this cultivates a belief that men are not allowed to be vulnerable. However, sharing and displaying vulnerability is necessary and healthy for developing your emotional range.
Exhibiting Humility Makes You Less Likeable
You might wonder if humility is a good trait to have; however, what happens if you display humility? Research demonstrates that men who are humble when expressing their personal or professional qualifications could be seen as less likable, less capable of exerting their power, and weak. However, such perceptions of humility in relation to men are false. Showing humility can help put others at ease because it helps lower the protective walls around your emotions and express them to others. It is a healthy way to express your strengths and admit your weaknesses without becoming defensive.
What Can Be Done to Improve Conditions?
It first begins with you. You are responsible for ensuring that you lead your life through a healthy display of emotions, including honesty, confidence, and ensuring that your needs and expectations get met. Such action will help men and their self-perceptions of their behaviors build a culture of equality and support. You can help facilitate change by:
- Celebrating men who engage in healthy and positive behaviors: Whether you are in a leadership position or not, acknowledging a man’s healthy behaviors helps establish a healthier perspective among all men instead of limiting men to only being able to express their emotions through aggression, dominance, or intimidation.
- Learning about programs that can help improve your professional environment: How are your actions and behaviors perceived at work? Does your employer offer courses or meetings to train about equality? Read your HR manual–what does your company stand for and promote regarding equality, and are they adhering to it? The more you know, the more you can question and help change any stereotypes or negative behaviors on the work floor.
- Not being the “gender police”: Gender policing affects all genders and occurs when you impose over-generalized stereotypes or normative expressions regarding an individual’s behavior or appearance.
As you evolve, it is important to encourage other men to adapt to a more modern interpretation of masculinity. If you are currently in an environment where you are being penalized for your emotions, seeking professional care can help. At Choice House, we work with men to help them develop their emotional range and confidence. Once you attain your sense of self and confidence, you will feel empowered and therefore have the ability to lead your life on your terms. We accomplish this by offering safe and secure places for men to share their emotional experiences and ultimately become their advocates for change and for other men who might not yet have found the voice to speak up for themselves. If you currently need help and are suppressing your emotions instead of embracing them, then the time to seek help is today. Find out more by calling us today at (720) 577-4422.