15 Unspoken Worries That Men Keep Hidden
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Men have a reputation for being generally stoic, unemotional, non-expressive, and disconnected from their feelings. In most cases, though, this is the opposite of the truth.
The truth isn’t men’s lack of feelings, but instead, the lack of expression of these feelings.
There are a myriad of social and biological reasons why men more commonly keep to themselves than women do, none of which are really a surprise, and, none of which are the topic of this particular article.
What I would like to do here, is help to shed some light on the inner-thoughts of men as they relate to the pressures of life and love.
What I’d also like to do first is give my obligatory disclaimer:
This article in no way whatsoever is meant to minimize or erase the immense and overwhelming challenges that women face every day, and have faced for the duration of humanity.
It is in no way meant to be a “sob story” or a “pity party” for the privileged gender, or to turn the focus onto men in the form of sympathy or pity.
I do, however, hope the points below serve as a voice for the men who have a hard time compiling the words themselves, and as clarity to those in their lives who are often confused about their thoughts and feelings.
Now that we’ve checked that box, let’s dive in:
1: “I feel like I could be doing so much more, and don’t know why I’m not.”
Men put immense pressure on themselves to be successful, powerful, and respectable.
(Let me give a quick reminder about the above disclaimer — just because I’m saying something is true for men, doesn’t mean it’s untrue for women. You’ll find that many of these points may be universal regardless of gender, but as a man, I’ll write about the insecurities of men, not of women).
Now that we’ve hopefully avoided any of those “It goes both ways” comments, let’s keep going…
Most men, whether they express it or not, are far too hard on themselves. They want to be making more money, have more authority at work, better manage their staff, better provide for their family…regardless of how well they’re already doing.
This constant pull towards “more” can very easily get us down on ourselves and make us wonder why we’re not doing more, if we have the abilities (which, we do).
It’s a low hum, a constant pull, a cloud that follows us around all the time sparking wonder about how we can reach the next level of life.
A feeling of “I’m better than this.”
“I should be doing better than this.”
“My talents are going to waste.”
“Is this really all there is for me?”
Gentlemen, I say to you, if you feel this pull — use it. Use it as motivation, not as an excuse to feel bad for yourself. You can either look at how far you have left to go, or you can focus on how far you’ve already come, acknowledge your achievements, and use them to fuel the fire of future successes.
Only one focus will get you to where you actually want to go. The other will simply perpetuate the self-pity that you’ve been indulging in for far too long.
Action creates confidence.
2: “Am I respected?”
One of the primary desires of men is respect.
We don’t talk about this often because I think the word comes with a common misconception that being respected means that the person doing the respecting must be subordinate.
“Respect my authority!”
That is not what I’m talking about here.
A good man doesn’t seek to be respected because of authority, he seeks to be respected because of equality.
He wants to be seen as your equal, as someone you trust, can count on, and think highly of.
Not more highly of him than yourself. A truly respectable man doesn’t need nor desire to be placed above anyone else, but he will not settle for being placed below them, either.
This respect is equally as important in each area of his life.
He wants to be respected in his intimate relationship so he can come to the table as an equal partner in the team. He wants his thoughts, feelings, and opinions to be considered and not overrun. He wants to be able to contribute ideas, and also, of course, to contribute financially.
At work, he wants (needs) to be respected by his peers, or employees, or shareholders. Without respect, his team will run amok and lose productivity.
If he’s not a team leader or executive, respect feels in even shorter supply. He may not feel the ability to speak up in the boardroom, at that meeting, or in that pitch — even though he’s got great ideas to share. Being respected by his peers will empower him to step up to the plate and contribute at a higher level.
In his friend group, respect is paramount to feeling a sense of belonging and equality with others. If he feels that he’s always being made fun of or mocked, even “jokingly” (is it, really?) he will slowly begin to distance and isolate himself.
Now — let me state the obvious — respect is earned, not just given. I am in no way suggesting that a man, or anyone else, should be respected if they’re mean or hurtful to others, if they take advantage of you, if they betray you, or if they’re generally shitty people.
A man must earn his respect, but if he puts in the proper effort to being a good person, he’ll certainly want to feel that it’s recognized.
3: “Am I attractive enough?”
We all know the insane amount of pressure that women are under every single day to look a certain way. The standards of beauty, particularly in America, are a major source of self-criticism and mental health challenges that are sparked by always feeling the need to meet a certain criteria of appearance.
Men, while not as frequently or severely, also criticize themselves and their appearance.
I have a client who frequently remarks on how he’s not “muscular and manly” when it comes to his dating prospects — but he is suave, slim, has great hair, and is “classically handsome.”
Why, then, does he still feel inadequate in the sense of his “manliness”?
Why can we (be it men or women) not see the strengths that we do have, and consistently worry about those that we don’t?
