Stop trying to “man up” – a message not only to men but also to women


We are living in a society where there’re restraints, limitations and prejudices on what we should or shouldn’t do. They are beyond cultural differences. They are universal.

I’ve been teaching extra classes for young kids for quite a while, and I couldn’t help but notice the seperation between boys and girls in my classes. Some boys would call another boy “gay” if he chooses to sit with a female student, or if he isn’t as naughty and rebellious as them.

From early ages, we believe that men are supposed to be strong, and women are supposed to be weak.  And as the fight for equality comes in the picture, women attempt to be strong too. We are told that the image of a modernized woman is one that is strong, financially and emotionally independent. We are told that we can’t be weak, we shouldn’t cry or show our vulnerabilty.  In some sort of sense, women are told to be more “man” as well. Voila to gender equality!

This is a good thing, just sometimes it carries some dark sides with it that we need to be well aware of.

I’ve learnt something surprising about a relative of mine. She’s been going through a long period of depression and anxiety. She would smash things when she gets mad. She easily gets upset. She doubts everything and everyone.  She closes off herself to everyone around her. This was only known when someone living with her revealed it. I was shaken. Cos she was always that positive person on her Facebook, showing lovely pictures of herself and her surroundings, posting fun-filled statuses about her life. And though we talked to each other now and then, she hardly showed her weaknesses.

There’s this mother who lost her child trying to be happy and enjoy her life as if she completely overcame the tragedy. People thought she was fine. Everything turned out not to be what it seemed when they found her committing suicide in her own apartment. It was when she couldn’t take it any more. The cost of hiding emotions can be as expensive as a life.

Everything has a limit. Just like a balloon would break when being overly blown up.

Trying too hard to just be “man” is not only toxic to an individual, but also to relationships, and to families. Boys refuse to show affection to the love of their life for fear of being perceived as “feminine”. Husbands refuse to help their wives with household chores as they believe (and others believe) those things are “not for men”. And both boys and girls, men and women, refuse to share our feelings, refuse to tell others how much we’ve been hurt, refuse to say that we need help, just for the freaking damn sake of weakness.

For such a long time, we have forgotten a basic fact: we are not just confined men or women, we are humans. To me, that is equality. And as humans, it’s totally fine and necessary to be loving to others, to listen to others, to be totally honest with our feelings to others. It’s natural for humans to feel sadness, anger, depression, loneliness. So why do we stop people from showing them? Is it just a way to stop them from being human?

One little known truth about these signs of weaknesses (as you may define them), is that in order to overcome them, hiding is not the solution. The correct solution? You need to first recognise them, embrace them, and manage them to prevent their escalation. This can be done alone, but will even better when shared with someone else.

There’s no point in showing signs of strengths when in fact you’re feeling weakness.  Signs are merely the tip of the iceberg. What we need to deal with is the underneath. Be strong as you are and you need to be. Be independent when it makes you feel good about yourself. Be loving to others when you feel the love for them. Don’t do all of those things only because of what you want others to perceive you.

This is also backed by science. A review of scienctific literature reveals that “who learned that being a man meant no tears, no dependence and no vulnerability, have tremendous difficulty when confronted by the many intensely stressful challenges inherent in old age.”

The world still needs strong men and women, who are strong for the better of themselves and other people around them, not for the sake of showing strength.

These are my thoughts after listening to the below TED Talk by Justin Baldoni. It’s the first TED Talk that prompted me to write a blog post about it, and I find it relevant not only to men but also women. So, men and women, make sure you watch it. I’d love to hear your thoughts Xx

P/S: I chose the image of Obama shedding tears to feature this post because to me, that is the redefined masculinity: the capability to feel and express emotions.

 

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Don’t be a victim of the past


To lots of people, the past is something very daunting. It seems to stay forever in our minds and with just some remaining ashes, the fire can burn again anytime. Some people suffered from such painful experiences in the past that they can never forget. Some people are also obsessed by the past of someone else, especially their partners. These memories do great harm to our well-being, affect our present life in a negative way and threatens our relationships. Obviously it’s no good thinking about the past, but all too often we find ourselves trapped in the maze of past memories without a way out.

