Updated: May 30
As soon as the question “Is it okay for a man to admit that he is afraid?” rolls off your tongue, how do you feel? What do you notice? Do you quickly jump to the response “Of course,” or is your urge to answer held back by something?
This question is more important than you think.
We often hear it said that men struggle to open up about their feelings. History tells us that men are expected to be stoic, not given to displays of emotion and certainly not inclined to express fear. Men are taught from a young age that showing fear is perceived as weak and makes them an easy target.
Many men hold onto the story that no one wants to be around a man who shows fear because they know he’ll be an easy mark, and others will not feel safe around them. But then again — is this really so? Is it okay for a man to say that he is scared? Men have struggled with this question for centuries, but now more than ever, these answers may have never been more important; let’s explore why…
What does it mean to be afraid?
Fear is often seen as a negative emotion, often associated with anxiety, worry and weakness. However, fear is a natural response to what we perceive to be a threat in our environment. It is an evolutionary instinct that developed to protect us from harm. This makes it a valid emotion, and asking someone to not be afraid is like telling someone not to breathe.
Fear only becomes a problem when it goes uncontrolled, which then leads to unhealthy behaviours. An excessive fear response is often beyond our control. It is a learned reaction based on past experiences and can be triggered by certain sights, sounds, smells and situations. This can manifest in many ways, from a racing heartbeat to feeling nauseous, to lashing out in unexpected ways.
This is the unhealthy manifestation of fear and often looks like anger or rage, but it can also look many different ways. When fear becomes present, many men have developed the instinctual response to ignore the fear and pretend it doesn’t exist. This can also lead down a dark path of disconnection from oneself. Also is known as a dysregulated state.
All emotions, including fear, are meant to be free-flowing, which means they are noticed and explored to see what information they hold.
How does being scared affect us?
Scared men find it difficult to express themselves, and so they keep the things they feel inside. As a result, they build up a lot of unresolved problems and resentments inside themselves that lead to physical and mental health problems. It can lead to depression, anxiety, mood swings and insomnia. It can make you irritable, impatient and impulsive. As a result, scared men often withdraw from friends and family and experience low self-esteem, confidence, and motivation.
The stress of repressing feelings can also exacerbate existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and digestive disorders. It can also lead to sexual problems and relationship issues. Studies show that men who repress their feelings are less sexually satisfied, have more difficulty orgasming, and have a higher chance of having a sexual disorder.
In short, collapsing around fear can have severe impacts on health and well-being, and it is in a man’s best interest to learn to work with emotions like fear.
Can men feel safe being scared?
Like most things in life, we need to find a balance. There’s no need to repress all of your feelings, but there is also no need to expose yourself to unnecessary stress and anxiety.
The first step toward feeling safe being scared is to identify what it is that scares you. This might sound easy, but it can actually be surprisingly difficult. The best way to do it is to create a list of your fears. You can do this on a sheet of paper, in a word document, or on your phone. Then, every time you think of something new, add it to the list. This can take a while; you might have to do it over a few days or even weeks.
Once you list what scares you, you can start looking at it and thinking about why those things scare you. This is where it gets interesting. When you ask yourself why something scares you, it gets your mind actively thinking about it. This can make it easier to come up with solutions, rather than this fear silently living in the background. You are now taking a proactive approach to your fear.
When you are working with your fear, you can actually feel that fear in your body. Notice if you have the urge to disconnect from it or deny that it is there, remembering that you are just gathering information and exploring.
This is a massive part of the process of feeling safe being scared, which can move you into free-flowing fear.
Is there a benefit to admitting you’re scared?
There are many benefits to being honest and open when it comes to your feelings, especially being scared and feeling fear. The first obvious one is that it gives you the chance to talk through your worries and frustrations. It is a great way to let off some stress, and having someone to listen to you will help you feel less alone.
When you are able, you can also help others by being open about your feelings and letting them know that they are not alone with theirs. Another great benefit is that it can lead to positive changes in your life. If you are letting people know about your feelings, you are more likely to take action. This can lead to personal development, improved relationships and a healthier mind. Even thinking about expressing fears to friends or family can bring up fear, so to start out and build your confidence, you may want to connect with a coach or counsellor to begin to work with emotions. Many men are finding it liberating to be able to express their emotional selves when in the past, they thought they had to ignore that part of the self.
As with many things in life, fear should be examined and understood. You should ask yourself why it scares you and what you can do about it. You need to find a balance between repressing your fears and blowing them out of proportion. Finding that balance will lead to a happier life and healthier relationships. Being honest with others and yourself about your fears can make you feel more empowered and strengthen your relationships. It is essential to know that it is okay to be scared and that all men think this way at some point. In fact, being scared at times is part of being a human being.
Dave is a Leadership and Life Coach living in Steveston, B.C., Canada.
Dave’s expertise is with individuals and teams who feel stressed out and exhausted and know that they want something different. In 2017, Dave left a career as a Senior Manager at a large Local Government organization to start Small Pause Coaching & Consulting. His philosophy about taking a pause and inviting in a new conversation, a deeper conversation, has supported hundreds of individuals and organizational clients. He is a Certified HeartMath® Coach & Mentor, a Certified Trauma-sensitive HeartMath® Practitioner, a trained Equine Guided Learning Facilitator and a Certified Coach with the International Coaches Federation (ICF). Dave took his coaches training at the Newfield Network in Boulder, Colorado. You can learn more about his work at www.smallpausecoach.com or look him up on LinkedIn, Instagram or Facebook. Dave also expresses his creativity through the Small Pause Shop, where he designs apparel that supports living life ‘inside the pause.’