Mental Health: The “Silent Epidemic” Killing Men

The epidemic may be silent but enough is enough, men, we need to continue and raise the conversation on mental health. Did you know that suicide rates are higher among men, than in women, and that this seems to be a global trend? Furthermore, the suicide rate is steadily increasing with age, which means, guys, the longer we keep bottling up our emotions and suppress what we feel, we’re only more likely to arrive at that point of no return. There’s hope though, but keep in mind my advice and concern can only go so far. In truth, only you can truly save yourself, but you’ll have to drop the ego to do so, and let go of every way in which you define yourself as a ‘Man’.

Despite what we’ve been led to believe, we’re not born as fearless heroes and we’re not born to rule the world. I promise you that the world will not fall apart if we express a little emotion and communicate the truth about how we feel. In-fact, we’ll be doing the world a favour by doing so, making it more equal and life more liberating for all.

I coach a wide variety of clients internationally, but this year alone I have worked with more men, and first off let me tell you, mental health does not discriminate. Whether your white and powerful, or you’re brown and proud no one is protected from this. If your old and wise, or young and resilient, you are not protected from this either. Money, sexuality, what you do for a living, your relationship status, your good morals, your tough exterior, your balanced upbringing, and whichever other way you define and associate yourself with, will not protect you from the emotional ailments that feed on the suppression of truth. So if you think that this does not apply to you, you are very very wrong, and is just another reason why this problem among men has been dubbed a “silent epidemic

Coaching both men and women, I’m constantly learning of the many perspectives people have of the modern-day man, and the issue restricting men really comes down to representation and how it shapes expectation. For example, what parents expect of their sons, what partners expect from their men, and what men expect for themselves is something that is probably learnt and not naturally inherited.

Everywhere we turn there seems to be a representation of men being brave, bold, strong and successful, predominantly fearless in the face of a challenge and affirmed in his character. Physically weaker men and emotionally sensitive men are often portrayed to desire a stronger more masculine exterior, for they’re usually presented as inadequate and unattractive; as the ‘lesser-man’. Watch nearly any mainstream superhero or action movie, and it won’t be long before you see these characterizations.

Men with emotional ailments are taught to “man-up”, because, again, it is taught that it isn’t natural for a man to suffer emotionally. It seems the message we receive as boys teaches us that our self-worth is determined by our masculinity, and what it means to be a “Man” – which is a message that is very much incorrect. Now I’m not saying that these representations are negative traits, I mean as men we have little to complain about when it comes to positive representation, but if that’s all we’re represented as, then is it any wonder we have a difficult relationship with vulnerability?

We’re rarely represented in a vulnerable light, which is why the world doesn’t expect us to be vulnerable, nor do we really know how to be vulnerable without compromising our emotional integrity. It’s why we fear being seen as vulnerable too, because it conflicts with our learned expectations. As men, we need to widen the representation pool and campaign for more vulnerable depictions of the male identity, and we can only start this process when more of us open up about how we feel behind closed doors. It seems as if we’re programmed to forget that feeling vulnerable is a human trait, and that every man is human. Which I suppose is an accurate statement to make, as we only have to look back at religious texts dating back many millennia – the media of the day – to realize that most Gods and God-like characters in society were referred to as “he” and depicted as men.

I work with motivation for a living and as my career develops, I realize everyday the fundamental mistake we make when defining ourselves as men and why so many of us, all genders included, fail to attain any sense of self-realization. Truth is, we put our gender identities before our very own existence. We somehow fail to realize we’re human, and that our conscious experience is a human experience first and foremost, not just a gendered one. Any emotions you see depicted, and every single emotion you experience, they’re all human emotions, and any emotion that humanly exists can impact any one of us at anytime. It’s entirely a myth to believe that men aren’t affected by certain emotions, such as: insecurity, anxiety and depression, because they’re all human traits designed to help us navigate through life. Therefore, to deny or suppress such emotion is, from my experience and understanding, an extension of self-harm.

Being a “Man” is the equivalent of playing a character, and it’s when you don’t feel like that character, is when you fail to perform – in every interpretation of the word. It’s a human trait to want to survive, so if you’re not feeling like you can go on any longer, and you’re losing the will to live, then drop the role and realize you’re having a human experience, instead of a male one. Don’t think about resolving your issues like a man, you must resolve your issues like a human, unbound by gender.

Crying is a human trait; sadness is a human trait;  fear is a human trait; expression is a human trait; desire is a human trait, and anyone who judges you (yourself included) for any human trait, is just another being who has lost touch with their humanity, and submitted themselves to a restrictive human-like character.

