All throughout history and our daily lives, there’s a stigma about men that has been passed down by generations. It’s that men have to be strong, a leader, successful and confident. What if you don’t possess all those characteristics? Does that mean that you or I are less than the men that do?

Sure, you could tell me “no” and that “I am a man just like them but different.” That might be true, but you are not able to remind me of that 24/7. So I am stuck with the thoughts that reside in my head.

What it’s like

Before I begin, I want you to know that I have depression and anxiety. In case you don’t what those two mental illnesses are like, I will fill you in. Depression is the constant reminder of all my faults, past mistakes and negative thoughts that all started from childhood. Anxiety is when the mind endlessly tries to predict how a situation will play out even before the situation presents itself. These illnesses are both very exhausting and frustrating. Here’s a look into my struggles with the stigma

Strong

Society determines strong as someone that can handle everything that life throws at them. A person who is able to keep their emotions in check. Someone who is fearless. On the good days, I am able to be that type of person. This is all good but what about on the bad days, which happen the majority of time? That’s when I begin to look at myself as determined by the world and havoc within my mind ravages me. I question everything about me from self worth to why I haven’t ended my life yet and everything in between. So I have begun to try replacing the word “strong” with a better word.

OVERCOME

Why this word? It’s because you don’t have to be superman to be a man. You can be broken, struggling, or even weak and still be a man. It doesn’t matter what your illness, addiction, situation or past might be. What really matters is the things you have overcome. There have been plenty of times in my life that I should have failed but I somehow found a way to overcome it. So when I begin to question whether or not I am a true man, I ask myself, “What have you overcome in your life?” Every time I answer that question, I am reminded that yes I am a man.

Leader

There are still many cultures in the world that men walk in front of their wife or kids as they lead them to their destination. Head of household or main decision maker is still considered as men majority of the time. What if I don’t believe in these ideas? Does that me make weak and not able to make my own decisions? Heck no!!! This is one of the stigmas that drive me nuts. Some men are born leaders, while the others are leaders in their own way. Let me explain.

With my anxiety, my mind feels like it needs to ready for anything and everything. When I am walking with others or even a group, I tend to stay towards the back. This way I am able to see everything going on and be ready for it. I tend to let others make decisions because I am a laid back person. If it’s something I feel strongly about, I will definitely give my input. If I see no one taking charge of a situation, I will “pause” the anxiety and make whatever decisions necessary. In other words, I lead from the back and in my own way. I do pay for it later when I “resume” the anxiety. Whether or not I am a leader should not determine if I am a man. I define myself as a man because I am a protector and supporter.

Successful

The world determines success based on the amount of money and items you possess. If you have nice clothes, a nice home, new car, etc., then you are seen as a successful person. With that thought, does it also mean I am less a man if I don’t have those things?

For so long, I worked hard while chasing the money and tried to reach this expectation. Just like my mental illness, it was very exhausting and frustrating. It was only when I stopped chasing it that I truly understood what success really is.

Success is all about what you have accomplished.

I started to truly believe this idea only after years of my parents constantly reminding me of this. The things that I have accomplished had nothing to do with money or items. From my website to my creative ideas that I use to help others—these all came from me and not my possessions. I still struggle from time to time with wanting to fit into this mold that the world has projected, but my power lies within me, not in the mold.

Confident

If a man is not walking with his head up, shoulders back, and making eye contact with others, then he is seen as lacking confidence. Yes, body language says more than our words do, but a lot of times it’s misinterpreted. People tend to not talk to someone that they deem not confident. So based on their perception they will avoid a person who might be looking for some sort of interaction from anyone. When this happens to me, it feeds the negative thoughts of worthlessness and doubt.

Let me just say that I am a confident person even though I don’t show it 24/7. You will see it on my good days, and it will be hidden on my bad days. It can also be seen in the situations that my mental illness has absolutely no control of me in. The bowling alley is a perfect example of this. I love bowling and very good at it. It’s still amazing how different of a person I am inside a bowling alley. It is a place where I know my power and exhibit it through confidence and social strength. I have been able to bring that same confidence into everyday life, but still struggle to do it consistently.

Who defines you?

The world has begun to slowly poison our minds with fake ideas, unreachable expectations and lies. This has caused a lot of men, including myself, to question our purpose and wondering what’s the point of living. The truth is, if you are giving a honest 100% effort in your life, then you are a man. You can cry, have a breakdown, fight your internal monsters and still be a man. Be proud of the man that you are or have become. I know I have.

How Mental Illness Affects Defining Myself as a Man

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