Welcome back to Call of the Quean, where self-discovery is freedom!
If you’re new here, I’m Quean Mo – Quean and Sexy Traveler.
For those who’ve been here a while: heeeeyyy!
This is QLQ – Quean Life Queries – where readers anonymously submit questions on topics of sexy travel, ethical non-monogamy, pleasure activism, and more.
Today’s QLQ comes from a cis-gendered, heterosexual male. He asks:
Why are men so desperately lonely and craving attention?
Before I dive into this, I want you to know this article covers topics surrounding mental health, mental illness, and suicide. If you find these topics triggering, feel free to skip this one.
You may be wondering why I’m starting off the New Year on such a heavy topic. The holidays can be some of the loneliest moments for people, and amplify certain aspects of mental illness. I believe that during a time many of us consider exciting and celebratory, we need to be reminded that there are people who are doing their absolute best to make it to the other side. So, as you read this, whether you are someone dealing with mental health issues or know someone who is, you/they are not alone.
Mental Health Resources and Hotlines:
<3 Better Help – World’s largest therapy platform. I found my therapist byway of Better Help, and it has been an incredible experience.
Why So Lonely?
First, I want to acknowledge this individual and the guts it takes to be this kind of vulnerable.
Secondly, I do want to say that loneliness and the need for attention are very human things.
However, depending on the culture you come from, men have generally been made to feel they can’t (shouldn’t!) access their entire range of emotions – specifically ones that are associated with femininity and weakness – i.e., sadness, insecurity, fear, loneliness, etc.
Many men are also taught that masculinity is connected to certain types of relationships – mainly, sexual success with women.
So, when men feel sad, lonely, afraid or insecure, it can be even more isolating because speaking about these things, in its very definition, goes against the traditional – albeit, limiting – definition of “masculinity”.
Men are typically conditioned to repress, withhold, and ignore.
This subject is very near and dear to my heart, as I hope it may be for many of you.
If you have men in your life, here are some critical things to know:
- Using “boys will be boys,” “man up” or “walk it off” language is invalidating and dangerous
- When people repress things – stress, sadness, anxiety, depression – they tend to pop out elsewhere. In a lot of cases that can be through emotions or behaviours that are socially recognized and accepted as “masculine” traits – i.e., anger and violence towards others or the self.
- MentalHealth.org states that suicide is a leading cause of death for men up to the age of forty
The truth is:
We are in a place in history where the definition of masculinity is loosening.
Before anything else, you are human. And learning to understand your humanness is key here.
If it frightens you to think you have to let go of traditional definitions of masculinity to feel less lonely, check out these wonderful cis-gendered males for reassurance:
Josh Connolly, who markets himself as a “Resilience Coach, Humanizing Emotions, and a Highly Sensitive Person,” is breathwork certified, and speaks about his journey from being a suicidal addict to finding his freedom within.
He understands that talk therapy isn’t for everyone – especially people who have been conditioned not to talk about feelings – and discusses the power of body and breath work as an alternative or add-on.
Josh also has a program called, Uncommon Man, whereby a group of men meet on a monthly basis to connect, heal and grow. This program is led by Josh himself and two other coaches, who guide the group in breath and bodywork to release emotional pain and build connection.
You may know Justin as Rafael from the TV series, Jane the Virgin.
Justin is an actor but, since his success, has become an advocate for helping men redefine masculinity. He does this by addressing toxic attributes and conditioning, while simultaneously honing the positive sides of what it means to be “a man” – which in essence, is about finding balance and being human.
He has a brilliant Ted Talk called, “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough’,” and two books. One of the same name, Man Enough: Undefining Masculinity, and the second, Boys Will Be Human.
I bring these men into the discussion because they possess attributes that align with traditional ideas of masculinity, and yet, are also in search of something more fulfilling. They too have felt desperately lonely and have craved attention, and in that desperation took a courageous step towards healing.
And that healing begins with the self.
Being a Man is Not Conditional
Human beings feel lonely sometimes. We are social creatures who need each other. Where the issues lie is when that loneliness becomes isolating, debilitating; and when that craving for attention becomes frustrating, overwhelming, and out of control; when our expectations for others create bitterness, even hatred towards them (i.e., the expectation that the opposite sex owes us something).
When we speak about toxic masculinity, we aren’t speaking about an innate thing that all men have. We’re talking about a cultural system that conditions our boys to believe they are men only when they are:
- Emotionless – with the exception of anger and violence
- Sexually successful with women – maybe even abusive
- Financially successful – most certainly the breadwinner
- Alpha, dominant – and preserving of this status
- Ambitious, even cutthroat
I have a secret for you though: being a man is not conditional.
