Harden up Wuss, What are You Made of! Real Men & Putting on the Tough Act

by Josh Campbell (20), university student, New Zealand

REAL MEN DON’T CRY – OR DO THEY?

All I can remember from my childhood years – when I think back to them – is forever getting a strong message that if I am to grow up to be a real man

  • I must be tough.
  • I must be hard.
  • I must be rough.

But the most hurtful and deeply felt ones of all were that

  • I was not allowed to be ‘soft’.
  • I was not allowed to be ‘cherishing’, ‘nurturing’, ‘feminine’ in any way.
  • That feeling things was not OK because men, that is real men, don’t have ‘feelings’.

What I was sensing from others (particularly from other men) as I was growing up, was that feelings are for ‘wusses’. They are for soft people who can’t live in this world and that real strength comes from what you can do physically, never from what you can feel. This type of strength may come through being physically mighty and being able to lift and push the body, or it may come from lots of hard work through your academic life to be super smart and bright at what you can do. Whatever way it comes, it is still the same message: ‘You are a Machine… you do not have feelings’.

This meant that things like being able to cry, or showing hurt or any ‘soft’ emotion was totally overruled by this immediate reflection of being a ‘wuss’ or a ‘pussy’.

Real men don’t cry – They don’t shed tears when life gets tough or things are too hard. Real men are asked to push hard. To push on and force themselves to the next level regardless of the feelings that they may have. They are asked to totally ignore their own bodies because real men can ‘handle the pain’.

MY SCHOOL YARD MEMORY – GETTING THE MESSAGE THAT NO SUGAR CUBES OR WUSSES WERE ALLOWED

I remember being at school one day when it was wet. We were having a whole school assembly that day which they had scheduled to be outside because they had thought it was not going to rain that day. It was OK at first when we were outside because the rain hadn’t started at that stage. However, I do remember it was cold.

Well, it began to rain and we were asked to sit through it because we were not sugar cubes and we “could handle a bit of pain”. The rain was only light so it was not too bad, but when I was sitting there in the cold in my summer uniform, it was painful. Not painful because ‘I couldn’t handle it’. No, I could handle it. I lived through the experience and survived! But at what expense?

It was painful because I knew in every cell in my body that what I was being asked to do was not loving for me. It was not honouring of me because every feeling in my body was telling me this was not right and I was being asked to override it because otherwise I would have been a ‘wuss’ or in this case, a ‘sugar cube’, if I hadn’t.

I could feel that other people were also feeling the same thing: that this was not honouring of the truth that they were feeling inside them. I could feel that others were overriding their feelings. Some were even so good at it that they did not appear fazed at all by the rain and cold conditions. I felt alone. I felt that my voice was only speaking for me and not for everyone and that I would have been seen as a sook for not handling the conditions if I said anything to anyone. This was because I felt small and isolated as everyone else was choosing against honouring or even acknowledging what they were feeling inside them. If I had said anything about how I was feeling to anyone I would have been the ‘wuss’ of the school. Speaking up about how they are feeling is not something a real man would do, is it?

HARDENING AS MEN AND WOMEN – ARE WE AFRAID OF BEING A WUSS? 

We get this reflection every day from both men and from women. I know a lot of people [‘real’ men and women] who I meet on the streets, in the shops, at the university – they are hardened by life, unfortunately. Most are studying farming at the university but it does not really matter what they are studying, they have all had to go through a process of hardening to not be labelled the wuss in life.

But what does this mean, to be the wuss in life? We are not at school any more so we are not going to be labelled as the ‘sugar cube’ in front of our peers, or as the ‘wuss of the school’. So why keep the hardening going? Why continue to be the machine with no feelings instead of honouring our feelings?

What if the hardening and bullishness we felt at school has never actually stopped since we left school and we have instead adapted to a way of life that is constantly avoiding being labelled “the wuss in life”? Maybe we have got so used to it that this seems to most to be the norm in life. I know from experience that in many workplaces the so called ‘office politics’ and the ‘office silliness’ that goes on is actually like what I felt at school. The true fun and play-full-ness that many of us have had with our peers as youngsters before it was seen as ‘wussy’ behaviour is not experienced, much less lived, every day in these office environments.

