MINDS & MEN

"His speech had overtones not of thought, but of understanding beyond thought.” - Of Mice & Men

The Unnecessary Divergence between Healthy and Masculine

When there's a fork in the road between what's healthy and what's perceived as masculine, hacking the way through the middle path is the right way.

In another post, we talked about how guys often have to make the impossible choice between doing what might be perceived as “masculine” and doing what actually might be the best and/or most authentic thing. The right thing and the masculine thing can be the same thing if we make them so. A lot of times we forget, as guys, that we have the freedom to create what is masculine for us.

It’s the same with health.

I don’t get it. Somewhere in our history, avoiding healthcare has become synonymous with “masculine.” And further, healthcare somehow just equals physical health. Period. But what the heck? The brain is part of the body. All health is actually physical health. Heart health is physical health. Mental health is physical health. But we differentiate “mental” and “physical” health. To go nerd-quoting for a sec, it was Dumbledore who said that just because it’s in your head, doesn’t make it less real. For some reason, a lot of guys think of health as the gym meathead that everybody actually hates. Why is an athlete more of a “man” than Bill Gates?

James Harden (not a meathead) signs an unprecedented contract but we’ve got professors living in poverty? Not saying The Beard shouldn’t get his, I’m just saying a lot of times guys have to make the ridiculous choice between being perceived as “smart” or “masculine” but rarely are both given equal cred. In Harden’s case, he’s got the beard to go along with the baller so, I mean … basically unquestioned manliness.

But I’m confused here.

From an evolutionary standpoint, strong health in all its forms, social intelligence, emotional insight, professional savvy, and academic intelligence all give us a leg up. But then guys can give guys shit for getting good grades? Or talking about emotions? Or doing work at a computer instead of at fight club?

I get that in centuries past guys are supposed to hunter-gatherers or warriors or whatever, but millions of us have the privilege of not living in that world anymore. Masculinity should be changing with evolutionary adaptation. If you’re a Navy SEAL, alright, great. Get your warrior mentality on. But even the SEALs are doing stuff like mindfulness meditation to hone their cognitive abilities. Cognitive/mental/brain health is real health. Brain and bicep are all part of the same health system. It’s about time we take ownership, as men, of making brain health part of the workout.

Like we’ve talked about in previous posts, getting anger under control or regulating emotions in general isn’t about releasing it onto the nearest wall, bag, or idiot. It’s about using the tools at our disposal to better develop cognitive strength and resilience. That’s what the smart folks with all their nerdy degrees about brain stuff are for.

I’ll go to James Harden for tips on driving the lane. But I’ll go to Neil deGrasse Tyson for some science, Bill Gates for organizational and technological savvy, a physician for heart health tips, and psychology professionals for some better cognitive, emotional, and relational intelligence (granted they have some – side note: how can some psychologists study people but not know how to actually talk to them?).

Brain and body are all one health system. High performance, however we operationalize it in today’s society, can be healthy and masculine – if we use the right tools for developing it and the right body part (brain) for knowing it’s not weak to build cognitive resources.

 

*Why Minds & Men: Men are taught a lot about what it means to be a man. Psychological research provides a bunch of evidence for what aspects of “masculinity” can be harmful and helpful. Here we aim to shed light on some of these findings and provide ways for men to become better men (without being intellectual pricks about it).

©2017: Zachary Gerdes