Society’s expectations for women to be tall, thin and “beautiful,” are widely discussed in social media, magazines and TV programmes.

Rarely talked about are the social expectations placed on men. The pressures placed on men go far beyond physical appearance. Not only are men physically portrayed in media as tall, muscular, and model-like, which can be challenging to keep up with, there is also a strong emphasis on how they are supposed to act.

Traditionally, to be masculine meant to be physically strong, the provider, the one in control, and unemotional. We see this in classic romance movies where men are the ones helping women in distress.

According to media portrayal, to be masculine, a man must reject all things that could be associated with femininity. Often, you will see a group of guys laughing at a friend when he says something “girly,” or “not manly.”

Men are expected to be strong, void of pain and emotion; if a man cries, he must hide it. This is because emotions are connected to weakness, and mostly associated with women.

However, men do have feelings and emotions – they are just taught, in many cases, to suppress them. Commonly, men and younger boys, are told, “Boys don’t cry,” or “Take it like a man.”

These statements have become second nature in society, so much so that men and women do not even realise the true power these statements hold. I definitely feel there are unfair expectations for men in society, especially due to how men are portrayed in movies and TV shows. These suppressed emotions sometimes come out in forms of aggression and violence. This can then lead to serious health issues such as addictions, eating disorders, depression and unhealthy relationship patterns.

Women wonder why it is so hard for men to get emotionally involved in relationships or to show intimacy and feelings. This is because from a young age they have been conditioned to believe that emotional acts belong to women and are feminine. Years of this type of conditioning to fit into this “masculine illusion” has helped to create the average man we see today: “strong, aggressive, emotionless.”

The physical expectations of a man, although not as severe as the physical pressures put on a woman, are still present. The images the media has ingrained in consumers’ minds are skinny women and muscular men.

The ultimate “attractive” man is tall, muscular, and well dressed. The men who do not fit this model may feel inferior and are conditioned to work harder to fit the mould. Some men have turned to unhealthy substances, such as steroids, to reach this difficult goal.

The pressures from society have become so strong that the men, and women who stand out as different than the definition of normal created by a hegemonic way of thinking, are looked down upon.

Many people think that men do not experience the pressures that women do, which is not true. It is important to realise that men are under pressure of easily conforming to social expectations as well.

The main difference between the two struggles is that men tend to suffer in silence!

If you would like to discuss this further, email info@counsellinginaction.co.uk.