There have been many amazing moments captured in the 2016 Rio Olympics coverage. One of the standouts, was the sight of two members of the US swimming team bawling their eyes out - and being celebrated the world over.
We're avid watchers of the Olympics in my house. The other morning, my young son asked me across the breakfast table why only some of the male Olympians were crying with happiness when they won. "Aren't they all that happy?" he innocently asked.
This question made me extremely chuffed. Why? The winners' podium at the Rio Olympics is acting as a wonderful platform for a new generation of boys to see that even the strongest, bravest, boldest men do cry. And that it's OK.
As Margie Warrell, author, master coach and globally recognised speaker puts it, there has been growing recognition in recent years of the importance of men being able to express themselves fully and be at home with their vulnerability. “While social norms never change quickly, the trend toward greater acceptance of men who are in touch and comfortable with what we call their ‘feminine side’ can only be a good thing for both men and women,” she says.
The now indelible images of American swimming up-and-coming swimming icons Ryan Held and Caeleb Dressel bawling their eyes out after the 4 x 100 metre relay with millions watching – and mentor Michael Phelps encouraging them to “let the tears out” - is probably the greatest case for the showing of emotion in the sports arena. And the reaction on social media was equally heartwarming.
Ryan Held is literally too precious pic.twitter.com/y73JevJgqx— jessi murray (@_JessiConn) August 8, 2016
Outside of this, openly emotional moments of men such as Hugh Jackman and Barack Obama have also shown crying may be more a sign of emotional strength, than weakness.
“We are seeing more men who have a strong sense of their own masculinity but who are also comfortable with expressing their vulnerability,” Margie says. “These men help to pave the path for other men and give them implicit permission that ‘real men do cry’ and are not less courageous or strong for doing so, but even more so.”
What We Can Teach Our Sons about Showing Emotion
• Real men do cry, assures Margie. “Not only that, men who are comfortable with expressing emotion and not afraid of what others say are braver than those who aren’t.”
• Tears are simply an outward sign that we are connecting to something we care about passionately. “They are not a sign of weakness," Margie assures.
• “People who excel in athletics or any field have got to where they are because they’ve pressed on through all the emotions that have risen up from the defeats they’ve had along the way,” Margie explains. “Feeling an emotion such as sadness or joy, rejection or anger, isn’t what matters. It’s what we do with it that defines who we are. Emotions we don’t own will own us,” she continues. “These men own their emotions and so aren’t owned by them.”
• The word ‘Courage’ comes from the French word for heart, so people who are very courageous are people who are whole-hearted. “So if you take that as a way to teach how to raise brave boys into courageous men, we must teach them to express their whole heart - not just the fearless warrior heart - but their tender, compassionate and vulnerable heart.”
• Margie has three sons, and she tells them often that they don’t have to prove themselves to anyone, they should simply “own who they are, be who you are." Teaching them that expressing their emotions doesn’t make them weaker, she says, "it makes you stronger; not less of a man, but more of one.”