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Men Finding Strength: Redefining Strength and Impacts on Mental Health

Strength is a seemingly ideal characteristic that most boys and men strive to achieve within their life. This notion of strength can be dated back to the Paleolithic Period, more commonly referred to as the caveman era, when the need for strength quite literally equaled life or death (survival) for individuals and their community. In today’s world, it is not common for us to come face-to-face with a Saber Tooth Tiger or Wooly Mammoth. Yet, the innate survival instincts are still present in all humans, male or female. So how does this idea of strength now show up in the society around us? And what does “strength” even mean?


Defining Strength

Strength can be defined in many different ways depending on the lens viewed with. The Oxford Dictionary’s top definition of strength is “the quality or state of being physically strong”. Many people will describe the men in their lives as being “the rock of the family”, “a pillar of strength”, or “unbreakable”. Messages sent, either directly or indirectly, to young male children include “you're weak if you show/acknowledge your emotions”, “boys don’t cry”, “rub some dirt in it and you’ll be fine”. Theodore Roosevelt was even quoted saying “The worst lesson that can be taught to a man is to rely upon others and to whine over his suffering.” With messaging like this, it’s no wonder that most men feel trapped in a lose-lose situation. You must be strong at all times and in all ways. Relying on others is a sign of weakness. Acknowledging how you’re feeling will make you soft. What this message really means is suffer alone, and suffer quietly. 


Yet, isn’t that the exact opposite of how we describe ideal and “strong” communities and families? I think back to the multiple hurricanes, specifically Hurricane Harvey, that have caused massive destruction to the city and surrounding areas of Houston, TX. The lasting message that stuck with the city of Houston, and most of the country as they were watching the destruction and clean up, was… “Houston Strong”. Why was that the slogan that held the city of Houston together? It prioritized true strength. Strength of acknowledging the heartbreak and devastation in the community. Strength of leaning on our neighbors in times of need and accepting the help offered. Strength in advocating for additional support and resources. Strength in simply acknowledging “I need help right now”. But why is it okay to show this kind of strength only when there are natural disasters that impact the community? Why is it not okay to show this same strength when a loved one passes away? Does it not also impact both yourself and your community surrounding you? Let’s dive deeper. 


Men & Mental Health

With the month of June spreading awareness for Men’s Mental Health, it’s important to highlight the major impacts that the messaging of “be strong” can have on men’s physical and mental health. Starting off with the important topic of suicide prevention is highly important. Studies have shown a stark difference in the rate of attempting and completing suicide for men compared to women. While women may be diagnosed with depression at almost double the amount compared to men, men are at a suicide rate of four times higher than women. The stigma surrounding men’s mental health has substantial impacts on these statistics. Women may feel more accepted talking about their struggles and emotions, leading to support and guidance through their pain. Whereas men feel the need to self-isolate and withdraw from their support, because it appears stronger to struggle alone. It may seem weak to accept help or support. On top of these findings, there are also massive impacts that emotional regulation, or lack thereof, has on human’s physical health as well. An easy example to look at is self-medicating or numbing through alcohol, drugs, and addictions. It also can be seen through medical struggles such as chronic illnesses, high blood pressure, heart attacks and diseases, and many more. 


Now is the time we can make change by finding our own true versions of strength. Imagine if you tried to embody the strength from “Houston Strong” - community and togetherness, accepting help from others, and acknowledging the pain. You may be able to find the truest definition and feeling of strength. Vulnerability is terrifying. I’ll be the first to admit it. You’ve done hard things before. You can do this too. 


We’d love to connect with you! Do you have more questions about strength and what it means to you? Our team at Houston Feel Good Therapy is here to help. To schedule an appointment or consultation, call or text us at 832-966-0214 or email at admin@houstonfeelgoodtherapy.com. We look forward to supporting you on your journey!



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