Our human potential is where our focus and attention should be, and exploring life as a human as opposed to just a man, will detach us from the roles and ideologies which meddle with our self-worth and esteem. Deal with your emotional ailments as any human would, and set yourself free from the limiting beliefs of Man.

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Accepting My Vulnerability

Awesome.

Finding Elevation

Being vulnerable must be one of the scariest things I’ve had to face in my life. For I’ve always been a strong and independent girl but contrary to what people might think, that wasn’t really my choice. And while having those strong character traits is great, life is all about balance and when vulnerability is absent you have the perfect components to build a soulless human. But let’s go back to the beginning.

During my formative years I had to deal with a somewhat manipulative and toxic environment so, naturally, a coping mechanism was put in place. Don’t show your emotions, don’t open up your heart because it’s going to be crushed and stomped on the floor, don’t speak or express yourself because all your words can be used against you, don’t cry because you’re not allowed to, don’t let them see how much it hurts, suck it up, raise…

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Socializing Is Much More Than ‘Getting Out There’

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We all know the benefits of socializing, but do we actually understand it’s depth? A period of isolation surely makes you crave the comforting touch of both your family and friends, and this is not a superfluous feeling. As humans we crave social connection like plants need sunlight. A good social life often allows for positive mental health, and activities spurned on through this lead to somewhat good physical health, provided you are active and adventurous with your friends and not simply laying on the couch playing video games all day.

The most common thing about the beauty of socializing is that we all need it. Infants require it, the elderly require it, disabled people respond beautifully to social communities with services such as Special Bridge. People need each other, and a life shared is always more beautiful than a life experienced solo.

But what is really happening when we socialize? Why is it so powerful? We hope to answer those questions and more with our humble post:

Connection

Connection is important, and it helps us stay sane. To feel you’re truly understood means becoming vulnerable and open to people around you. Learning new things is always precipitated by accepting the opinion of someone new. This way you also learn to express yourself in a way that you truly feel. Having your feelings understood and responded to is one of the best feelings in the world, whether that comes through an intimate relationship, a great friend or a loving parent.

Communities Help

Communities matter. As we developed as a species, our tribal tendencies once meant we could share the fruit of our hunting and gathering efforts. Anyone who stole from the group or was otherwise testing of its virtues became vilified and the outsider. Simply because we have a little thing called the division of labor, and that some people can work online and never need others from a survival perspective, that hasn’t lessened our impact or need for one another in the slightest. It is hard-wired into us, and it matters.

You Always Rely On People

In the previous heading we stated that you don’t need people from a survival perspective. That’s true at least immediately from a proximal perspective. The truth is, people have made or designed everything you hold dear. From the computer, phone or tablet you’re reading this on, to the food you ate at lunchtime, someone was responsible for designing, shipping and selling those goods to you. To take this even further, your entire body, personality and mind are only here because your parents once desired a child. We are all more connected than we know, to the point where isolation will seem the most alien way to live of all.

While we might become tired of each other, or need our own personal space from time to time, it’s important to always understand just how critical we are for the continued happiness of one another. So what are you waiting for? Contact your parents, your children, your lover or your friends, and tell them you love them while you can.

Sponsoring Jason Silva in Vancouver!

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I started The Lion’s Life about 5 years ago and today, I have my own Life Coaching practice and in a position to be able to sponsor events such as Jason Silva’s: Hack Your Reality – right here at home, Vancouver B.C.

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When you love something with such passion and are dedicated to a vision of what you want out of life, never ever give up.  No really, don’t give up! Who knew I’d find myself in this position when I posted my first blog post back in 2012. Back then i never had much, all I had was a vision for what I wanted and passion for what I did. Which I realizes today,  they’re a powerful combination to have and they cost absolutely nothing.

The real cost occurs when you do give up, because over the last 5 years I had thought about it many times. When I took a shot and missed, or when I got a negative comment, and even when I thought I couldn’t power through the stress and struggle. Today’s celebrations have made me realize how crucial all of those moments were to the process.

Today I also launched my International coaching practice and as I was updating the my local site, I started to realize why all those entrepreneurs I look up to always say “do what you love.”

It wasn’t easy getting to this point, in fact it doesn’t feel any easier. However, when you manage pull in the tiniest piece of your dream into real life, the hunger to see this through grows and forces you to persevere, and see your aspirations through to the very end.

The dedication it takes to build the life you’ve always envisioned is like training for the olympics, and although I’m still preparing for my gold medal, I definitely feel like I’m on the right track with each victory along the way.