We get ingrained with this mentality from young. Both men and women feel the same pressures at school. After all, in my case, there were both girls and boys at this assembly so it was not just a masculine thing… women too were being asked to override their feelings. They would have also been labelled as ‘sugar cubes’ or ‘wusses’ if they had stood up for what they were feeling.

Women and men feel this pressure in different ways, but it is still asking them to do the same thing… to override their feelings. Men feel this pressure often more directly. We are asked to be ‘strong’ in life by ignoring what we know in our hearts to be true.

Men are seen as childish and labelled as irresponsible and as ‘boys’ if they don’t harden up and grow up in life. What if being ‘real men’ is not really growing up at all but is really a process of honouring and deepening your connection with your feelings? To not be hard. To not be tough. But rather to be the gentleness and tenderness as a man that as a child he always knew he could be?

What if being a real man is not wussy at all…

What if being a real man was actually really empowering because the real strength of a man was never found in what he could lift or pull physically in life, but rather from the love that comes from within him by knowing who he is, from what he feels inside him?

Inspired by the work of Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon

339 thoughts on “Harden up Wuss, What are You Made of! Real Men & Putting on the Tough Act

  1. This is a great question that you are asking here Josh – “What if the hardening and bullishness we felt at school has never actually stopped since we left school and we have instead adapted to a way of life that is constantly avoiding being labeled “the wuss in life”? Maybe we have got so used to it that this seems to most to be the norm in life.” I completely agree with this. I work in health and I see men for example who are living in such a way that there is a symbolic fortress around them in order to protect themselves from been hurt or rejected. When this is the case sometimes the only way to get past that fortress is to develop an illness and disease that brings you to a point where you are prepared to not worry about what others think of you but instead focus on yourself and how life is for you.

  2. Wow what a great blog inspiring me to take a look at how I don’t want to be a wuss still in my life. I remember how boys were teased by saying to them ‘don’t run like a girl’ etc. and I was determined to ‘show them’ I was bigger and tougher. I really went to town on this one and am slowly accepting myself and my fragility. And the beautiful strength I have is when I am honest and allow my vulnerability because it’s in those moments I reconnect with me and the strength I hold in just being me.

  3. The longer I live, the more I can see that my life and relationships are transformed when I am fragile and prepared to go deeper with me. As you so beautifully show Joshua this is the direct opposite of what we are told – thank you so much for speaking up and helping men everywhere to break the hold these ideals have on us.

  4. Beautiful blog Joshua, it is indeed a very ingrained way of life for many men to stay in the hardness that we all have set as the norm to be a man. And it is so much more inspiring to see a men that is not going with this trend and have the courage to stand in his own sensitivity.

  5. And in really connecting to this inner knowing of the true quality that I hold within and the sadness in me having signed onto the ‘norms’, it is even more encouraging to work on appreciating our essence as men and work on uncovering the beauty that we all hold.

  6. What I am starting to see, is there is always an opportunity to share in a tender way the thing I am feeling. This doesn’t mean I have licence to blurt imposing words out, or indulge thoughts or beliefs I know are not true, but to express how my body feels inside, right now without trying to put on a show. I have never seen this way of being fail, but the other extreme ‘toughness’ one has certainly lead to a lot of hurt for everyone. Thank you Joshua, for your beautiful sharing and offering the opportunity for men everywhere to unlock their inner feelings.

  7. You can live a life as a tough and courageous man, and you will get through intact – probably. However, what is difficult to understand when you live from behind such a guard is what you are missing out on, and what a relationship with your own tenderness actually can offer you and others. That in itself is quite a bridge to get across. However, once across it, you wonder what ever took you time to get there.

  8. Spoken like a real real man Josh or should we say True Man? For in truth we are all deeply sensitive and tender and it often takes courage to connect to and express that in a world that asks us to be everything but who we truly are.

  9. Men are the most sexy beings when they just be themselves and let go all those believes of what has been told to be.

  10. Who are the real men? The one that put on act and hide their sensitivity or the one that show and express what they really feel and think? Regardless what other people think of it? I would say that THIS is real power.

