If you’ve ever asked a guy what he’s thinking about and received an honest answer you’ll know that men can have some pretty strange thoughts.
Seeing as we’re generalising, internalising problems is one concern that certainly holds true for a lot of men and encompasses lots of issues. The big worries are obvious and non-gender specific: the career woes, the relationship fears, the stresses over status, the anxieties about body image.
But there are other misgivings we keep hidden not necessarily because it’s perceived as unmanly to have such insecurities (although that is a huge factor), but due to a mix of embarrassment, denial, and our inherent faith in “don’t worry, it’ll sort itself out”.
Here are a few things on men’s minds that they don’t want to say out loud…
The worry: “I’ll never create that thing.”
The problem: Whether it’s something artistic like composing a tune/writing a novel/mastering the art of throwing a pot, or something more technical like restoring a classic car/starting a business/building that BBQ from scratch- every man has a calling he always imagined he’d put out there, ideally to tumultuous acclaim. The longer time goes by and it doesn’t happen, the more the cause for frustration.
What’s there to talk about? Instead of sticking to the mantra “ah, it’ll happen someday”, actually do something about it today. If it’s clearly impossible to achieve in one go, then break it down into smaller steps, and tackle them one by one until you get it done.
The worry: “Am I a pushover?”
The problem: The tradition of responding to an insult by challenging a detractor to a duel at dawn is not the way to go for reasonable, modern men. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the same sense of injustice and humiliation at being slighted.
What’s there to talk about? Imagining scenarios where we respond with that biting comeback only serves to remind us that in reality, we took it lying down. This sort of resentment is often taken out on a loved one, who has no idea where it came from. Take up anything from meditation through to martial arts to train your mind to face volatile situations calmly. There’ll always be people out to put you down – learn to rise above it.
The worry: “I’m not/won’t make a good dad.”
The problem: A lot of men equate “quality” with “fun”. You can spend all your money and energy entertaining a kid, then shudder at the realisation only a few hours have passed – you still have the whole day left to go. Help!
What’s there to talk about? It’s not about leaving a child ignored in front of a screen for hours on end, but doing your own things in the same space together, while periodically connecting over what you’re doing. Learn from mothers. They generally don’t treat spending time with their kids as an event. It’s just something they do.
The worry: “Am I man enough?”
The problem: Alpha males are forever out to show their dominance, an assertion that the beta male finds threatening and the sigma male reads as a product of insecurity. The common thread between all types, however, is: none of us want to be seen as weak.
What’s there to talk about? Read up on and discuss issues such as toxic masculinity, men’s rights activism and feminism to assess the difference between being a confident, assertive and enlightened male against being a territorial, blustering and entitled one.
The worry: “I’m a failure in bed.”
The problem: It’s tempting to ignore issues related to sexual performance such as erectile dysfunction, despite the fact it’s an issue that affects over 4 million men in the UK*. You can blame it on an infinite number of reasons: the excesses of your lifestyle, issues related to an ex, tiredness, stress at work – the list goes on and on. Or you can try to identify the problem by having an honest discussion with your partner and a healthcare professional.
What’s there to talk about? Don’t be embarrassed. Find out if there could be an underlying health issue that might be causing erectile dysfunction. Seek advice from a pharmacist on what medication is available without prescription to help treat the problem. The longer you ignore the symptoms, the more embedded the problem might become.
* Men reporting occasional and frequent difficulty getting or maintaining an erection ref. Kantar TNS Omnibus Survey Dec 2010 – in a survey of 1,033 men.