“The three most destructive words that every man receives when he’s a boy is when he’s told to 'be a man.'”
Society has promoted a set of rules and expectations that vulnerable feelings are “feminine” qualities and that men must disconnect from their emotions to fulfill a masculine identity. It advances a social norm that violence and anger are an acceptable response to emotional upset; that self-esteem relies on power and that men must reject all signs of vulnerable feelings if they are to be a “real man”.
This outdated and dysfunctional gender stereotype is reinforced with such prevalence and efficiency, that even the youngest boys learn by early childhood what is acceptable behavior for their gender. Feelings of empathy, compassion and sensitivity are to be suppressed in place of "being a big boy” and “toughen up” and "don’t cry". It has taught young boys that the expression of feelings such as sadness, guilt, sorrow or pain are signs of masculine failure.
This false definition of masculinity has been propagated by society, the media and our culture - and saddest of all - by us as men. Men who fully express their most vulnerable and authentic feelings are not promoted as a gender norm and has continued to reinforce the false notion that being a real man is based on rejecting our need to fully express our most vulnerable emotions.
We are all biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. By encouraging the repression of emotions in boys - we have robbed them of the vital thing that we as all humans seek.
George Orwell once wrote: “He wears a mask and his face grows to fit it.”. In failing to recognize that emotions are human specific and not gender specific, we have forced boys to mask their feelings and develop walls between how they feel and how they should be.
i-am-heart was founded with the mission to break the “Boy Code” and the idea that boys must keep their emotions in-check, suppress authentic expression and vulnerable feelings. Our goal is to create a world that encourages boys not to disconnect from their emotions. A world that supports them as they learn to identify, accept, experience and express their full range of emotions. A world that values empathy, compassion, and sensitivity as human specific – not gender specific.
Through our programs and advocacy, we work with children, parents, schools, community organizations and health care practitioners in support of our mission. To help build a world that empowers boys to fully feel and express their authentic emotions so they may healthier and safer relationships with family, friends, peers and the world that surrounds them.