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How men can shift out of toxic masculinity

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Shifting out of toxic masculinity for the betterment of your mental health can be challenging; if the creation of these values were created from a young age and perpetuated since then, it’ll take some intentional effort to change them.

First, start with looking inward and considering what beliefs you have about being a man or being masculine. This may be easier to do by thinking about the behaviours you do to be perceived as manly and then connect them to a belief. For example, if I distance myself from my friends and family whenever I have a bad day, I may believe that I’m being strong and independent, which are typical masculine qualities.

Second, consider if the behaviour connected to these beliefs is serving you. Ask yourself if the behaviour is helpful in the short-term, long-term and if it aligns with your overall values of who you are (or who you want to be). For example, if I distance myself when I’ve had a bad day, but I value connecting with others and being honest about my experience, the isolation behaviour is misaligned with my values.

Thirdly, start challenging those beliefs to shift them into ones that work for you, which is easier said than done. Being diligent about challenging the belief and the behaviour when it comes up will allow the belief to shift over time. Here are some common beliefs that align with toxic masculinity with a paired belief that may be helpful to shift to.

Toxic Masculinity Belief

Balanced Belief

Feeling emotions is weak

Feeling emotions is human

People will think less of me if I show my emotions

People can connect over shared emotions, and showing mine can allow for that

I can solve all of my problems on my own

While I’m a great problem solver, if someone can help me, why not ask them?

I’m strong so I won’t experience any mental health challenges.

Mental health challenges can be out of my control and can happen regardless of how I am.

I need to be strong and reliable for everyone around me.

Everyone around me can help me be strong and reliable.

To be clear, toxic masculinity isn’t necessarily a choice, but a societal construct that teaches men how to be. So consider how toxic masculinity impacts your ability to perceive and care for yourself because although it is societally created does not mean it is a positive or gentle way of being. I often say that we can’t be superheroes all the time and I think that’s applicable here. To believe your strength, confidence, and independence means you can never hurt, falter or pause is not going to serve you as you work to take care of yourself.

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.