You Are Not Superman.

Would you like to know how to be a better man? Start by recognizing that you are not Superman. It’s easy for men to develop a superhero complex because, for starters, being a man feels like a pretty sweet gig. We don’t have to deal with any of the exhausting crap that women put up with on the regular, like menstrual cramps, unattainable beauty standards, or knowing what the hell a “frenemy” is. A lot of men go through life feeling like they have it easier than women because, in many ways, we do.

This realization, coupled with dumb man-brains no larger than a pistachio nut, convince us that we should take our lives in stride, not “sweating the small stuff.” I, like many men, have long been a victim of this perceived need to handle the pressures of life with a healthy dose of “chill, bro.” After all, I believe it was Jesus himself who exclaimed at the Sermon on the Mount, “C’mon you guys. Hakuna Matata.” (Actually, I think that may have been Ghandi, at Wrestlemania 4.) 

Nevertheless, many men feel the need to feign a stoic optimism at even the harshest of life’s challenges. I know I’ve put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to convince my wife, my family, and most of all myself, that I have it all under control. The truth is that I don’thave it all under control, and neither do you. I have most of it under control at best. But I’ve lived for a long time with the fear that if I don’t appear to have every aspect of my life figured out, then I’m somehow a failure, or less of a man.

For most of my adult life I have used a common male coping mechanism to deal with the stresses of everyday existence.  I believe the psychologists who study these things call it “delusion.” It’s the remarkable ability to pretend that bad things never happen, and to suppress any sense of impending strife. 

I can see your eyes glazing over as I explain these complex neurological concepts to you. Allow me to simplify it for you. In times of great difficulty, the male brain often put its fingers in its ears and shouts “lalalalalala” until we either forget about the aforementioned unpleasantness, or get distracted by the smell of meat being cooked in our general vicinity. At the same time, we don’t seek out much-needed emotional support, choosing instead to push those who might help away by telling them that it’s all under control.

The fact of the matter is that men aren’t perfect managers of our own lives, and we need to be OK with admitting that. I promise you that everyone else in your life knows you are just as clueless as they are. Even though you think you’ve done a good job at passing yourself off as Superman, they likely already know you’re a screwup by either your mismatched socks, or your perpetually low cellphone battery, awkward conversation at social functions, wrinkled dress-shirt, bushy cheek-beard, empty gas tank, jagged toenails, open fly, broken taillight, Frito-feet, offensive lack of rhythm, the toilet paper stuck to your shoe, or that one long hair growing straight out of the middle of your forehead at this very moment. 

It’s both emotionally and physically unhealthy to pretend to be something you aren’t. We all feel pressure to be the ideal man, but that’s a bridge too far. You know that feeling when you’re sitting at work, and your body starts to tremble like there’s a volcano inside, building more and more pressure, until your left eye starts to close involuntarily, and you slip into a waking nightmare? (just me?) That’s a direct result of not living up to your own unrealistic expectations. Maybe the first few times it happens, you can shake it off and get right back to work with a spring in your step, and a sparkle in your remaining good eye. Eventually though, that pressure will catch up to you, and when it does it can be extremely debilitating.

Every man needs to decompress and share his struggles. Whether you do so with your partner, a friend, a family member, a therapist, or a poster of Morgan Freeman,  it’s of vital importance that you make it a priority. You are a human being, and not a perfect problem-solving machine. We all need help sometimes, and there’s no shame in admitting as much. When life starts to get heavy and you feel the pressure building, just remember:

  • You are not Superman (unless we’re talking about the middle-aged beer-gut Superman from the 1950’s.)
  • Talk to your partner or other friends and loved ones about your struggles, emotional and otherwise. That’s what they’re there for.
  • Being a man means being comfortable showing your emotions. 
  • Mental health is a serious issue, equally as important for men as it is for women.

If you’re a guy that’s always tried to show the world that you have it all together, I hope you’ll take this post to heart. Furthermore, if you’re someone who has a man in their life that has this tendency, share this post with them, and let them know that it’s OK to be fallible. Trust me guys. Life is much more fun when you lean on the people around you for support. They’re ready to help, if you would just be man enough to ask for it. Now that we have that out of the way, would you please go cut that hair growing out of your forehead? It’s SUPER distracting!

For more resources on mental health for men, see the following links:

Men’s Health Resource Center
Mental Health And Suicide Prevention
Health Strategies For Managing And Preventing Depression In Men

For another post about my own personal struggles with manhood, check out Don’t Call Me Bald.

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