Big boys don’t cry. Suck it up buttercup. Be a man.

The socialization and conditioning of the male mind starts shortly after birth. It continues as we read our superhero comics, watch television and movies and absorb our cultural messaging. Our superheroes, myths, legends and sports activities mostly all play into the same theme: men stand alone against the world, and we can and must face our challenges alone and stoically. By implication, seeking support or help demonstrates weakness, especially if it is emotional or mental health support. Our culture tells us we must be ok, always.

This is a lie. It is perhaps the most damaging falsehood that exists for men and boys, and therefore for everyone in their circle. This way of being leads to massive amounts of self-inflicted stress, psychological suffering, misdirected behavior and suboptimal, or even destructive living.

The truth is that life is a team sport: give support, accept support and validate the support you receive.
But isn’t it strange that as men we all love to give support and find it fulfilling? (Who doesn’t love stepping up for a friend?) But identifying our own needs for emotional or mental well-being and seeking support – no way!

My Dad never did conquer this mountain. In his early 80’s he started experiencing cognitive decline but wouldn’t admit it to anyone, including me, his self-acknowledged best friend. He not only wouldn’t admit it, but he also actively sought to hide it. The domino effect of not acknowledging this issue and seeking support was much needless stress and suffering for him, but also for all who loved him. I’ll give him credit; he wore the mask beautifully.

Vulnerability is your superpower! Being not ok is very ok. Seeking appropriate support when experiencing mental health challenges is the most direct line to being your best self. The ideal of macho independence that has been relentlessly sold to men is not the highest form of living. The truest path to sustained psychological health, happiness and joy is interdependence – giving support and allowing others to support you. As my friend and mentor Dr. Lance Secretan says, “You are strongest when you recognize the need for help.”

My own experience may be instructive. A big challenge for me is recognizing when I am experiencing mental or emotional challenges. Life is frequently difficult, so where’s the tipping point when one should seek support? For me, the first sign is trouble sleeping. Another sign is when I get mind spin – my thoughts just keep circling back on themselves and no resolution seems to reveal itself.

I found opening up to a professional therapist was easiest for me. If that’s not possible, cautiously choose a trusted ally, perhaps someone who has trusted you. I’ve always found answers in books and podcasts too.

Like most everything else in life, vulnerability requires practice. It requires quiet time for reflective thinking. It means being honest with ourselves. It requires clearly identifying our discomfort.

Wishing you steady progression in your willingness to give and seek support.

  • How do you identify when you are experiencing mental or emotional distress and suffering?
  • What are your signs?
  • Who among your friends or family do you feel would support you, if you expressed vulnerability?
  • What professional resources can you think of to assist you? e.g., employee benefit programs, community resources, etc.


With loving kindness,

Coach Billy