This blog right here is where it all began, and writing this post is helping me comprehend what I have manifested in my life. Scanning though the archives have really put things in perspective for me, especially now thinking ahead to the next 5 years.

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How to Tame the Ego

Success is like a drug, and like drugs it comes in many forms: a return on investment, a fulfilling experience, or even reaching a higher state of consciousness. And just like drugs, success can develop into an addiction, and the only way to sustain the addiction is to feed the ego. The ego is the only thing that can convince you that the success (the drug) is all you need to live for.

My ego has fought for dominion over my conscious experience my entire life, and with each success, my self-awareness weakens and becomes a window of opportunity for my ego to reign.

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This week has been a series of wins and with each ‘hit’, I could feel my identity escaping me. When you succeed, in the very traditional sense of the word, the world starts to take notice and sort of validates your self-worth with every like, comment, congratulatory call or text. Each validation enhances the ‘high’, and it’s a difficult feeling to escape. I mean, who doesn’t like being validated by someone else?

Over the past few years, I feel my biggest accomplishment has been developing my self-awareness, and when my behaviours started mimicking that of my ego, it was time to put it back in its place. I found myself constantly checking my phone for red notifications, replying “thank you”, to comments from people who don’t really give a sh*t, and allowing myself to believe that only I can do what I do, which I know for a fact isn’t true. That’s not the life I want to build, that’s not the life experience I want live, and nor is it the life I want to share.

Praise is like positive reinforcement, the behaviours (the successes) I was being rewarded for (praised for), we’re reinforcing the idea that if I repeat these same behaviours, I can expect to be rewarded again. Soon, my purpose is replaced with the desire for more praise and validation. This entices the ego to come out and play, and to take control over my life in order to sustain this rewards based system.

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If I let this happen I restrict my potential, because it’ll only motivate me to do enough to keep others happy and keep my ego satisfied. It also places an overwhelming expectation, an unnecessary pressure which’ll distract me from being able to just, be. It’s a difficult behaviour to undo, a difficult behaviour to defeat, when this is what we’re taught from a young age. That the only reason to do anything, is for the reward.

We rarely praise each other for feeling completely content with where we are in our lives. Rarely are we impressed with people who are just happy on their journey, wherever it’s headed. It’s always a sort of “that’s nice” or “good luck” or “you’ll go far”- a compliment that suggests we should be doing more for a reward/better reward. I remember these praises, because I got them a lot when I started blogging. It was only when success grows, do people feel compelled to reach out and say “well done” and “Congratulations!”

Where’s the appreciation for just existing and being you? Why does being you and doing what you do naturally, have to be worth something in terms of “success”, before you’re appreciated at all?

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This is what years of feeling insignificant does to us, when we grow up feeling insignificant any experience of validation becomes a high, just like a drug, because the experience is so surreal to us. We want more of this unreal experience. We’re rarely taught that who we are is enough, so a lot of us spend a lifetime chasing the high for no other reason than to just feel worth something. Forever trying to prove our worth, and less time developing and learning from it.

We all have a reason to exist, we all have worth from the moment we’re born, and I think the ego is tamed when we accept that. When we accept ourselves life becomes this wonderful journey of discovery, instead of a mission to know and have things just to justify what we think we know, which is often very far from the truth.

When we equate validation to acceptance, to love, and to appreciation, we lose sight of our own capacity to accept, love, appreciate, so we blindly validate ego.

Without the attachment to traditional affirmations of success: the nice house, the flashy cars, the perfect relationship and all the other trimmings sold to us on social media, who are we? I think it’s a reason why so many relationships tank, why so many great ideas fail, and so many of us give up on things we’re passionate about so quickly. It seems if we don’t get the validation it’s not worth the experience, so we give up or do the minimum to sustain whatever we’ve built.

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All I did was start expressing my truth and once I got comfortable with it, I navigated my truth to different experiences, and the experiences taught me how to share it. Living more authentically gave me the courage to explore the things that truly interested me, and the more I learned, the more I invested my life into it. I was developing my passion and as my passion grew I identified my purpose, all because it just felt right, natural even.

This is why I wrote this post today, to save me and the future me from my own ego. It may not be well written, nor will it ever be perfect, but it’s me, and so long as I continue to express myself honestly, I’ll continue to develop and grow me into the best version of me I can ever be.

I think if we all work hard to develop self-awareness and actively help each other keep our egos in check, relationships will inspire, passions will be pursued and life will become a freer experience to live.

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