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Boys don’t cry, at least that’s what I was told. Growing up as a male, I was told various things about what was expected of me. I was told that boys had to be strong. That boys, like me, couldn’t cry or let anyone know when things were bothering us.

What happens when you keep all of this bottled up? Well, emotions and feelings always get expressed and sometimes they can be expressed in an unhealthy manner (this is true for anyone, not just guys.) These emotions can manifest themselves in harmful ways. It is reported that one in seven males self harm.  In 2012, men counted for 78.3% of all deaths by suicide.

What will it take for society to rule out the dangerous gender stereotype that men have to be strong and not express their emotions? How can we as individuals support guys to share how they feel?

Let’s start together, today.  Here are some ways we can work to support the healthy expression of emotions.  We can apply these ideas to everyone in our life, even ourselves.

Ask  When you notice that someone is acting different, or out of their norm, ask them how they are doing and if they are okay. The important thing to remember, however, is not to nag. They will talk about it, if they want to.  They may just need some space before they are ready to talk.  But, they know you are there for them when they are ready.

Stop and Listen  Sometimes the simplest way to help someone express how they feel is to listen. Do not judge them for how the feel.  It’s not your role to tell them they should or shouldn’t feel a certain way. Respond to them and remind them that you love them.

It’s Good To Share  When someone unloads their emotions, they can feel vulnerable. Validate their feelings.  Comfort them by reminding them that it’s okay to feel like this.

Hugs  I am personally a huge fan of hugs. But before you do this, you must know and respect a person’s boundaries. If allowed, hugs are great. I know it sounds silly, but I’m speaking from personal experience.

This is a beginning.  These are action steps to challenge gender stereotypes and help others, especially boys and men, express their emotions. Of course, you are human and you can’t solve everyone’s problems.  Keep in mind that you should always take time to check in with yourself and make time for self care.  Remember, boys do cry. We all do.