Expectations of Being a Man

By: Dennis Campbell

Not long ago I got a phone call from my father telling me that my grandfather was being transported to the hospital. I immediately began to tear up but immediately shut those feelings down because there was too much work to do and people were depending on me.  I needed to just power through and get the work done.

A colleague came into my office and asked how I was doing and I simply said “I’m good’.  But I wasn’t. I had just got a call that made me realize that I may not have my grandfather past today, yet I couldn’t tell my colleague and friend that I was hurting. I stayed within my box and “manned up”.

I pushed aside my feelings and focused on my work and getting things done around the office until I finally broke down in tears. After crying, I allowed myself a few moments to realize that I may lose one of the most important people in my life. I spoke to my supervisor, told her what was going on, and that I may need to leave because I may not be as focused for the rest of the day.
Her response? Do what you need to take care of yourself and your family.  She gave me permission to look out for myself. She gave me the right to not take it all on.

Why did it take someone else giving me permission to take care of myself? Why can’t we as men have this conversation more often?  Why do we feel that we have to be stuck in the continuous rut where we cannot tell the stories of our lives? Instead we place this barrier up to keep people out and let everyone think it is OK. We are so afraid to tell people that we can’t handle what we are supposed to. Why?

Because we as men have been told our whole lives that it was what we are supposed to do.  We have been told that we are supposed to be the pillars of our society and strong decision makers.  Through movies and books have shown us men that show too much emotion are often the ones that fail.

But in reality the men that show the most emotion are the ones who are held on a pedestal. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about the emotional dream he had for his children, Mahatma Gandhi stood for non-violence and is known as the father of India, and Barack Obama showed love and a sensitive side to his family and those that surrounded him. These men didn’t try to be something they weren’t or what others expected of them. They showed their emotions and shattered the expectations others had of them.

Just because we show emotion doesn’t mean we are weak. Our vulnerability shows how strong we are as men because it shows how confident in who we are and that we are willing to share that person. Imagine if we just chose to step outside of the box that we have been stuck in and told people what was really on our minds. Imagine if we made our own masculinity our project instead of just an afterthought and focused on who we are as men.  We could change our campuses, our communities, and the world by telling our stories. We can redefine what it means to be men and be our own Masculinity Project.

It is this vision of redefining what it means to be men and our role in changing ourselves, our organizations, and our communities that is at the core of the Interactive Workshop, The Masculinity Project.

Learn more about the Masculinity Project Here