  11. An exposing and true expose Josh on the expectations, ideals and beliefs imposed on boys and men in our modern society; such a sad indictment. However as you have pointed out these ‘norms’ are not the true nature of boys and men; it is men living and inspiring as you are that will change this culture.

  12. It is beautiful to see men like yourself Josh allow your natural tenderness and gentleness out – once viewed as being a sign of weakness in a man it is now reflecting to other men the power and strength these qualities hold.

  13. There is nothing more powerful than being who you truly are, and who we all truly are is deeply loving and sensitive.

  14. Josh, what an exquisite blog exposing how boys are raised into hardness and unable to express feelings incase of being a ‘wuss’/ The tenderness in which you now choose to live your life is palpable and felt in every word you write. Thank you.

  15. This is so important to talk about with so many men committing suicide in fact in the UK it’s the biggest killer of men under 45. We need to really change the way we are bringing up our children so that they are able to be themselves in their vulnerability.

  16. Being a tender, sensitive man is so powerful, and to be able to show that in the world is the most amazing role model for all of us..

  17. It feels like society is scared to nurture gentle tender men and honour our natural sensitivity, because the power of such a man is so much greater than what it is we have been nurturing in asking men to be unnaturally tough and hard. And such a man ask questions by his mere reflection, and exposes that which is not equally being lived in others, both men and women.

  18. From experience I would say men are possibly even more sensitive than women. Sensitivity is not a sign of weakness.. AT ALL, in fact it takes enormous strength to honour ones sensitivity at times.

  19. ‘What if the hardening and bullishness we felt at school has never actually stopped since we left school and we have instead adapted to a way of life that is constantly avoiding being labelled “the wuss in life”?’ – The separation from what is true starts so early in life and continues through our formative years and then we go out into the world and are faced with more of the same. Boys particularly are pressured to be all of the things you have mentioned Joshua denying the loving and nurturing natural way within. This highlights the awareness for me about where this unhealthily cycle can be interrupted so we can start to change what is happening, stop the reinforcement of separation and make our focus re-connection and brotherhood.

  20. I see the hardening of boys every day and work with the most ‘difficult’ in my job. These boys are always the most sensitive, sweet and vulnerable children. The overt messages that boys are not allowed to cry or be gentle is abusive to their true natures of tenderness and the innate strength that comes from being in touch with that tenderness.

  21. The hardening we experience on all levels in our society to me is a response to the lovelessness that its in as when I bring in love, this hardening is actually not there and are people prepared to show their delicateness and tenderness without any restraint.

  22. Just the other day, I had a phone conversation with someone at work that I had never met before, and how he spoke – the tone, the speed, what he was saying – everything about him was just so tender and I actually went into a bit of comparison and felt exposed that I was more in a male energy than he was. It was a bit of a shock, but a beautiful marker nonetheless, that there are men who do not hold back their tenderness and unreservedly inspire women to come to their own tenderness too.

  23. Thank you Josh, for expressing what so many men have experienced. Our feelings have a true purpose and when we deny or negate them we negate something important. We are sensory beings for a reason and our senses work together to communicate with us about how to make self-loving choices – if we listen to them. I know that we never stop feeling no matter how hardened we become and the decision to start listening to them once again, rather than burying them, has opened communication once again and a connection to the deeper wisdom we can all tune into within.

  24. Sensitivity in men is often seen as a weakness and we tend to bury our sensitivity to show we are a ‘real man’. This ‘real man’ image negates many of our natural qualities like tenderness and gentleness. At school there was much peer pressure to prove your manliness – sport was one way of doing so – but I also felt I had to prove myself sexually. It was a time of great conflict in my life because I felt deeply sensitive but the pressure from my peers was such that I also felt I had to override my feelings and just prove myself in their eyes and be accepted. The fear of rejection was very intense. To meet other men, like Josh who know their innate sensitivity is very healing and honouring of the true sense of self that has always been in me and will always be so.

  25. Sensitivity is not a weakness, that is for sure, everything about it says true power. It is a complete lie that many of us are still towing the line to that hardening up makes us strong. Incorrect. When we feel and are willing to feel everything available then we have access to wisdom beyond us and our physical life – this is true power.

