Once upon a time, there were advertisement billboards, enlarged reflections of assumed masculine stereotypes. These advertisements usually revolved around women, sports, and drinking excess amounts of alcohol. To broadcast male actions as anything else was likely subject to questioning one’s sexual orientation.
Not much has changed.
However, there has been an gradual shift over the last two years concerning the way men take care of themselves. This “shift” could be representative of the digital era we live in, or it could be social media’s allowance of self-expression. Regardless, more men are stepping forward to publically share their involvement in spa days, morning meditation, and nightly tea before bed.
I’m skeptical. I can’t define this as a new phenomenon. I can’t imagine self care to be something that men willingly divulged in, only 2017 years later. But I can find solace in knowing that men are better than the dirty shirt-wearing, BBQ wing-eating, beer-slamming degenerates media companies slate them to be.
Still, I am skeptical.
After spending an hour on Instagram’s ‘Explore Page,’ viewing shirtless men drinking sponsored teas while kneeling on a yoga mat, I knew it was time to find answers for myself–starting with the community I called my own.
I decided to sit down with *Tony, a male friend from college who currently plays professional basketball in another country. Tony is also someone who has always openly practiced self-care tactics. I wanted to learn if male-initiated self-care practices are the real deal, or just another social media-influenced scam.
“I was lucky enough to be raised by my grandmother and my mom at separate points in my life who consistently practiced self care. They’d do their nails, their hair, face masks, buy new clothes, meditate, and burn incense or candles. My dad taught me how to get away and meditate through a workout or listening to music. He also included incense in his meditation, so naturally I learned to do the same.”
1. How do you define meditation? Do you believe there are multiple ways to define meditation?
T: I define meditation as little as one minute or longer to reflect upon yourself. How I feel physically, mentally, and emotionally. If there’s something bothering me in any form, this is my moment to identify it and recognize it, rather than run from it. I may not have the answer for it right away, but meditation allows me to adapt accordingly.
2. Do you openly speak about your self-care practices? Do you feel that there are gender roles placed around self care? Would you consider the connotation to be positive or negative?
T: I do. I’ve always felt as if there are gender roles placed on certain self care, but I’ve never really cared for. For example, for men it’s mainly seemed as if the only self care we can practice is through sports, drinking, or any other kind of hobby that’ll take your brain off things.
Now my self care routine involves a haircut, working out, consistently meditating, cleaning the house, burning sage/incense/candles, face masks, even getting a manicure or pedicure if needed. I never hesitated to be this way because in my eyes I was always taking care of myself and that’s all that mattered.
I remember in college I’d consistently post snap stories of me ending nights making tea, listening to soothing music and lighting candles. And that was for me, it was my way of settling down at the end of the day and taking time for myself. People knew I lived with another guy, but no one really judged me for it.
3. More men and speaking out about the ways they invest into themselves, through self-care practices. Do you think this is a shift // movement, or are men becoming more comfortable speaking about this topic? If the latter, what do you think serves as inspiration for men to speak about this?
T: I believe men are becoming more comfortable speaking about this topic, and honestly the biggest influence is social media. It’s allowed men and women to show men it’s cool to take care of yourself. Life is hard, and in this era a lot of people take to various forms of social media to relate to one another, whether we admit that or not.
4. How do the (three) groups of people respond to your views surrounding self care:
– Gender you’re attracted to
Do responses from these groups differ? If so, why do you think that is?
T: My parents both encourage my self meditation and are very happy I practice. My girlfriend encourages my self mediation and actually aids me in my practice by giving me new ones, or helps improve old ones. But she’s proud of me for it, and that makes me happy. My friends were all hesitant at first. To them, it seemed more “feminine.” They’d talk privately with me about it (self care) at first, but very rarely in the open or amongst peers. Once they realized I’m the same person, regardless and I’m just as driven (if not more) to accomplish my goals and I’m happy, they started to do little things to practice themselves.
The responses certainly differ only because my friends who are predominantly male, were taught to be a man is to be tough and act like nothing phases you. But no one is that tough. People have emotions as we get older I believe we all go through things that teach us it’s okay to have emotions as long as we channel them properly.
5. Any brands // companies // products // people // media you recommend to help with self-care acceptance?
T: I don’t know of any brands or anything that can help you with self care acceptance. All it takes is yourself to be okay with how it is you want to practice.
6. What role does social media play with this topic? Can we (partly) blame social media, or is social media just another platform for people to over-express their opinions?
T: As I stated before social media plays a huge role in my eyes for self care. There’s literally people who become famous by showing you face masks and all kinds of wild self-care practices. But at the end of the day most of these people become social media famous because in the general public’s eye “they got it figured out.” The downfall of this is that kids and adults often seem to miss the principle of the matter and would rather flash fake results. Either that, or the influencers are fake themselves–thus, spreading weak content. So there is a fine line.
7. What can we do TODAY to remove given stigmas?
T: Today, we can continue to be confident in ourselves and inspire each other. Let it be known, it is unfair to throw your baggage around on anyone simply because you don’t take care of yourself. Someone’s mindfulness and happiness lies in our hands, not others. However, it is also important to remember to be sympathetic and understanding of those who were not taught to take care of themselves. We should choose to help guide if possible, but that journey is most-fulfilled when it’s done on your own.
Learning Tony’s perspective concerning self-care practices was not only uplifting and refreshing, but realistic. Though we both share the same idea about social media’s influence on our overall health, I too am confident in believing that everything we do should be reflective of ourselves and not fragments we see of someone else’s life.
While there are men in the world who watch sports and eat messy BBQ wings, those same men may be also participants in face masks and pedicures. It’s not a new idea, it’s an evolved perspective. But it is 2019, and it’s time to to think differently, interact more efficiently, and live outside of our comfort zone. If you don’t know how, maybe this is the time to get off the internet and meet someone face-to-face–over a cup of tea.
*Name of participant changed in this article for privacy