“Things always change, as long as you give them the chance to.” – Professor Green
Stephen Manderson is perhaps better known by the name Professor Green. He’s a successful rapper and TV personality who appears to have the world at his feet, but appearances can be deceptive. To introduce himself to readers of his column in “The Book of Man”, he said… “I’m a fatherless, early school leaving (not one single GCSE), music and more recently documentary making; book writing; ex drug dealing; dog loving; caring; careless; self-loathing; cat-disliking (hate is too strong a word); drinking and drug taking; self-doubting; over-thinking; impulsive; impatient; sensitive; emotional; strong (at times); weak (at others); sufferer of depression and above all, my most defining quality (but I had to think about it) I’d probably say, anxious… man?”
You see, the way a person appears on the outside is not necessarily the way they feel on the inside. Stephen has suffered with anxiety since childhood and in recent years he has talked openly about his struggles with mental health issues. He’s the patron of a suicide prevention charity named Calm and it’s his hope that by opening up and talking honestly about his experiences in life, other young people, young men in particular, may find a way to break through the cultural belief that being a man means keeping a stiff upper lip and keeping “girlie” emotions in check. He says, “Communication is a big problem with us men. We don’t like to talk about our problems; we think it makes us look weak.”
Stephen’s mum was just 16 years old when he was born and she’d vanished out of his life by his first birthday, leaving his grandmother to raise him. His father, just 18 at the time, was still around, but Stephen describes him as someone who’d often nip out to the shop and then take a long time to come back. By the time Stephen turned 18, he had become distanced from his father, but any chance of turning things around was taken away by his father’s suicide a few years later.
The tendency to bottle up and internalise feelings is undoubtedly a factor in the alarming statistics surrounding mental health issues and suicide in young men today. Stephen says, “There is still a lot of stigma that surrounds mental health and men don’t feel very comfortable in saying ‘I feel vulnerable’ but there’s a lot of strength in admitting your vulnerabilities. The weakness is in pretending to be something you’re not.”
If you’re posting images of your “perfect life” on social media in an attempt to live up to the expectations of others and society in general, could you be pretending to be something you’re not? Stephen has learned that no one can be happy all the time, and just as happiness isn’t permanent, neither is sadness. He says, “I’m learning to live my life according to my beliefs and to do things the way I want to do them – we need to address the connotations attached to the word selfish. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not good to yourself.”
Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach, Mentor and Key Note Speaker.
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