I used to be overwhelmed by nostalgia. During high school time I remembered the pleasure of going to primary school and being a little kid. Going to university, I wished I could come back to high school and have fun with my old classmates. These memories are definitely something we should treasure, it is not wrong to remember them. I even felt somehow addicted to filling my mind with the past. However, there is a consequence that I somehow didn’t realize : these beautiful, long gone memories made me think less of the present, and the present appeared to be something that is less desirable than the past. As a result, I didn’t feel happy with the present life at all when I thought about what had happened years before. However, happy memories are harmless if we don’t think too much about them or compare them with the present.

Sad and painful memories, in contrast, always do great harm. There is no exception. I still remember crying every night when I first came to Adelaide because I kept thinking about the sad things that happened previously. Fortunately, that period didn’t last long, thanks to my new life, new relationships and new experiences, which pulled me away from the past. Well, the not so good thing was, I had to overcome the past of,not me, but someone else. Simply speaking, if I wanted to move on in that relationship, I had to forget the past of this person. It was not easy at all. However, after such a long time, I have managed to lower the level of obsession from 10 to 2 or 3 now I reckon.

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However, like I said, the past is something that is very persistent. Today, I came across, just by chance, some documents and objects that belong to the past. I couldn’t help reading and skimming through it out of curiosity, and again I felt really bad and sad. Voilà! The obsession was triggered one more time. I know it.

This is the reason why I ended up writing this, to stop me from thinking and reacting beyond my control. Being too emotional can lead us to behave irrationally. Writing helps me to calm down and think positively about the problem.

ImageSo, the point is, although the past has shaped who we are at the moment, it HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR PRESENT ! If it’s gone, it’s gone. What people felt in the past is totally different from what they feel at present. The fact that our boyfriend/girlfriend used to be so in love with someone else in the past has nothing to do with his/her love for us now.  The fact that you used to be head over heels someone doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to love anyone else. People keep changing. Feelings keep changing. Some physical stuffs may last, as an evidence for the past, but they are not relevant for our present or future. We can learn from the past, and move forward, but the past should never ever drag us down or become our obstacles. Never ever!

I feel so relieved after writing these thoughts. It may be hard to totally let go of the past, but it is possible to control our feelings and emotion orientation. It is the matter of choice, resting on whether we choose to live in the past and let the past overwhelm us or we choose to let it go and focus on our present. We are in control of our own thoughts.

And I chose to be nice to myself, do my mind a favour by letting the past go and focusing on the good side of the present.

If you are suffering from the same problem I had, here are some tips to get over it ( I mean, the past and unfavourable memories):

1. Try to do something else, like watching a movie or going shopping.

2. Write down your feelings, this is a very effective way to “throw” those thoughts away, just like you throw rubbish in the bin.

3. Repeat to yourself that everything is gone, the present is more important, there’s no point getting stuck in the past. Tell yourself that if you maintain those thoughts, there will be harmful consequences and you cannot move forward.

4. Confide in someone you trust.

5. Enjoy your present

This time, number 2, 3 and 5 have worked for me. I do feel better now than a few hours ago 🙂

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Dear Past, we have to say Goodbye. I won’t be a victim of you anymore.

This is my promise


I watched this video just now and can’t help thinking about what I can do.

It is a touching video to watch, and it may make you stop and think for a while about how lucky you are and how unfortunate these children are. Yet, I do not want to leave it there. That thinking may be retained for the next few days, and then it will be gone. I desperately want to DO something.

It has been one of my greatest concerns for the last few years. For the time being, I promise myself that I keep learning and empowering myself. One of the best things happening soon is that I will attend the 4th University Scholars Leadership Symposium in Manila in August, in which I will have a chance to meet other like-minded people who may share the same goal with me. I will be taught how to build a humanitarian project. Hopefully after the Symposium, I will have gained enough support to pursue a project about Children Well-being in my home country, Vietnam.

Keep my fingers crossed and hope for the best. Whatever happens, and however hard it will be, I promise I will do it.

That’s why I publish this post, and have you witness my promise now.