It’s increasingly recognized that sticking to traditional concepts of masculinity and male gender roles stigmatizes men expressing emotions and places limits on what they feel comfortable expressing. And this, in turn, causes many problems for men: in terms of the personal, emotional pain they feel, and in their relationships, both personal and professional.
It was 1975 when the Bee Gees wrote these lyrics to Fanny: “Be tender with my love; You know how easy it is to hurt me.”
But men rarely talk about what hurts them, even 50 years later.
As British comic and writer Robert Webb puts it: “The Rules for Being a Man go something like this: don’t cry. Love sport. Play rough. Don’t talk about feelings.”
But, he asked in his 2017 book, How Not to Be a Boy: “Are those rules actually any use? To anyone?”
More and more people are saying no these days, however, acknowledging that much of what we believe about “masculinity” actually prevents men from seeking help for whatever emotional or physical problems they are experiencing and ultimately, from creating the lives that they want.
There is a better way. Sometimes men have deep-seated issues that would be best worked through with a professional therapist. Those who aren’t ready, or who might never go that route, there are plenty of social media accounts, books and podcasts that can open the door.
Here are 12 emotionally connected men leading the way by putting out uplifting, helpful and life-changing content anyone can connect with.
A Dubai-based life coach with a huge platform on TikTok, Mohammed Sweidan is a former computer scientist who actively gives advice on his platforms in Arabic. His explosive growth on the platform is in part due to his unique niche. He makes relatable videos speaking directly to people in their 20s, just like him, who are struggling with the realities of life during Covid-19 and beyond.
With a website, multiple courses, a robust Instagram presence and training in positive psychology, the Canadian Mark Groves is a self-described human connection specialist. Through his platform, Create the Love, he aims to serve as a bridge between the academic world of psychology and the average person. He hit his own “rock bottom” psychologically when a relationship ended, and speaks openly about his own journey to wholeness. Expect a lot of digestible information on how our childhood experiences affect our attachment styles and ultimately our experiences, the importance of boundaries, overcoming codependence, expanding empathy and working through your “stuff.”
Author, podcaster, speaker and father, the Chicago-based Sylvester McNutt provides nourishing advice on dating, relationships and self-help and self-love. A recent nugget: “Most of us need to build emotional boundaries around perfectionism. It is laced with shame, guilt and fear. Instead, hold yourself to a high standard with love and patience for the journey.”
Dr Nasr Al Jafari
While a lot of the advice Dubai-based functional medical specialist Dr Nasr Al Jafari writes and speaks about focuses on our physical bodies, his social media frequently tackles ways to achieve better mental health, emotional healing and overall wellness. Check out an Instagram feed filled with ways to help build resilience, calm and mental strength. Posts tackle everything from the powerful healing that can be accessed by creating art, why living with and tending plants is good for you, the importance of breath work and connecting to the earth via grounding.
Canadian Shaun Galanos is also a straight-talking love and relationship coach who keeps the focus on communication to build intimacy through his platform, The Love Drive. His work involves providing a steady stream of support for those who are trying to change the pattern of their relationships. Although his answer to almost everything is to be honest about what you want and if you don’t understand something, ask, he recognizes that approach may require more self-esteem than most of us have, so he provides reliable, steady shots of much-needed courage via his TikTok and Instagram videos.
Naser Al Riyami
Abu Dhabi-based psychologist and hypnotherapist Naser Al Riyami is on a mission to heal the world, one person at a time. His social media feed is a mix of Arabic and English advice, information and other resources for dealing with anxiety and coping with stress and hard times, as well as a fount of research about feelings, emotional experiences and development. On a recent post, he asked: “Do you hold avoidance or approach goals? While avoidance goals are driven by a desire to move away from or eliminate an undesirable state, approach goals are driven by a desire to move toward a positive outcome.”
The English comedian, actor and radio show host has completely transformed himself into a passionate activist for mental health and drug rehabilitation. Russell Brand, as entertaining as he ever was, is still struggling with his own ego, too. He just does it while exploring everything from heartbreak to communication to climate change via podcast, YouTube, social media and books. If you are having a hard time, start with this video: If you feel like giving up, watch this.
Jay Shetty is a British podcaster and “purpose” coach. He’s also a former monk. Shetty has published a bestseller, Think Like a Monk, and interviews a wide variety of thought leaders via his podcast On Purpose. His Instagram account is essential for anyone who wants to feel better and be better, offering a mix of memes and relationship, career and life advice in the form of uplifting videos, quotes, and interview clips.
An American former professional athlete, Lewis Howes has written a book on the subject most men struggle with, called The Mask of Masculinity (published in 2017).
“There are many things that our definition of masculinity inhibits,” he writes, “but the damage it does to our relationships and sense of self, and therefore our chances of success in life, should be enough to make you reconsider the stereotypical definition of ‘masculinity’.” Howes focuses on personal growth and chasing dreams, but through his podcast and social media he frequently talks about his own journey, offering regular doses of encouragement, particularly in one of the toughest areas of all to achieve, self-love.
Arsalan Al Hashemi
A Dubai-based high performance master coach, Arsalan Al Hashimi offers a lot of free advice on how to “return to the root of your own self.” You can dive deeper into his background by listening to the podcast he recorded with livehealthy.ae, and turn to his Instagram account for advice on better relationships, better self-care, busting through upper limits and more. Al Hashimi is also one of the very rare local coaches advising on the challenges of parenting, including how to deal with the pressure to be perfect at it.
This southern American comedian doesn’t seem the most likely candidate for helping men deal with their difficult emotions, but he is. Each week on his podcast This Past Weekend with Theo Von, he talks about his own struggles with substance abuse, anxiety and low self-worth, as well as feelings of loneliness and being lost. He speaks regularly about going to therapy and 12-step programs and his conversations with his guests – whether they are fellow comics, activists like Robert F Kennedy Jr or ordinary folks, such as a plumber or mortician – regularly veer into the emotional. He also regularly takes calls from listeners around the world, many of them hurting from job or relationship loss, offering his gentle, funny take on the situation.
Conor Beaton is the founder of ManTalks, an international organization focused on men’s health, wellness, success, and fulfillment. In addition to a podcast, group classes and one-on-one coaching, he also has an uplifting social media presence, which covers everything from processing codependency in relationships, anxiety and dealing with change.
This article was originally published on November 29, 2020.
Ann Marie McQueen
Ann Marie McQueen is the founding editor-in-chief of Livehealthy and host of The Livehealthy Podcast. She is a veteran Canadian digital journalist who has worked in North America and the Middle East. Her past roles include features editor for The National, trends writer and columnist for the Canadian newspaper chain Sun Media, and correspondent for CBC Radio.