For some, it will be everything they’ve been taught about what “real” or “good” men do and are.
Whether we call it living out loud, daring greatly, or dreaming, I am a big believer in the idea that in order for people to be happy, they have to choose happiness. People have to be actively engaged in their own lives in order to have the life they want. You have to speak your truth, or intention, and follow through consistently with your words and actions.
This is true for men and women, alike. It’s not something that is easy to do and we all face challenges as we attempt to live our best lives.
Men, however, face a unique challenge when they choose to live out their dreams and find their own happiness. In order to be happy, if men want to be efficient problem solvers and leaders who climb the ladder with ease, they’re fine. If they want to remain emotionally disconnected in their own lives and separate from the ones they love, they’re good. However, if they believe that their happiness exists outside of the “man box”, many men will be challenged to forget everything they’ve heard about what “real” or “good” men do and are.
Men might not find their identity in their work.
Boys and girls alike are peppered from a very early age with the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” While women are still fighting for professional acceptance and recognition in the workforce, some men will feel the burden of having too much acceptance. Sure, they may enjoy their work and even be quite good at it but some men won’t find or experience true happiness until they give themselves permission to find their identity and purpose outside of the office.
Men may wish to better understand themselves.
Men aren’t often encouraged to engage in process. Action, after all, is what makes the world go round. The measurable results of what they do often garner more attention than what they think or feel. However, some men may not be truly happy until they have a greater, more personal understanding of who they are, where they’ve come from, and who they want to be. Connecting to their feelings and experiences on a deeper level may be the only pathway to the possibility of living an authentic life.
Acknowledging their feelings, expressing them, and understanding them may be exactly what men need for their lives to feel richer and fuller. While women sometimes battle the notion that they are “too emotional”, men struggle under the burden of being stoic and strong. Being authentic and finding happiness starts with acknowledging feelings. How can men experience happiness without the permission to feel pain? How would they be able to tell the difference?
For some men, relationships may be everything.
Not everyone needs “an other” to feel complete. However, some people cannot be happy without a deep, meaningful and intimate relationship. Where women are cautioned that “love isn’t everything”, men still aren’t given permission to allow their significant relationships to “complete them.”
I remember the first time I read “Am I Weird Because I Love My Wife?”. I hadn’t before considered how men can feel isolated when they’re not “allowed” to wax poetic about their loves or relationships. Everyone in my personal life knows my love story. Heck, I even wrote about it.
I never stopped to think about what it’d be like or how it would feel if I weren’t allowed to let my marriage be an integral part of my life or my happiness. I’m sure the freedom to do so enables me to participate more wholly with my husband. How can men be truly and deeply connected to their partners if they are led to believe that they shouldn’t be that way? That it’s not normal?
They may have to change what being a “good dad” is and means.
Fatherhood is changing and while there is still a long way to go in terms of getting dads seen as equal parents, the message is starting to get out there. For some men, finding and experiencing true happiness may mean being a different kind of dad than what’s been modeled for them. They may have to take a path different than what’s been modeled for them.
Their happiness may likely exist outside of their work, families, and homes.
By now, many have referenced the man in Brene’ Brown’s work, Daring Greatly. He talks about how we don’t want men to falter because we still want and need our “white knights”. Where in the conditioning of men have we allowed for the idea that it’s ok to dream? Sure, if they aspire to climb the ladder, own something expensive, or excel at some sport, we encourage them to pursue “greatness”.
Do we allow them to pursue “average”? Some men may find happiness in activities and projects that take them away from their work and their family.
Men may actually find their happiness inside the stereotype they’re fighting.
Typically, men are made to feel guilty about anything that takes them away from their families and responsibilities. They may find pleasure in a sports pickup game, in writing, in cooking, volunteerism, mentoring, or a whole host of other things. They may just want to hang with the guys, shoot the shit, and have a beer.
Even these stereotypical “masculine” things are things they aren’t necessarily supposed to find happiness in. Suppose a man just says it out loud “I live for Sunday football and there’s nothing greater than a morning game on the front lawn followed by beer and game-watching with the guys.” For many men, that is the life and yet, even right smack in the middle of that man box, they aren’t allowed to find happiness. Those things are shrugged off as shallow and superficial and the message is that they shouldn’t be what makes them happy and their love for their wives and kids is often questioned.
Men, if they want to be able to really choose happiness, they’re going to have to forget everyone else’s ideas about should be making them happy. It’s the only way they can concentrate on and find where they actually do find and experience their joy.