When being man enough is not enough

While EP7 works closely with Happiness Co and the Man Enough Campaign that encourages men to open up about their struggles, we lose a man’s man too soon; a legend like Steve Folkes. And asking R U OK? seems relevant to anyone no matter how tough they appear if they have lost loved ones. 

Steve’s premature death motivated me to write about an issue that a major part of our society is yet to understand. The issue that a strong, fit and healthy person can die young from a heart attack, cancer or some other chronic disease. This should not be happening, but it does. From many years of personal research, I have come across a theory on why this happens and I want to share it with you.

I met Steve in 2006 to discuss mind coaching. He was a gentleman and showed eagerness to give his players an advantage mentally to compete better and win more often. I shared a fresh and science-based approach that resonated with him.

I was privileged to see the quality of the man behind closed doors that aligned with what I saw in him as a player and a coach. The memories he gave us supporters over a decade are priceless. His toughness, loyalty and discipline were second to none.

In hindsight and in my personal opinion, from the loss of his beloved wife almost 5 years ago, his heart needed more than those tough, hard, competitive and disciplined qualities to help him recover from such a massive and emotionally painful loss.

I have come to understand that no matter how healthy you think you are, if the heart is broken, it will undermine your physical wellbeing. I see so many clients who come to me with goals to achieve, but with a broken or heavy heart, neglecting themselves. It is this neglect which undermines the effort to enjoy life not matter how hard you push. It takes the courage to sit within yourself and be focused on understanding yourself. We are not raised to do this.

How many times have you heard of a fit and strong person suddenly dying with no warning, from a heart attack? Dig a little further and you discover a heavy, burdened, broken heart from losing a loved one. Look a little closer and you see someone who sacrificed their wellbeing through their loyalty to look after everyone else.

Steve’s heart was broken twice from his two loves: his precious wife and his Bulldogs. If only he could have felt the intensity of love, respect and gratitude for the man he was from his supporters and the rugby league community.

Science and medicine offers so much when it comes to understanding how we can live a better and healthier life. You can eat well and supplement, do regular exercise and stay away from drugs and bad habits like alcohol in excess. You can be in great shape and bench- press twice your weight. None of this is enough to ensure you have a happy and long life without acknowledging your emotional state with a focus on the emotional condition of your heart.

We are overdue to understand as a society, that emotions directly affect our overall wellbeing and what we feel is equally important to what we do. And what we feel needs to be honoured with emotional healing as a priority.

Your heart yearns to be connected to an environment made up of trusting, respecting, loving and fun people. If you feel a strong sense of belonging from this connection, your heart will be fulfilled and the sensations of feeling light and warm-hearted will be realised. We are often insecure and struggling with feeling disconnected, anxious and depressed leaving the heart’s purpose to continue being unrepresented.

So, the next time you hear people say they are confused why someone died because they were so fit, perhaps you can give a thought to their likely emotional and often silent struggle. We can safely assume their emotional state was neglected. Many of us (especially men), are raised with assumptions and the pressure to value being tough and to avoid showing emotions because if we do, we risk being seen as weak.

The next time someone has suffered a broken heart, be there for them no matter how strong and fit they appear. The tough persona is a shell to protect but the vulnerability inside is real and deserves your caring attention. Help them adjust and reconnect to meaningful relationships. This invaluable support is humanity being at its best for each other.

It takes profound wisdom and courage to be this kind to each other. For men who live with this expectation and pressure to be macho and emotionless, we can human up to another level. Being wise and powerful is about putting the heart first and finding a way to serve it when the temptation is there to neglect it.

If you would like more on this important topic, you can listen to the “Are You Man Enough” Podcast on the EP7 Podcast Channel.

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