It was on the second episode of The Real Housewives of Dubai that star Sara Al Madani said she was trying to raise her son to be free from the Arab toxic masculinity she’s experienced.
“I believe that my son is not going to be raised like that,” He’s gonna be raised to show his emotions to be vulnerable. And being a man does not mean all these things, you are a human being and that’s how I’m raising my son to be.”
As the 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, 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 there are issues that would be best worked through with a professional therapist, a situation that is becoming normalized for everyone as one in four people experience mental health challenges. And for those who aren’t ready, or who might never go that route, there are plenty of capable men out there leading the way with podcasts, books, videos and an array of helpful social media platforms.
1) The Daily Stoic
This is the man to follow if you don’t want anyone to know you are taking care of your mental health. The Daily Stoic Podcast is a daily podcast hosted by #1 New York Times bestselling author Ryan Holiday, who wrote The Boy Who Would be King and the upcoming The Girl Who Would be Free. It features short bursts of wisdom inspired by the thoughts and writing of great Stoic thinkers, particularly Marcus Aurelius, along with occasional interviews with notable figures.
2) Andrew Huberman
If you want to understand the science behind some of your emotions, there is almost no one better to explain it that Dr Andrew Huberman. The neurobiology and ophthalmology professor at the Stanford School of Medicine also dispenses regular, evidence-backed advice for physical and mental health advice via his weekly podcast and YouTube channel, Huberman Lab. Recent episodes have taken deep dives into grief, trauma, and understanding and controlling aggression.
3) Mohammed Sweidan
A Dubai-based life coach with a huge platform on TikTok, Mohammed Sweidan is a former computer scientist who actively gives advice in Arabic. His explosive growth on the platform is in part due to this 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.
4) Mark Groves
With a website, multiple courses, a robust Instagram presence and training in positive psychology, Canadian Mark Groves — a former pharmaceutical rep — 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. Expect a lot of digestible information on how our childhood experiences drive our adult behaviour, including our attachment styles, and ultimately our experiences, as well as the importance of boundaries, overcoming codependence, expanding empathy and just generally working through your “stuff”.
5) Sylvester McNutt
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.”
6) 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, through his social media and Wellevate Life podcast with Irina Sharma, he frequently tackles ways to achieve better mental health, emotional healing and overall wellness, as well as 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.
7) Shaun Galanos
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 steady shots of much-needed courage via his TikTok and Instagram videos.
8) 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 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.”
9) Russell Brand
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.
10) Jay Shetty
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.
11) Lewis Howes
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.
12) 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 his interview on The Livehealthy Podcast, 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.
13) Theo Von
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 and YouTube channel 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 takes calls from listeners around the world, many of them hurting from job or relationship loss, offering his gentle, funny take on the situation.
14) Jordan Peterson
With millions of followers and tens of thousands of people packing his lectures, this controversial and beloved University of Toronto psychology professor has become a beacon for the men who make up about 80 percent of his audience. And as he once told podcaster Joe Rogan: “What’s wrong with that?” With vast clinical experience, a deep knowledge of science, research, mythology and philosophy, and a depth of empathy and compassion, his message, available via podcast, on YouTube and across social media, is how to sort oneself out to live the best life possible, based on honesty, discipline, connection and self-awareness. As he wrote in his 2018 bestseller The 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, “with love, encouragement, and character intact, a human being can be resilient beyond imagining”.
15) Conor Beaton
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.