Macho Mentality

Just a couple weeks after school ended, I was attacked. One of my closest friends lunged at me after a game of bowling, first trying to choke me, and later driving his nails into my neck. After talking to him about the incident, we came to the conclusion that something else triggered his actions, and not the issue of the bowling game. To me, the root cause was quite apparent: he had bottled up anger and stress inside of him that managed to explode in a violent fashion.
This trend of keeping one’s emotions to themselves is not a new one, especially among boys my age. This “always macho” mentality is something that has caused many teenage boys to close off and detach emotionally from the world around them. Of course, that’s unnatural. Factors like a large academic load, multiple extracurriculars, and other stresses of growing up as a teen can take a toll on anyone. It’s no surprise that high schoolers nowadays have a higher average stress level than most adults, across factors such as psychopathology, suicide rates, and general unhappiness, says the Harvard Business Review. Add to those stressors the inability to comfortably vent those frustrations, and you get a recipe for disaster.
Such is the struggle of teenage boys, who are implicitly taught to keep their emotions to themselves, or risk looking vulnerable.
In addition, not learning to regularly release stress teaches kids to keep their emotions to themselves, even after they become adults. Once they are mature, people who keep in stress often release them in large bursts, which can have dire consequences for both themselves and those around them.
As a community, it will take much more time to fix the stressors behind these behaviors, things like the absence of Social-Emotional Learning in schools. However, one action we can take right now is to destroy the myth that kids who can express themselves are weak and vulnerable. We were given emotions because they’re one of our best qualities as human beings – we can communicate, connect, empathize with one another. However, without this trait, we become islands, unable to be reached by others, and unable to empathize with others likewise. So let’s get rid of the notion that a strong boy is one who shows no emotion. Rather, it should be the opposite.