We all do this. Whether we like to admit it or not, having physical insecurities is part of the human condition, we just don’t often share them with others.
I think a big source of this for men is, quite obviously, female approval.
Many men put a sense of their value on how they’re accepted (or not) by women.
Our human biology is, after all, rooted in the goal of mating and reproduction, so deep down, we’re always wondering if we’re “worthy” of achieving this natural goal, even if it’s not something we desire intellectually or socially.
Whether we’re looking at superheros, Calvin Klein models, bodybuilders, or fitness influencers, trust that men are also often insecure about their appearance, even if they’re not publicly discussing it.
Perhaps, though, they should. It’d help all of us find a common ground and take some (perceived) pressure off of each other.
4: “Am I sexually formidable?”
Oh, you thought that the concern about being attractive ended if a man got into a relationship?
If he took a woman home?
If he got a phone number?
Sometimes, this is only the beginning of the anxiety — because now he has to perform.
Sure, some guys are more than certain about their sexual prowess and have no problem projecting that certainty.
For the average guy, though, he wants to make sure that he can satisfy the woman he cares about and that she’ll see him as “enough of a man” to stay with him.
If you’re rolling your eyes and think that this is a silly concern, I’m not disagreeing. We all know that a man’s value in a relationship goes far beyond just satisfying the primal needs of his partner (as does, obviously, a woman’s), but remember that the point of this article is to uncover some “secret” and lesser discussed concerns that men have in the depths of their mind, and this is most definitely one of them.
As men age and testosterone levels become questionable, there is further struggle in this area. This is why products like Viagra feed multi-billion dollar industries.
The vicious cycle here is that sometimes the anxiety of performance actually hurts the performance itself, and the concern just perpetuates itself. If he feels comfortable with you and desired by you (yes, guys want this too), it’ll help him step “up” to the plate at the right time.
5: “I directly tie my value to my level of success.”
In point #1 we talked about the insecurities men feel about whether they’re doing or achieving enough — why is that?
It’s because largely (at least in American culture), a man’s value is placed on his financial success.
Let me rephrase that…his socially perceived value.
Let’s take a second and dig into the brutal brass tacks here.
What I’m about to say is void of any tact or censorship.
This is going to sting, but I think it should be said for the sake of this article and discussion:
We value men by their money in the same way that we value women by their appearance.
WHEW. YIKES. Told you that was going to be a doozey.
You feel it, though, don’t you?
Women feel judged by their appearance, and men feel judged by their financial success.
This is a tragic and unfortunate social reality that may take generations to reverse, if at all.
This is why the cosmetics industry is bulletproof even in recessions, women will continue to do small things to feel better about their appearance because it directly impacts their sense of self-worth.
Hey, I don’t make the rules, I just say them out loud.
Men, on the other hand, will put equal attention onto their financial success for the same reasons.
I’m not saying it makes sense. I’m not saying it’s right. I fully understand this is a primal and emotional feeling that, on the surface, is illogical.
That, however, doesn’t make it any less true.
6: “Could I be a good father?”
What is a larger responsibility in this life that literally creating more human beings?
Well, raising them, for one.
Any guy can go ahead and make another person, we all know that…it takes a special type of man, though, to be a dad.
If you’ve followed my personal journey, you know that I chose to take on this responsibility just over three years ago when I met my (now) wife, who already had two little ones in tow at the time.
When we met, they were 6 months old, and 4 years old.
Now, at 4 and 8, they all have my last name and the little ones call me “Dad.”
Rachel is a stay at home mom and I support the family.
I was fortunate to grow up with an amazing dad who I can still, even at 38 years old, call for anything at anytime.
The bar has been set higher than most.
Of course, I think frequently about my own performance as a dad and how I can improve, be more patient, provide a better life, and be more present.
This, I believe, is an ever-present thought of every man who consciously undertakes the responsibility of fatherhood. In fact, it’d be troubling if he didn’t have these thoughts and concerns, because it’d show a lack of connection to the experience in itself.
“Could I be” a good father will quickly transition, when it becomes a reality, to “am I a good father?”
I don’t think the concern ever really goes away, it just evolves over time, as we do as humans.
7: “What is my purpose?”
Purpose is a universally driving force for every human being, regardless of gender.
I believe that we all need to be connected to a sense of meaning, significance, contribution, impact. This is how we feel that our very existence is valuable in the world.
Men are driven on a deeper level by being useful.
This is why they’ll offer to do things for their partner.
Take out the trash, fix the door handle, open the jar of pickles, slay the dragon.
It’s not because he thinks a woman is incapable of doing these things, that would just be silly and archaic.
It is because it gives him a sense of purpose. It makes him feel useful to contribute to your life.
