by Ore Fakorede
Many boys are raised to feel and express a narrow range of emotions: courage, anger, pride, tough stuff.
“Big boys don’t cry.”
“Boys don’t say they love other boys.”
So we grow up with a twisted sense of what manhood means and a deep-rooted lack of empathy for ourselves, never mind other people.
Most of our lives, we’re stuck in that narrow range of emotions even when nothing there can properly express what we feel.
We often use anger to show concern, we can be foolishly brave when we should run and we’re sometimes too proud to ask for help or to say we’re sorry.
Because everything that’s soft is weak, and anything that isn’t hard isn’t manly.
But eventually, we break in awful ways.
We break because flexibility is foreign to us, because we are emotionally stunted. We weren’t taught by the people who brought us here.
But blaming other people is a tired, old song.
We’re going to have to raise ourselves again, teach ourselves to be whole.
We’re human first, men second. And humans are designed to feel.
We’re supposed to feel everything.
We’re supposed to talk about those feelings too: cry when we need to, scream into the night sky if we want to, hug each other without thinking about what a hug between men means or how we’ll be seen.
(A hug. Not that thing we do where we slap each other’s backs repeatedly like it’s a contest.)
A man can be soft with other men. We can be vulnerable and not worry about appearances.
Who cares about appearances when they’re hurting? Not real people.
And men are real people, not emotionless machines that need to be fed adoration and worshipped so they can work hard and be the heroes of the modern world.
I don’t want to be anyone’s hero. I just want to be human again.
Can we exhale like humans do, fail like humans do, show pain, admit our flaws, fall short of standards that were always impossible anyway and be okay with all that?
It can’t be that hard to be a man. It shouldn’t be.
*Ore Fakorede is currently surviving Lagos. He blogs about his crazy, beautiful, ordinary life at orefakorede.com.
Joy, Inc. is a teaching and media company mainstreaming the research and evidence on human flourishing and positive emotions to transform the culture and build a new generation of Africans focused on the greatest happiness for the greatest many.