Labels Are For Boxes, Not People

“There is nothing noble being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” — Winston Churchill

Men matter.

This isn’t a popular opinion. However, we have an entire month dedicated to men’s wellness! The health and well-being of men matter in our society just like it does for women. I’m sure we could all agree on that, yes?

If that’s true, then why are we okay using terms like “toxic masculinity” to describe an entire gender?

No human being is toxic.

That’s another unpopular opinion. Behaviors, thoughts, and environments can be toxic. But no human being is inherently toxic.

I challenge you, my dearest reader, to examine your own usage of language. By slapping a negative label on any one gender, you are essentially telling them they don’t matter. It makes that group of people feel angry, inferior, but also worthless. And if we agree men do matter in our society, then we need to stop with the usage of negative labeling.

Telling someone repeatedly they’re toxic will cement it into their brain patterns as Truth. We all know we’re not calling the human being “toxic”, simply their behaviors. However, that is NOT how the brain understands it. The brain takes the label of “toxic masculinity” and turns it into this:

“Masculinity is toxic, which means men are toxic. I’m a man. Therefore, I am toxic. The definition of ‘toxic’ is poisonous, very harmful, or unpleasant in a pervasive or insidious way. I do nothing right. Even my father growing up told me this. Women hate men now. Dating is pointless because I’m a man and I’m toxic. I was never good enough for my dad growing up and now I’m not good enough as an adult male.”

The brain takes one phrase and combines ALL the other negative thoughts, experiences, etc… together into one gigantic, horrible brain pattern without the person actually realizing it. If a man is already battling with low self-esteem or body image issues, calling him “toxic” adds gasoline onto an already deadly fire.

Look, I understand what men and women mean when they use the phrase “toxic masculinity”. However, our brains interpret information on a whole other level. You must understand neuroscience, even at an elementary level, to truly grasp the impact words have on a person. I know there’s no ill intent when people use phrases such as “toxic masculinity”, but it does more harm than good. Labeling is for lazy brains who can’t be bothered with providing more details and information. Just slap a label on a person and walk away!

So if a person believes their toxic, what motivation do they have to change? We have already thrown them away like trash. Everything they do or don’t do is considered “toxic”, so they’ll never win. What ends up happening is they enter “shutdown” mode, which feeds the depression beast. With men 4x more likely to commit suicide than women, we need to change our approach in helping one another, instead of tearing down an entire gender.

Since when has negative reinforcement ever helped a person transform into a healthier individual?

Changing a person’s behavior is done by holding your hand out and GUIDING them towards more positive actions. When you have a gender that’s already suffering from statistics outlined below, piling on more negative labels will ultimately lead to even more unhealthy men:

  • 76% of suicides are men.
  • 85% of homeless are men.
  • 70% of homicide victims are men.
  • 40% of domestic abuse victims are men.
  • Men are most victims of violent crime.
  • On average, they serve 64% longer in prison.
  • 4x more likely to be imprisoned than women when both commit the same crime.
  • Men live about 5 years less than women.
  • 1 in 2 men will develop cancer.
  • 90% of men are misdiagnosed with stress when it’s actually depression.

Unhealthy men equal an unhealthy society. We should ALL be gravely concerned by these jaw-dropping statistics. And yet we say things like, “Men have it easy”? Ask any man and he’ll tell you otherwise. If he feels safe enough, he might even vocalize the inner battles he faces daily. Does anyone actually take the time to ask, though? Does anyone care to know the struggles men go through?

What it means to be a man today differs greatly from what it meant 20 years ago. Conforming to the macho masculine norms of stuffing feelings down has resulted in men having a higher rate of mental health problems. Buzzwords like “toxic masculinity” are carelessly thrown around. The image of how to be the “ideal man”, which was drilled into their heads at a very young age, has been tossed out the window.

Society says “Men, you’re the problem”. But has anyone given them the tools to lead a healthier life? Or do we just say, “You’re toxic” and walk away? Why do we offer guidance to every other group in society and yet assume men will figure out how and what to change? And when they don’t, we exclaim, “What is wrong with him?! Why doesn’t he know how to do/be XYZ?!”

It’s all rather ridiculous to me how we demand men to change by telling them they’re toxic. I shake my head in absolute disbelief when women say things like “The future is female”. I know what they mean. Most men understand what they mean. The brain, however, does not. The brain takes that phrase quite literally. It doesn’t distinguish between fact and sarcasm. Men take in “The future is female” to mean “I’m not needed in society anymore”. And you’re shocked when you see those eye-opening statistics about men?

