The “S” (And “P”) Word(s)

Why do so many men commit suicide?

This is a question that, at this particular time of my life, I do not know if I am adequately equipped to tackle. I can attest to the issues that have made me despair of life at various times, but how could I possibly know what would be the one thing that would push someone else over the edge? In reality, it’s never just one thing anyway. It comes from a progression, a road of problems and stresses and failures and disappointments and chemical imbalances and poor upbringings and virtually ever other form of strife and devil under the sun. To dwell on the question too much, in my opinion, could drive someone mad.

Fortunately, there are those researchers and psychologists in the world who do care enough to wade into this subject
01_Hero1 Male Suicide_(C) Damien Tran with both feet. Writer Will Storr talked to some of these very people in an article for the website mosiacscience.com, titled “The Male Suicides: How Social Perfection Kills.” The article focuses on research from the UK, but the theories it puts forth are universal to men everywhere.

As the title of the article suggests, a term called “social perfectionism” is believed by some to be a driving force in why many men choose to take their own lives. In a nutshell, social perfectionism is basing the majority of your self-worth and value on meeting the expectations of others. To phrase it a different way, it has not so much to do with what you expect of yourself, but rather what you feel others expect from you. When you perceive that you’ve failed, it doesn’t bother you so much that failed yourself as much as it bothers you that you didn’t meet an ideal you based off other’s perceptions.

Reading this article was revelatory for me, mainly for two reasons. One is that I had never heard the term “social perfectionism” used before. The second reason is that this particular feeling/affliction/disorder/whatever it is has been a constant companion of mine for as long as I can remember. To summarize, I have spent most of my life trying to live up to what I felt like were the standards for being a “good” man. Nothing wrong with this on the surface, but if life teaches you one thing, it is this: You will fail, and you will fall short. This is where the “perfectionism” portion of the phrase works at its cruelest. There is little margin for error, error that is sure to occur.

Do I have expectations for myself? Certainly, but most of them have been developed through my setting up an ideal based on another person or of a commonly held perception of how things should be. Sadly, this is where many men reside. We never figured out who we were, so we built personalities and goals around archetypes. When those personas we have constructed begin to crack and fade, we feel obliterated. With no standard left, many men decide that there is nothing left to them, so they treat themselves in like fashion – as nothing.

I am not a psychologist or a researcher, but I do know this: Social perfectionism is a real thing. And it is a killer. It may not always claim a physical life, but it leaves a trail of personal devastation in its wake. Honestly, I do not know if this is something psychologists are dealing with now or not, as an entity unto itself, but it is certainly a legitimate concern. This is usually where I would attempt to end a post with some witty phrase or words of wisdom. In this case, I have none. I can only say that I know men are dying. And I understand why.

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