Gender is a social construct that aims to cut away pieces of you that are worthy and beautiful. Being a man (or any gender or non-gender for that matter) is only determined by you and how you feel in your skin.
If men are meant to live by these incredibly limiting criteria, what happens when they step outside the lines?
They’re told to “man up,” “walk it off,” “get a grip,” “get over it by getting under someone,” “drink it off,” “exercise it out of them,” “punch something (or someone)” and on and on and on. This can lead to the continual repression of emotions, and may have dire consequences:
Isolation. Depression. Acts of violence. Self-medication. Addiction. Crime. Suicide.
We have to start listening to our men when they open up, when they get vulnerable. When they tell us they’re lonely. When they cry!
I believe a lot of men feel desperately lonely and crave attention because they are humans who have been forced to act non-human.
Not connecting with people on a genuine level – speaking, laughing, being vulnerable, sharing feelings, etc. – is detrimental to our mental health.
It has been proven time and time again! Connection is the skeleton key to our wellbeing.
Connection is Core
I recall this story I heard once. It was about a hetero couple that split up.
About eight months after the breakup, the woman met someone new. Her ex-partner was absolutely shocked and hurt. He couldn’t believe she’d moved on that fast when he was still struggling over the loss. He couldn’t take it anymore and reached out to her and asked, “how is this possible?” She said to him, “Have you talked to anyone about us?” His response was a resounding no!
What he learned was, his ex-girlfriend had spent the first several months speaking to friends and family about her grief. She leaned on people when needed and spent time strengthening relationships she had. This not only helped her work through her pain but opened her up to new experiences. For example, her and a close friend joined a running club together, which is where she met her new boyfriend.
He (the ex-boyfriend), on the other hand, had spent several months repressing his emotions and indulging in emotionless activities, such as partying (aka, heavy drinking and meaningless hookups) with little reflection on the lost relationship or the repercussions of his actions.
You see, when your learned response for dealing with an emotional situation is to do everything in your power to avoid those emotions, you simply prolong them, even amplify them.
The antithesis to loneliness is connection. It’s seeing and being seen.
And that work begins with YOU.
Reflecting on who you are as a human, and where you’re holding back, and how that’s impacting your life, is a start.
Making a list of the things you wish you could talk to others about. Create a fantasy friendship list: a list of what you wish you and your friends could do together but don’t because it’s perceived as “unmanly” or too vulnerable.
Then ask yourself: what would it take to be able to implement these things into our friendship or my life?
Consider reaching out to a very close friend or family member about these things. If that’s too scary, a complete stranger on the internet may do (again, kudos to the guy who submitted this!).
Like Justin Baldoni, maybe you have a group of guy friends that you just need to look at and say, listen, I’ve had enough, let’s cut the bullshit and start being real with one another.
This process may also include distancing yourself from certain people (even people not of your gender, because we’re all a part of the same system) who try to keep you in those limited criteria of manly.
It may feel counterintuitive to move inward. If you’re a man who grew up in a culture that told you what’s inside is unimportant, even threatening to your identity, this entire process may feel scary.
But don’t misunderstand me:
Being alone in self-work isn’t a prerequisite. Getting in touch with a mental health professional, telling your closest friend or relative that you’re going to start this work, or finding a community online is highly, highly encouraged!
Like Josh Connolly, if talking about it seems way out of reach, research breathwork classes, meditation, or even yoga! An activity that helps you connect with yourself, your emotions, and is also executed in a communal setting.
Do those things feel too feminine for you? Maybe that’s your cue to step toward them. Confront that feeling head on…
Find the support, and you will feel the loneliness drift. You will see that your craving for attention is in fact a craving for connection, a craving to belong.
At the very least, try your hardest to always, ALWAYS, see the human first. Whether you’re looking at yourself or someone else.
And remember, your pain is not exclusive, regardless of how it may feel. It is valid, of course, but you are never (ever!) alone.
By going down this path, you will recognize the positive consequences your choices have on you and the people around you. Every time we better ourselves, that work has a ripple effect. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t underestimate yourself.
Check out the resources I’ve listed throughout this article (below as well) and contact me here if you have any questions.
Also, if anyone can suggest resources that promote connection and healing, specifically for men, please share them in the comments below.
Thank you so much for your vulnerability and your QLQ.
Justin Baldoni: Undefining Masculinity
Josh Connolly: Uncommon Man
Brené Brown: Vulnerability
<3 Unlocking Us Archives – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)
<3 Braving the Wilderness – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)
<3 Atlas of the Heart – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)
<3 The Gifts of Imperfection – Brené Brown (brenebrown.com)
P.S. Don’t forget to submit your own Quean Life Query and have your question anonymously posted and answered by yours truly!
Published every Wednesday!