“Well, it’s on them to understand what we, as women, are saying.”

Nope! As the communicator, your job is to ensure the receiver of the information understands your message. It’s not the receiver’s job to figure it out. That’s basic Communications 101.

“Toxic masculinity” has been used ad nauseam for so long now that I’m seeing men turn on their own gender. This is alarming to me as women (since the beginning of time) have consistently turned against one another.

Women are more disrespectful to one another than men are to women. (That’s another unpopular opinion, but one in which many women would agree with.) What makes the male gender so incredible is the brotherhoods they naturally form. Women do not have this level of respect for one another because, historically, they were brought up to compete against each other.

Men, I beg you! Do not lose your brotherhood! Men’s ability and desire to stick together is the very backbone of our society. It’s the glue that holds us together! It’s how we’ve won wars against enemies. It’s how our society has gotten through hardships. Support one another. Do not regurgitate phrases like “toxic masculinity”! That’s shooting yourself in the foot! There are those of us who are trying to open women’s eyes to the damage they cause by using such awful labels. Don’t make it harder on us by using the same negative labels to gain some sort of respect from women. You don’t need respect from people who think it’s okay to call another human being “toxic”.

Can we agree to stop using negative labels with the misguided notion that it somehow will help people change their behaviors?

It’s time to retire the phrase “toxic masculinity” once and for all.

When I was 17 years old, my aunt took me on a cruise to the Mexican islands. She had one rule for me.

“If I don’t see you this entire trip, that’s fine by me. I just want you to have fun.”

Pretty great aunt, huh?

And I had fun, partying every night, meeting new people from all over the world. It was a great time. But after 7 days, the trip was coming to a close, and I was ready to go home. I wanted to make sure I partied to the very end. So the last evening on the ship, I went to the premier club onboard, where the college kids had hung out at all week. It was there where I met my future husband, Ryan.

He was from Los Angeles, and I lived in Pittsburgh. He was 18, about to go to college. And I was 17, finishing up high school. We told each other we’d keep in touch and we did, like pen pals. Throughout college, we would email each other updates about our lives.

By the time I was in my senior year at the University of Pittsburgh, I was ready to “get outta Dodge,” so to speak. Pittsburgh was my home, but it was time to venture out of Pennsylvania and experience the world. Without ever having visited Los Angeles, I decided it was far enough away for me to start my new life after college graduation.

And so after a year of saving a bit of money (enough for one month’s living expenses) and finding a roommate, I packed up my car with my dog in the front seat and drove West. I didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles. I didn’t have a job. I chose Redondo Beach because I thought how bad could it be if it has the word “beach” in the name. That’s what you do when you’re 22 years old, after all. You brush off people’s opinions on how to live your life and you choose your own journey instead.

Of course, when I told Ryan I was coming out, he didn’t believe me. He’d always say, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. We were still in contact, but only every 6 months or so. Even after packing my car up with what I could fit and my printed out MapQuest directions, Ryan laughed it off and said, “Call me when you get to Barstow”.

And just like that, after having driven for days and staying in sketchy motels along the way, I reached Barstow, CA, only 2 hours outside of LA. I walked into a local convenience store, bought a salt and pepper shaker that had “Route 66” stamped on it, and called Ryan. To say it shocked him would be an understatement.

People have always underestimated me.

After getting settled in LA in my new apartment with a roommate I had only met online a few months prior, I hunted for a job. Within 3 days, I locked one in at Creative Artists Agency. Nothing could stop me. I was on a mission. I was manifesting my life’s desires. It was all coming together perfectly.

Ryan wanted to date right away, but I pushed him off for a year as I wanted to scope out the scene a bit more before locking into a relationship with him. I dated men, and he dated other women while waiting for me.

Finally, after a year and a half, I said, “okay, let’s do it. Let’s turn this friendship into something more”. And for 5 years, we were together. We made a perfect match. It lacked romance, but we worked well together. We made good business decisions. And in 2010, we married.

I married my best friend. He was a great guy, always kind to me, and respectful. However, marriage was never on my life’s “to-do” list. It never looked like a fun activity from the outside. But because Ryan and I had been together for so long, his family put the pressure on for us to get married. I said “Yes” because I felt obligated. I pushed away any doubts I had and forced myself to do what they expected of me based on societal norms.

Big mistake on my part.

Two years into the marriage, and I was already annoyed. It was like having a bad roommate. I made 3x as much as he did, which I never had an issue with. Unbeknownst to me, however, it affected him deeply.

