Contractors, it’s time ‘man-up,’ ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘be a man’ went the way of dial-up

It’s fair to say my LinkedIn feed was quieter on Sunday November 19th 2023, which was International Men’s Day (IMD), than it was on Wednesday March 8th 2023, which was International Women’s Day (IWD). That could owe to who my connections are; or because IMD fell on a Sunday. But sadly I don’t actually think it was due to either, writes professional life coach Shwezin Win, founder of Win at Life.

It shouldn’t really take a special day to celebrate men or women. But I want to look closer at the comparatively less visible IMD, because it was specifically conceived this year to raise awareness about the mental and emotional wellbeing of our society’s men.

A societal problem with no flick-switch solution

Whether International Men’s Day makes you think of yourself, or the men (and boys) in your life, this day highlights an issue that, frankly, nobody appears to have an answer for. And that issue is male suicide.

It’s difficult to argue with the organisers of IMD picking “Zero Male Suicide” as their message in 2023, because 74% of all suicides in the UK are male, according to Census 2021 for England & Wales. So in effect, three-quarters of people killing themselves are men. And the latest figures further show that the rate of suicide in men is over three times higher than it is women.

Not your problem, or the contractor sector’s problem?

While there’s clearly no flick-switch solution for this crisis, as a life coach for men (as well as women) I’d like to think that I -- and even you – will do something to address this deeply worrying situation.

Oh, and to any doubters who think male-suicide isn’t a contractor sector issue -- please read here the touching account last week from one sector captain, who has already bravely helped by coming forward to acknowledge it being 10 years since he planned to take his own life.

How we got here – men being three times more likely to die by their own hand

If you’ve been raised in the societal background of ‘man up’, ‘boys don’t cry’ and ‘come on; be a man,’ it’s very possibly ingrained in you that while strengths and weaknesses are essential parts of someone’s gender, men ought to have no truck with weaknesses.

These antiquated phrases and beliefs from a society now rightly consigned to history imply that men can’t feel hurt or express emotions, which can actively prevent males from reaching out if they need help. This in turn causes some men to believe that the only acceptable way to express their emotions is through anger and physical action. These statements and environments also place shame on the value of vulnerability.

The shorthand for all this? Strength = having physical force. Of course, in 2023, it’s actually the opposite which is true. It takes a lot of strength to reach out and then rely on others; to lay bare your perspective and seek out suitable help when you need it.

Is your own mental health stuck on an unsatisfactory percentage?

I’d like to invite you to take a moment to think about your own mental wellbeing and emotional health.

If your mental health could pop-up on your screen, a bit like a long file download back in the fortunately now largely long gone days of dial-up modem, what percentage would it say, in terms of healthiness?

Related, I bet you’re off to the gym this week; or have a court booked, or a jog planned or will be walking shortly. This is another ‘issue.’ We spend so much time -- and money -- thinking about our physical health, but we all too easily forget that our brain; our mind, drives our thoughts, feelings, actions and bodies.

It’s all part of our human ecosystem and the ‘physical’ and ‘mental’ need to work together. And sometimes you get a nice reminder that they work together as one, because how many times do you feel revived, refreshed or rejuvenated after a run, swim, climb or hike?

Fear and loathing

What I’m seeing from the quite brave individuals who come and fess up to me about their lives is that we ALL go through ups-and-downs, anxiety bouts, stressful events, self-doubt, fear and even loathing.

But it’s learning to face up to these black clouds; to reflect on them and to deal with them, which not only puts them into perspective, but actually lets your performance as a person, or a professional, potentially continue unperturbed.

Four quick question between you and you

Therefore, ask yourself (with a view to coming up with some answers later on this week, or at the weekend):

  • How do I keep myself mentally and emotionally at my best?
  • When do I need to talk things through to get more clarity about how I’m feeling?
  • Who do I have to help me through the challenges in my professional and personal life – who is that person who will listen but won’t judge?
  • Who can I be truly myself with?

The last two bullets invite us to think of our friends, family or loved ones who will unwittingly go on to demonstrate to you ‘It’s better out than in.’ Please don’t underestimate the significance of this, and the significance of that person. The contractor sector boss I referred to at the outset knew that significance. Their post acknowledges: “Had it not been for my best friend and one phone call [with that friend], things could [have] been so different, and this message wouldn’t exist.”

A little appreciation…

But IMD isn’t only about preventing male suicide. It’s also about ‘appreciating and celebrating the men’ in our lives and ‘the contribution they make to society for greater good'. And that’s not me speaking by the way; it’s IMD’s organisers!

Just like anybody else you know, positive role models absolutely need reinforcement; they will want to know that you’re rooting for them, partly so that they keep being unflinchingly there for others and even future generations.

With the nights drawing in and the shorter days, the temptation is to follow suit by spending time reflecting in none-too-bright terms on ourselves, and our flaws. But it’s connecting to your strengths; reminding yourself where you excel and how you can get recharged that really helps us flourish.

Fancy some space to just stop, review, and focus?

So as 2023 starts to wrap up, I recommend you take the time to consider what you’ve achieved in this last 12 months, and where in your life you feel you would like to build more. Remember, we spend endless days just robotically ‘doing,’ and invariably don’t pause, step back and really home in on where our life should go next for us to be healthy, content and fulfilled.

As a professional life coach, I see many clients (not just men) sit down with me to do just that. They want to stay on top of the game; they want to lean into their challenges, they want to be vulnerable without being judged, so they can work through their thoughts, emotions and find solutions which will help them successfully navigate their lives. Whether it’s in their professional or personal lives -- these aren’t necessarily separate so you can’t always neatly compartmentalise as much as you might try, contractors more and more want the space to just stop, review and focus.

Don’t just keep on keeping on in 2024

My sessions can be the key to unlocking confidence for contractors to thrive in the contracting marketplace, which at times is becoming everything from competitive and tough to cut-throat and plain unpleasant! But just like in the workplace, when an end-user needs to turn to an expert or specialist, it doesn’t mean the organisation is incapable! It means it’s got the intellect, foresight -- and dare I say ‘strength’ -- to recognise when someone else has the skills to help, potentially even better than it could achieve on its own.

Sound familiar?! Well, if that resonates with you; if you want to improve your mental and emotional fitness, or you’re just determined to be at the top of your game in 2024, book a free, no obligation call with me here:

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Written by Shwezin Win

Shwezin Win is a fully qualified and experienced Personal Performance Coach. She has worked for over 20 years in small and major businesses within retail and marketing. She has held senior positions, managed large teams and worked for many years within IT/transformational projects, which is how she has had the experience of working with so many contractors. She set up Win at life to help as many people as possible to thrive rather than survive.

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