For any of us, we struggle with our identity when purpose is foggy. If we don’t know what we’re supposed to do, we often lose sight of who we are.
There’s a powerful book (understatement of the century) called Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl.
Viktor was a prisoner in a concentration camp during the Holocaust, and gives a detailed and riveting first hand account of all that he witnessed.
An overarching message in the book is that human beings need purpose. Not just want, but need.
The health and ultimately the fate of many of the prisoners was decided the moment that they lost hope. The moment they knew they wouldn’t be escaping the prison, their entire existence began the process of, well, ceasing.
Of course, this is an extreme example that (thankfully) most of us will not experience. It does, however, highlight the importance of having a purpose when it comes to our very survival — our very sense of fulfillment.
You probably feel this in your own way, a sense of fogginess when you’re unclear on your purpose.
I’ve always said that if you want a man to spring to action, give him a task. Ask him to do something for you. Give him a sense of purpose, meaning, usefulness. No matter how small, he’ll rise to the occasion for you.
8: “People will think I’m weak if I show my emotions.”
While a highly complex issue, I believe that this lies at the core of why men are hesitant to show emotions.
They just…don’t want to look weak.
This is partially due to social conditioning, partially just biological reality.
Men, generally speaking, want to look strong.
I’m not talking about lifting weights or having muscles bursting the seams of their shirts — though, yes, some obviously strive for that.
I’m talking about being mentally and emotionally “sturdy.”
We (falsely) believe that showing or expression emotion is an act of weakness that communicates a lack of ability to “handle” the world, or what we are feeling.
This is the root of the social conditioning that men have been facing around this for generations.
Thankfully, the conversation around MENtal health has begun shifting, and we are starting to acknowledge that men are humans, too.
In reality, it takes far more strength to acknowledge one’s emotions than it does to ignore them. Anyone can pretend that a feeling doesn’t exist, shut it out, and “grin and bear it.”
Do this for too long, though, and you’ll have an even harder time understanding yourself, your feelings, and the feelings of those around you. How can you truly connect with others and build a bond if you refuse to acknowledge emotions?
Needless to say, nobody is suggesting that a man (or anyone) break down spontaneously at every Hallmark commercial — but experiencing a full range of emotions is a fundamental part of the human experience that we cannot and should not deny ourselves.
9: “My god, am I getting old?!”
Ah, age, and all of the things that come along with it.
Let me first say — aging is a privilege. It is denied to many, and we should be grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Most of us get dramatic about this. We start losing hair (that’s why I shaved mine), our back hurts, our knees hurt, our eyesight gets blurry, our hearing starts getting sketchy (too much time in nightclubs and at loud race tracks, for me).
Of course, then, we start the process of “doomsday thinking.”
“Next thing you know, I’m going to be hunched over in a wheelchair and not be able to live my life! My bones will disintegrate when I sneeze!”
Aging is a reality for all of us, but it threatens the manhood and masculinity of men who look to the future through a dark lens.
This is why we prop up anti-aging industries like our lives depend on it (no pun intended).
We do it with skincare, and even with surgeries.
Come on, there are definitely things that you do in order to stay feeling and looking young…we all do!
That’s the point! NOBODY wants to get old! I sure as hell don’t!
If this is such a universally felt and understood reality, then, why am I talking about it here?
It’s because, as men, we don’t usually admit it.
If we admit to the fear of getting older, we admit that we’re not invincible, which directly threatens our virility and masculinity.
It’s almost as if we’re *gasp* admitting to being human.
Heaven forbid we do such a thing. It might actually make us relatable.
10: “What if I try, and fail?”
What is it that keeps so many guys stuck where they are?
Stuck in a rut at work, in life, in negative patterns, in love (or lack thereof)?
I think it’s largely perpetuated by a fear of failure — to be more specific — other people seeing them fail.
What if they start a business venture and it flops? What will people think?
What if they ask out that woman they’ve been interested in for ages, and she declines? What will people think?
What if they speak up in the boardroom and their idea gets shot down? What will people think?
Naturally, then, the response is just to stay put. Stay comfortable. Stay in the routine.
It’s safe here, right?
On the contrary, friend — that comfort zone is perhaps the most dangerous place you can stay in.
Nothing grows there. Nothing evolves. Nothing changes. Nothing gets accomplished.
Potential is squandered.
Love is lost.
Fulfillment wilts away.
Skills go to waste.
Sure, you might fail if you get up and try something new — but that’s how knowledge is gained. It’s how we learn about ourselves. It’s how we figure out what works and what doesn’t.
The real question is…what happens if you do nothing, and succeed at it?
11: Am I a good partner in my relationship?
Many men have earned themselves a poor reputation for bringing lackluster effort to their relationship.
They let themselves go, they stop being romantic, they figure that since they’ve “gotten” someone…this is where the effort ends.
