Being emotionally strong or resilient means that you can successfully adapt to stress, adversity, life crisis, and traumatic events. Being strong doesn’t mean you never experience emotional pain. A healthy resilience means that you have the ability to recover from painful experiences. People with highly developed resiliency have healthy self-esteem and confidence and know how to manage strong emotions and impulses.
However, when “being strong” becomes your habitual response to all challenging life situations, you don’t allow yourself an opportunity to process your emotions and accept the experience as an integral part of your life. This may cause anxiety, depression, as well as other mental health issues.
In many cultures, emotional suppression is a norm whereas expressing emotions is a sign of weakness. Especially if you are a male. If you are born in a culture that highly values masculinity norms, it is likely that you struggle with the imperative of “being strong” and have issues with emotional expression.
Masculine Norms in Western Societies
The masculinity norms and stereotypes in developed countries have created generations of men who repress their emotions and bottle them up, trying to stay strong and independent. Studies show that a great number of men with mental health illness remain unidentified, undiagnosed, and untreated. The reason for this is often seen in men’s reluctance to assess their feelings and address their mental health problems.
The male stereotypes of masculinity such as those that men should stay in control, suck it up, be tough, brave, and easy-going may significantly damage males’ mental health. The gap between this manly ideal and reality often causes anxiety, depression, violent behavior, substance abuse, emotional suppression, and more and more often, suicide.
In Western cultures, where it is simply not acceptable to talk about feelings, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable discussing and sharing their emotions.
Therefore, people often mask their real feelings in an attempt of being strong. The denial of feelings leads to the denial of mental health problems. So, instead of seeking professional medical help, people tend to respond to their mental health symptoms through emotion suppression and destructive behaviors such as denial or substance abuse.
Instead of nurturing our sensitivity, we often fight it and try to suppress it. Sensitivity makes you intuitive and open to your feelings – your intuition is the best way to discover yourself. Rather than trying to be strong and suppress your feelings, try to follow your intuition.
And to go with your gut, try these few steps.
1. Breathe deeply and relax your muscles and the whole body.
2. Take a moment and listen to your feelings, focusing on your body and its sensations.
3. Concentrate on emotions that make you feel uncomfortable and that you try to get away from.
4. Focus on your intuitive reaction and ask yourself what your gut is telling you. Explore the context - are social rules and stereotypes discouraging you from listening to your intuition? Are social norms telling you to bottle it up and be brave?
How Listening to Your Intuition can Improve Your Life
Paying attention to your intuition can help you see things from a different perspective and find original, creative solutions to life challenges. Accepting your sensitivity instead of being strong will lead to a better self-knowledge and self-acceptance. Moreover, learning to accept and express your feelings can help you understand your own and other people feelings and manage them more successfully.