I am waiting for surgery later this afternoon on a fracture in my hand and I’ve been thinking a bit about my involvement with the Strength to Care campaign that dove men+ care have run this year during the test matches in Australia. They have done some stuff with the Wallabies over the last few years exploring what guys care about - family, relationships, kindness, integrity. They asked me to be involved in extending that campaign.
Having grown up idolising rugby players, I’m very aware that we often just get to see them on TV on the weekend - when they’re on the field giving their all as ‘tough’ rugby players, displaying a certain kind of strength. Now people get to see a lot more of their lives with social media but this is mostly a highly curated and ‘filtered’ version of who we want others to see us as - the lifestyle we want to portray. I am certainly guilty of this. No time am I more conscious of it than when awaiting surgery and realising no one sees the pain, frustration, sorrow and guilt that so often accompanies the kind of masculinity seen on the field and the degree of dependence we all have on the people around us: team mates, family, partners, doctors and mentors. This is not the ruggedly individual masculinity portrayed in media myth-making of footballers, nor perhaps the way we’d like to portray ourselves.
In taking part in the campaign and spending time with the team who produced the series, I was hoping to talk about some of the fears I have and challenges I face. My experience is not unique: we all have fears and things we struggle with and my hope was that by talking about these things we could continue a conversation about the notion of ‘strength’ and what it looks like. I believe we show strengh when we begin to be more honest about who we are, acknowledging that who we are is a lot more complicated than we often make out. In doing so we are able to better care for ourselves and have more to give to the people around us.
The strongest people I know and admire are certainly not the most physically strong, but rather have an inner strength - a willingness to live with ambiguity. As James Hollis says, “fear of our own depths is the enemy.” In talking about our fears we can begin to explore these depths. None of us have it all together - and that’s nothing to be ashamed of - it’s what makes us human. In making ourselves vulnerable and talking about it, i believe we show true strength.