  26. Working in a school I get to see how our youngsters have already developed their toughened personas. It’s tragic that we don’t nurture and allow that natural tenderness that is in all of us, but learn from such a young age to hide who we truly are. Thank you for opening up this conversation Josh. It’s something we need to keep talking about.

  27. This was the most timely and wonderful blog to return to today as this has been a topic that has been in my consciousness for a few weeks now. As I observe the young boys around me heading towards their teenage years I can see them slowly beginning to ‘harden up’ in some ways but then they can just as easily be very tender and shedding a few tears doesn’t faze them. I know that they are heading into a world of hugely ingrained beliefs as to what a man ‘should’ be and there is little I can do about that except to continually acknowledge their innate tenderness and their sensitivity and honour them for who I can see they truly are.

    1. Interestingly it is their sensitivity and them not knowing how to respond to the demands from the outside that make them harden up. It is quite crazy.

  28. I would love to see this paragraph hanging up on every building site, hospital, GP clinic, various workplaces etc to remind us all that there is a lot more to men than their physical strength –”What if being a real man was actually really empowering because the real strength of a man was never found in what he could lift or pull physically in life, but rather from the love that comes from within him by knowing who he is, from what he feels inside him?”

  29. Thank you for sharing Josh how boys are raised to be hard and tough, I can say that this is also the case for some girls, it was certainly my experience as I was growing up, ‘‘You are a Machine… you do not have feelings’.This meant that things like being able to cry, or showing hurt or any ‘soft’ emotion was totally overruled’, thus setting the pattern to go through life in protection until we choose to heal this false way of being.

  30. Your tenderness and sensitivity are lovely to feel Josh, honouring who we are in truth is so important, ‘What if being ‘real men’ is not really growing up at all but is really a process of honouring and deepening your connection with your feelings? To not be hard. To not be tough. But rather to be the gentleness and tenderness as a man that as a child he always knew he could be?’

  31. it is interesting to see that in many ways and in different circumstances we are constantly fed with idea that you must and can override, or even ignore your feelings of tenderness and delicateness that men and women both equally have and carry in their bodies. We all know these situations where we have felt like Josh, that we are asked to shut down that connection with our feelings and instead become hard and tough, but why is this so and do we continue with living that ignorance to our essence in our lives?

  32. For a long time I have felt and heard and seen that men are, as you say Joshua not as tough as we seem. But still what persists is a sense that this world around us is not ready to see a man who embraces his true delicacy, his tenderness, his effervescent feminineness. But is that actually true? And have I lived this way and seen what may take place? For we need inspirations and role models who don’t subscribe to hardness and building outer walls. It hurts us every day to continue to live in a rigid and protected way. So I don’t want to apologise any more for the sweetness and sacredness I have in me.

  33. Thanks for the insight Josh into the ways in which men (and women) shut themselves down and harden up to people and life. It is no wonder we are able to become so seemingly insensitive to the harshness of so many of life’s interactions. I have always like the analogy of the baby and how it is we start out… with that level of sensitivity and responsiveness to that harshness remaining intact underneath the toughened shell of protection we present with on the outside.

  34. It is so very, very sad how we expect and impose upon men to be tough strong and stoical, and to suppress the naturally tender loving beings that they truly are.

    1. I agree Elizabeth. We lose so much as a result. When a man lets himself be the truly tender and sensitive man he is – that is what melts us. That’t when we feel truly held to let ourselves be, and drop into the preciousness we are as women.

  35. It must be so tough for men to be who they truly are in this current world we live in. All the hardness they are expected to be and live in, the expectation that they don’t cry when they are as sensitive as women are. There is so much that we can all learn from each other and that is to just be allowing and not treat each other with such expectations, but understanding.

  36. “What if the hardening and bullishness we felt at school has never actually stopped since we left school and we have instead adapted to a way of life that is constantly avoiding being labeled “the wuss in life”? Maybe we have got so used to it that this seems to most to be the norm in life.” Most definitely Josh, where I work it is mainly women but they too have that way, and I’ve even had someone say, “he needs to toughen up” and this is about a 11/2 year old boy.

