Martin Robinson
Martin RobinsonImage by: Author
Martin Robinson
You are not the man you are supposed to be
22 February 2021

You Are Not The Man You Are Supposed To Be.

Editor and Founder of The Book of Man
Martin Robinson
3 minutes read time

"Depression was something I’d only ever sought help for half-heartedly – a sleeping-pill prescription handed out by an aloof GP, a series of counselling sessions at university. Instead I reconciled my problem by diagnosing myself publicly with a condition called ‘miserable Northern twat’. This provided a means for people to fathom the awful silence into which I so frequently sank. Truthfully, I couldn’t understand why tear-sodden breakdowns were regular occurrences, why my daily life was undertaken with a black fog inside my head, why I was too afraid to talk to anyone. When it came to my mind, I had no concept of anything diagnosable. All its tortuous twisting was simply the way I was. A weirdo. I kept up a certain grinning front at work and avoided drawing any attention to myself. Lamentably, other men in my orbit were almost certainly doing much the same.

What has become known as the Mental Health Crisis does not only affect men, but for them it represents an important breakthrough in providing the end of a thread by which you can unravel masculinity. This is because mental ill health in all its forms – whether it’s depression, anxiety or eating disorders – is at odds with everything society tells us a man should be. The male ideal is about strength, stoicism, being in control. It is not only uncomfortable for men to express feelings other than rage; it is also transgressive. Shocking to witness. If a woman breaks down in an office, other women will rush to support her. If a man collapses in tears in the office the other men will back the hell away, repulsed, trying not to catch it.

It follows that unravelling masculinity is crucial if you want to deal with mental health effectively, which means stripping away the usual personas to allow vulnerability, beyond which is revelation. Mental health engagement allows you to think through what made you the man you are. In turn, serious self-analysis provides a profound approach to mental health problems that are often the result of a tangle of issues unable to be solved by throwing pills at the problem."

" It follows that unravelling masculinity is crucial if you want to deal with mental health effectively. "

"You Are Not The Man You Are Supposed To Be: Into The Chaos of Modern Masculinity will almost certainly win numerous awards for the longest title, but I hope it’s real success will be to help men understand and address some of the problems we face in society.

The starting point was mental health, something we primarily write about at the website I run, The Book of Man. In particular though, I was interested in why men have traditionally found it difficult to deal with their personal problems appropriately (including me), which has led to the high male suicide rate. What role did our ideas of masculinity have in this? And why? Where do our ideas of Being A Man come from? And are they too old school to the point of not being very good for us?

A piece of research by Movember was actually a major stimulus, which found 30% of men in the UK didn’t feel comfortable talking to their mates about their mental health problems, but 60% said they’d like to help their mates with theirs. It seemed absurd that we all wanted to help each other but no-one wants to go first. Everyone wants to be the shoulder to cry on, but no-one wants to cry.

In the course of the book, and through interviews with a wide cast of famous faces, academics and experts, I discovered that things are changing in this respect, but we have to keep pushing the idea that there is not one fixed masculinity, but many masculinities to explore. Men’s mental and physical health can be vastly improved by opening up our ideas about what it means to be a man."