Doctors know men are more likely than women to consult the internet rather than ask questions at their annual physical –– if they even scheduled one. That means the chances men are making health decisions based on myths and misperceptions are higher. Here are five foundational mental and physical health myths about men that are worth debunking.
1. Men have a big appetite: By their gender alone? On an average football Saturday, pizza commercials run somewhere close to forty times. The ads are cheesy, steaming, and cheap. The agencies know their primary market is male sports fans sitting in their living rooms, prone to sudden hunger for pizza and beer. The formula sells a lot of pizza.
Look at the message beneath the message, though: the advertisers are banking on the concept that male sports fans are hungry enough to eat an entire pizza, an extensive tailgate spread, and burgers made with enough meat to feed a family. And they want to wash it all down with a case of ice-cold beer.
Are you that hungry, though? If they didn’t sell the idea to you through a shiny ad, would you even crave pizza today? What happened to that weeklong gym pursuit? The hike you planned to take after the game? What if the couch-potato lifestyle is hitting your heath hard and you want to make better choices?
Truth: Several factors determine appetite, calorie output being one of the greatest. Overeating hot cheesy bread carbs negatively impact health and the obesity rate is climbing. Check your portions, man.
2. Real men are physically strong: What a sweeping generalization! And a dangerous one. While testosterone does enhance muscle strength and bulk, plenty of healthy men exist outside the stereotype. The expectation that ties manhood to physical strength can not only damage self-esteem –– it can damage your body. Injuries in the gym are preventable and most often caused by incorrect form or from overdoing it.
Truth: Humans are individuals. Strength is subject to body type, hormone levels, training, nutrition, and genetic disposition more than XY chromosomes.
3. Men are born leaders: This one is cultural. And the reason it’s a health issue is that it points back to a man’s concept of himself, his gifts, strengths, and abilities. Many men are better collaborators and team players than they are leaders. Many women are great at strategy and leadership.
“Go on out there and lead, son,” has led to more than one man struggling with feelings of failure, identity, and confidence. Thankfully, culture has expanded the conversation somewhat, to the betterment of not just opportunities for women to lead but for men to support. Societies that allow individuals to showcase their unique strengths are healthier all the way around.
Truth: Leadership skill is a personality trait, not a gender role gifted to just half the population. If you’re a man who’d prefer not to lead out in front, you undoubtedly have other attributes where you can shine.
4. Men aren’t empathic: This one might be the worst misperception a young boy can bring with him into manhood. The cultural shaming and steeling of boys against empathy create anger, suppression, and dysfunction. Compassion for others is an essential aspect of balanced emotional health.
Suppressed emotions manifest in health symptoms. These swallowed feelings can fester, stored in the body, and trigger acid reflux, ulcers, depression, attention, digestive problems, and even cancer.
Truth: Tenderness, sensitivity, and empathy are traits that make us human –– not male or female. Learning how to handle feelings is as vital to our health as it is our relationships.
5. Men don’t need self-care: Frequently marketed to women: personal days, afternoon tea, pedicures, long walks, meditation, massages, vitamin-rich creams. Incorporating these into a busy lifestyle relieves stress and keeps toxic behavior like workaholicism at bay. Are only women over-worked and stressed? Of course not.
Truth: Men benefit from self-care practices to relieve their stress. More than just “blowing off steam,” self-care has known health benefits, restoring energy, repairing cells, and soothing nerves.