On the contrary, fine sir — that is when the effort must begin.
The effort of maintaining the relationship, stoking the fire, keeping the romance alive, providing emotional support, staying connected, communicating…
I believe that good men, men worth their salt, do put the time and energy into thinking about these things. Feeling a sense of concern over whether or not they’re doing enough — being enough for their partner.
The ones who aren’t really thinking about it are the ones who are falling short. They’re the ones who just tacitly assume everything is going to continue on the same wave that its on forever without having to put in the proper effort to maintain it.
(Hint: It won’t).
12: “I never say the right thing, so I won’t say anything at all.”
I think a big reason why more men don’t communicate is that they’re not confident in their abilities to do so.
They’ve fumbled words before, lost opportunities, had a hard time articulately stringing thoughts together, have perhaps been misunderstood or misheard…so they’ve just…stopped.
As a result, of course, they become even more misunderstood because people have no idea what they’re thinking, or just make assumptions about them based on limited information.
Lack of confidence around communication skills shouldn’t be an excuse to communicate less, but instead, to dive in and figure out how to express ourselves more effectively.
I believe (obviously, as a writer and speaker) that learning how to communicate effectively is one of the most important things we can ever do.
It empowers us to get our needs met, it helps us build stronger connections, it helps us understand others and to be more understood ourselves. It brings us more opportunities, more connections, more friends, and more fulfillment in life.
They’re called communication skills for a reason — they can be learned, honed, and optimized.
13: “I let everyone else’s opinions dictate my decisions.”
This point is a bit different — I don’t believe that any of us actually have this conscious thought. I don’t think this is a straightforward or clearly defined concern or worry — but I do think it’s a subconscious and underlying reality that a lot of people face.
Naturally, then, he gets a variety of different thoughts and opinions, all of which he considers.
What could this lead to, besides confusion?
He’ll start to actually adopt other people’s narratives as his own without even considering whether or not he really believes them.
What are his beliefs about the situation? What are his opinions? His feelings? What does he feel is the right path to take?
I think a lot of us have a hard time making decisions — particularly big ones — because it comes along with a lot of responsibility.
Responsibility can be scary. What if we make the wrong choice? What if someone else’s life is negatively affected by what we’ve chosen? What if our own life is negatively affected?
So, we just look elsewhere. We let everyone else’s opinions dictate our choices because we’re too nervous to make our own.
There is only one result that can come from this — living a life that other people have chosen for you, not the one that you choose for yourself.
That, then, leads to this concern:
14: “Have I chosen the right path in life?”
This is a tough one.
How could they possibly be uncertain of the path they’ve taken in life when they’ve created such massive levels of success?
It’s because success does not always guarantee fulfillment.
Success is not always created by a path that is aligned with our identity.
We’ve discussed that men tie their value to their level of success, and the truth is that all of us regardless of gender, often pursue life paths that aren’t actually “right” for us, because we never really took the time to define what that even looks like.
It’s just not a question that our society asks as a whole.
We ask “what will make the most money?” and not “What will bring us the most fulfillment?”
Life decisions are made, then, for what might end up being an unsustainable and unclear reason.
While all of us face this question, I believe that women are, en masse, more in-tuned with what they need on a human level, and are more likely to make the necessary decisions or changes needed to meet those needs.
Men, who are less encouraged to explore and express feelings and emotions, will then suppress or completely miss the questions rooted in them — ultimately depriving themselves of the answers.
15: “What is my identity?”
This is it. The ultimate question that I believe most humans of all genders and backgrounds struggle with.
Not just whether they’re on the right path — but if they’re living the right life.
If they’re clear on who they actually are.
What are your core values? Beliefs? Worldviews? What makes you feel, not just happy, but fulfilled?
Who are you?
The answer to this question dictates the person you marry — if you want to get married.
Where you choose to live.
What you do for a living.
What is important to you.
If you’re unclear on this fundamental piece of the foundation, the house of your life could be built on shaky ground.
This is why nearly every single thing that I work on with clients is rooted in staying clear and focused on their identity. It serves as the compass for every choice we make on a regular basis, big or small.
Not just who we are today, but who we want to consciously evolve into in the future.
That is a decision that we must make if we hope to live a life that brings us joy and satisfaction.
A life that makes us feel good about ourselves when we’re by ourselves…
Because at the end of the day — that’s the ultimate achievement.
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Finding success in creating hundreds of viral articles and videos on building limitless confidence and healthier relationships, James has accumulated over 39 million visitors to his website and a collective social media following of over 400,000.
James speaks at live events and in the media across the U.S. and has become a go-to expert with outlets such as CNN, Bravo, The New York Post, The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast, CNBC, The Boston Globe, CBS, and more.
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