Men still struggle with the “fearless man stigma” but really, we don’t think these superheroes could handle what you do every day.
Superman and Batman have collided. (Don’t worry, no spoiler here). Two of the biggest superheroes in history have now faced off, traded building crushing blows, and flung each other into the stratosphere only to fall to the ground in a crater of asphalt dirt. In the movie these bigger than life idols face off with gritted teeth, square jaws and steeled reserves. There is no sign of fear in either.
Your turn men. You go out and face the trials of life, struggles, pain, and failures with a smile, straight teeth and perfect hair.
I remember watching as the media was lambasted for portraying women as a certain shape. I have seen the change that has come about from it. All shapes, sizes and shades of women grace glossy covers and HD screens today. It is a good thing. This is not a call for change in the media representation of men.
But there is still a stigma. The “fearless man” stigma. The daring crab fisherman, the renegade homosexual coming out of the closet, the entrepreneur who faces uncertainty with the wind in his face and his broad shoulders square. They all laugh at the challenge.
But, it isn’t true. I would love for you to continue thinking of me as a superhero. But the fact is, I’m not. I have never collapsed a building by throwing a mutant into it. I have not saved the world, and every day there are things that scare me. If baring my weakness hasn’t killed your superhero image of me, here are seven fears I have a hard time shaking.
I will fail in my career
I live in the most prosperous, free, opportunity-laden time I can imagine has ever existed. In the last two decades I have never gone long without work (even in the recession of 2008), yet I worry. I worry that my body will give out, I worry that the economy will tank, I worry that my mind will slow down (and I don’t have much to lose on that front.)
Our job as men is to provide. So much of our persona and identity is wrapped up in what we do and how well we do it. Sometimes it feels like what we do is what defines us, and if that definition fails, so do we.
My kids will suffer because of my mistakes
If there were a mandatory test and licensing procedure to have kids, I would have failed. I really had no idea what I was doing as the early twenty-something father of two. I knew they needed to eat and that they had a really nice, beautiful mother. Looking back I know I made mistakes. I know there were times I was the father who would cause the present me to shake my head and walk away. I know I was gone too often, too consumed with work, too focused on results to love my kids as much as I should have. I knew every word to Cat’s In the Cradle before I was married and yet, at times, I chose results over my kids.
My fear is that my kids will see the poor examples I left, and choose to emulate them. My fear is that I didn’t give them enough good examples to remember.
I will die without leaving my mark
The death of some of my friends and family have left their marks on my consciousness. Some were amazing people who made the world a better place because they were here. They changed things, made a ruckus or overcame odds with a battle. Others just existed. They weren’t bad people (well, some of them were—I’ve heard I am related to John Wilkes Booth), but others didn’t give people much to talk about after they were gone. Sometimes I wonder what my funeral will be like. I’m not afraid of death. I am afraid of how I will be remembered when I’m gone.
I’m not manly enough
I teared up once watching an episode of The Great Food Truck Race. Enough said.
I’m not emotional enough
Despite the last segment of TMI, I know there are times I should just be happy, just hurt with my wife, just put my arm around my kids, or just share an emotion and I don’t. As big as the fearless man stigma is the emotional man stigma, that keeps a man from being in touch with his feelings. So often, The Great Food Truck Race episodes excluded, I am not in touch with my feelings, at least not the right feelings. I worry that when those closest to me need me emotionally, I’m not there.
I’m not enough
The laundry list of things I’m not is huge. I could fill pages and pages worth of eloquent, funny, and heart-wrenching prose about my short comings. There are days when I am so overwhelmed with what I need to do, what is expected of me, what and who I am failing, and all the ways I could be better, that I feel worthless. I feel the weight of what I’m not squarely on my shoulders. I think of the superheroes who battle and win, who make things happen, who fight for good and justice and I know I will never live up. I can never model what they are. Then I remember the most important thing about superheroes.
Superheroes were modeled after us.
People saw the men who failed and tried again, who repaired mistakes made with their kids, who bared their hearts in the right moments and gritted their teeth in others, and those people created superheroes in our image.
To the workers, fathers, husbands, brothers and friends who wake up every day and face these fears, who grit your teeth and face the battles of life, heartbreak and pain, you are not superheroes.
Photo: Flickr/Televisione Streaming