  37. You are right Josh, toughening up and bullying does not stop at the school gate – it’s a way of life we’ve all accepted as the norm – women too. I can see from your story how much harder it would be for men to reclaim their tender selves. At least for women there is some scope, some acceptance, for fragility.

  38. Great question Josh, What if being a real man is not wussy at all…, through Universal Medicine I have met several men who know exactly who they are, they are very connected to themselves and have no difficulty expressing exactly how they feel, and there is so much love in their expression too, there is a huge strength in the way they are, and they are definitely not wussy at all.

  39. To me a real man has always been one who was strong enough to express love. To me this is where true power and strength resides.

  40. It takes *real* courage to be able to say – call me a wuss or some other silly name but I won’t change what I know is true.

    1. I have witnessed that it is the man or woman who has not accepted his/her own sensitivity that is inclined to throw around words like ‘wuss’ or any other denigrating name towards another. It is from their protection and sensitivity.

  41. What I know is true is that now that I no longer endeavour to hide my feelings and appreciate my tenderness I feel far more a ‘real man’ than I ever did trying to be the ‘hard man’.

  42. Everyone in society loses more than we have let ourselves compute or admit by castigating men and young boys into the toughie basket where ‘feelings are for ‘wusses’’ and not for real men. The tenderness in the real man that lets his sensitivity be who we he is, has the power to melt the toughest and coldest machine – and as a woman it is that solid holding that communicates so powerfully that it is ok to let myself fully surrender and not push or try, but simply be the real me.

  43. When women or in truth any one us who have not accepted the tender, delicate nature of their own sensitivity we will not accept or appreciate this quality in another. Women can equality be tough, hard and rough as a form of protection.

  44. This is huge – important – real and finally revealing the truth of what is going on in our world and the tenderness we are missing – as we have made the opposite our standard.. So equally for men and women there has been no true education on this – to be living from our tenderness.. Observe this truly, because that can change our world.. All we need is our willingness to see the drops of truth and wisdom that are there to be seen and lived by – our delicate, tender and precious us.

  45. Embracing, understanding, allowing and celebrating just what we feel is a huge breakthrough for men. For so long we have been sold the idea that coping or tolerating with all sorts of things is a definition and symbol of strength. Today we know as you expertly show Joshua that our power lives in our willingness to feel – everything. If only we started to champion this as much as we do our favourite sports team we would see the real game that has been played on humanity for so long.

  46. It has been absolutely beautiful watching my Brother in Law let go of all these hard intrenched beliefs of what its to be a man and to realise that this wasn’t him. To see how naturally sweet and tender he really is and for him not to be cautious of showing this. I Love spending time with him and how joyful and playful he is because of this.

  47. For ages I thought about hardening up to be a man as relative only to topics like sport, drinking and working hard. But now I have started to see our precious delicacy begins way before that. It’s in the way someone speaks, or holds their body around you, or even the way they move. If this isn’t about Love and adoration we know is true then we often react. This is the true depth of sensitivity we know. Your words here Joshua help me understand why we as men struggle in this world, but also the amazing power and awareness we all know.

  48. It is straight out abuse to ask a man to harden up because more and more I see the sensitivity and tenderness in men and to ask or rather demand that they not live true to who they are is abuse.

  49. It’s beautiful to be with a man who is not afraid to express his childlike qualities. Who connects wth how he feels and honestly shares from his heart.

  50. If we teach kids to override their feelings – what kind of world do we create? One where the truth is second to the bravado or face we put on? Essentially it’s teaching kids a dishonest, uncaring and disempowered way to live. Whereas teach a child to honour how they feel and live from that and you’ll have an amazing human being.

  51. In fact the whole world is set up to not allow men and women to be who they really are. We are fed all kinds of images, ideals and beliefs of how we should be and behave through our parenting and education systems. Although there are also real good things in parenting and education we must not close our eyes for that what we, mostly unconsciously are fed with. Can you say you are still the same as how you where as a child, only now in an adult body? I certainly not as I am experiencing the impact of all the held beliefs, images and ideals day in day out.

  52. True strength to me is the ability to love and understand others no matter the circumstances. True strength is to surrender, to let love in, to invite others to see your fragility.

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