Society imposes traditional expectations on men to behave in a certain way, read on to find an alternative.
Society asks men and women to behave in a specific fashion. Boys play with superheroes and girls with Barbie dolls. Men are breadwinners and women homemakers. Men are expected to be strong, independent, tough and stoic, while women should be compassionate, kind, emotional and gentle. These traits are classified as masculine and feminine traits. Images of ideal male and female figures are reinforced time and again by parents, peers and the media.
Yes, more people today are moving ahead of these traditional expectations, but the society is not always so accepting.
Having to keep up with these defined gender “traits” can be a burden! It can in some cases lead to depression, anxiety and even substance abuse. Read on as teenagers of Teentalk share their stories… ! (Names have been changed for anonymity.)
If you’ve ever felt like this or been in a similar situation, look out for an ‘affirmation’ at the end of the story that you can say to yourself every day and for as many times as you like. It will make you feel good about yourself for sure.
“Boys don’t cry”
My friends and I had gone on a school trek trip. That was the first time I was away from home. I was missing my mom but there was no way to get in touch with her. I felt sad and emotional. We were maneuvering through dense foliage, brushing past wild flowers and intense bushes. We would often spot crabs, scorpions and frogs along the way. All of us were engrossed watching a lizard that our teacher caught hold of, and all of a sudden I felt a stinging pain on my right calf. A bee had stung me. The pain got the better of me and I cried. But my friends said, “C’mon, the bee is gone now. And boys don’t cry.” So I had to control myself. When we reached the base camp, I hid myself behind some trees and cried… It felt good.
Affirmation: I approve of my emotions and feelings no matter what others say.
“Hit the ball like a man”
All the cool guys in my class played cricket. My gang had a clear rule, if you aren’t good at the sport, you aren’t “man” enough. So in a desperate attempt to be in the crowd, I tried to play cricket; I worked so hard even though I hated it! I was petrified that my friends would make fun of me, or worse throw me out of the group! But I constantly failed and they made fun of me anyway. Whenever I missed a shot, the leader would shout, in front of everyone, “For God’s sake, hit like a man for once!” I felt ripped off my identity and felt worthless until I stopped playing the game altogether. When I look back in hindsight, it was a wise decision.
Affirmation: It matters little what others say. What matters is how I react and what I believe in.
“Be a man, will you?”
I had a crush on a senior, but did not have the courage to express my feelings. I used to confide in my male friends about my feelings. They were supportive in the beginning but after a point they started making fun of me. They would call me a sissy because I used to get emotional about my feelings. They would constantly ask me to “Be a man, and talk to her” or “you’re such a loser, just ask her out.” The situation got out of hand when one of my friends gave her a note, which they said was from me. The note said that I wanted to sleep with her. She confronted me and I came clean. It was embarrassing but she handled the situation gracefully. Talking to girls has always been an issue for me. But after that episode, I learnt that if you approach people with respect, they usually respond with respect too.
Affirmation: I will always respect others and myself.
“You’re a man with no balls”
For a long time I associated being a man with how much alcohol I could consume. My friends and I used to smoke incessantly because we thought it was cool and would get female attention. Little did I know that the continuous smoking and drinking was killing my body slowly and steadily. Whenever our gang used to go drinking, we would take pride in how much we drank. The number of bottles dictated our manliness. Once after a drinking spree, when I returned home I found my drunk father beating my mother. I tried to stop him but couldn’t do much as I was also high. The scars of that incident still haunt me. I decided not to drink as much. When we went drinking again, I stopped after a couple of beers. I could not tell my friends about my father, I just told them I don’t want to drink anymore. They started calling me “the man with no balls.” After a period of time, I left that squad.
Affirmation: I am free to make my own choices and decisions.
“Boys don’t do home stuff”
I have been brought up by a single mother. My father left me and my mother, when I was a couple of months old. Since then I feel intense hatred for him. Earlier I used to take out my frustration by hitting some of the younger boys from my school. Gradually I sought solace in sports. Since I had three younger siblings and a single mother to take care of us, I used to help my mother with basic stuff like washing dishes, filling water into bottles and buying groceries. Some of our peers didn’t think a man should be doing all that stuff. They were all part of the football squad. They would constantly tell me to avoid doing all of these things to a point where I hit one of them. The fight escalated and eventually I had to change schools. None-the-less, I don’t see any harm in helping my mother because I care about her.
Affirmation: I am compassionate and it is a good quality to have.
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