I ran the relationship. He was just along for the ride. I decided what houses we’d buy, where we’d live, the interior design, vacations, dinners, everything. He never had an opinion on anything and simply went along with whatever I decided. It sounds nice until it’s not. He felt depressed and gained some weight. I couldn’t understand his problem. He had everything! I was the one who took care of every detail and he’s upset over what exactly?

“You’re acting like a little bitch. Jesus, Ryan, grow some balls and be a man!”

I felt like I was taking care of a child. Ryan lashed out in anger over the most ridiculous things. He didn’t have any close friends to hang out with and no hobbies to speak of. When I went out for drinks with my friends or to ride my horse, he’d be sitting at home waiting for me.

Try as I may to help him gain a life outside of our relationship, he continued to be like a lump on a log. It became incredibly unattractive, and I pulled away. In 2013, I remember being in our kitchen at our house in Coto de Caza, telling him I didn’t want to be married anymore. He had no reaction and simply agreed, even though I could see him fighting back tears. By this point, I was done. It felt like I hadn’t married a man. He didn’t possess any of the masculine qualities I thought one day he might gain, some way or somehow. And so, very simply, we got divorced. Both signed on the dotted line, no arguments, and went our separate ways.

It wasn’t until my self-discovery journey in 2017 when I realized of how Alpha female I was. I worked almost only with men in the corporate world for 12 years. I had mostly male friends and found women to be too emotional. My mother was a strong, single mom with heavy feminist leanings. She raised me on the ideology of “you don’t need a man”. And so I became this independent, “I run the show” woman.

After the hell at Google and my personal trauma, I examined who I was and the journey I wanted to take in life. I wasn’t happy and so in 2017; I went on a massive self-development journey. I studied everything I could. I read and researched everything I could find. During this time, I discovered a wealth of information about myself. In fact, I killed off the old me and became an entirely new person. Everything I had done in my life, all the money and success, meant nothing at this point. I wasn’t happy. And if I had to create an entirely new being in order to find my life’s purpose, then I was determined to do it.

During my self-discovery, I realized there was nothing wrong with Ryan. I had emasculated him to where he didn’t think he was needed. And frankly, he wasn’t. I handled everything. I didn’t need him. Which is exactly why the marriage turned into like having a bad roommate. There wasn’t any deep love there. But because we were such good friends, we thought the natural progression of a relationship was to get married.

But I didn’t realize my part in it. I didn’t realize that because I was such a strong, independent woman who dominated the entire relationship, I inadvertently took away the very things which men pride themselves on. I took away his purpose in being a man.

The anger wasn’t because he was too emotional, as I would always describe it as. It was depression, which I learned looks very different in men vs women. Therefore, it often goes unnoticed and misdiagnosed in men.

I realized I had pushed men, specifically Ryan, onto an island of “Unneeded”. A man without a purpose spells death. By me being so strong, I took away his masculinity. I understand that now and would say I regret it, but I don’t. He’s happily married with children now, something he always wanted. I’m grateful to have gone through it in order to become a better person. We’re both better off.

My self-discovery journey opened my eyes to how strong, independent women can emasculate men to where they lose any will or motivation in life. And sometimes, this leads to the fateful road of “why am I even alive”?

Men are told to be strong, but not too strong. Be gentle, but not too much. Share your feelings and be vulnerable. But don’t overdo it. You’re too much or not enough.

How exhausting!

I can’t even fathom the confusion and frustration men feel in today’s society, which consistently tells them what masculinity should look like. It’s contradictory in so many ways and I truly empathize with them. It’s because of my deep passion for humanity and helping others find their happiness that I became a voice in men’s wellness in 2018. Women look at me like I have 4 heads when I tell them to support men. But it’s hard for one to argument with the fact that a healthy man equals a healthy society. But it also means a healthy woman because we are all interconnected. We should all be concerned with each other’s health and wellness because it affects us as individuals and as a society.

I understand why women act the way they do, because that’s who I was. But through my personal development, I found empathy and compassion for my fellow man.

Men, I’m here for you always. You’re needed. You’re wanted. And I will do whatever I can to guide you towards a healthier and happier YOU.

Did You Know?

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

81% of men remember the make & model of their first car. But barely half remember their last trip to the doctor!

Did you know the 2nd leading cause of death in men is prostate cancer? And it’s HIGHLY treatable when caught early. All it takes is a regular doctor’s visit.

Also, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Women find men who do not take care of themselves incredibly unattractive. Seriously, it’s a MAJOR turnoff for women when men don’t prioritize their health. Stubbornness is not sexy. Women love men who handle themselves and want to be the healthiest they can be, inside and out.

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