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Men, We Need to Talk…

Written By: Adil Coaches Men

By Adil Hussain

Founder of BrotherhoodDXB, Men’s Mindset & Masculinity Coach and Personal Trainer

I used to wonder what it meant to be a man, to be manly; I still do to some degree.

I grew up with a very strong dad, one that had to fight his way through adolescence as a Pakistani expat in London. He was tough, with a set of ideals that dictated that men should be strong, have control of their household, be “streetwise“, naturally distrusting, be able to fight and know how to handle anything that came his way. In my eyes he did it all, and more!

I paint this picture of my Dad because he was my first male role model, and the man I looked, and still look up to. Unfortunately, I didn’t grow up with any of the characteristics that my Dad would view as “manly” and this is where my feeling of not being “man enough” began. I wasn’t particularly sociable, or enjoy sports, I was bullied as a kid and had no desire to fight; I lacked confidence in every way.

I felt like I needed to be more like him so that he would feel proud of me. Can you relate?

Phrases such as “you’re too sensitive”, “too soft”, “be tougher”, and “boys don’t cry” were also prevalent throughout my childhood.

I grew up thinking that being compassionate was wrong, and not to be encouraged. A lot of what I was told about being a man didn’t really sit right with me, and the Eastern cultures and traditions of my family weren’t perching confidently on my Western shoulders either.

Age 17 after my parents separated, I became “man of the house“. I didn’t know what that meant, but I associated it with power – *NEWSFLASH* – it did not come with power, it came with expectations – I was expected to know how to be “a man” and step into a role I had zero training for – boy did I feel in-over-my-head. I felt like none of this should have fallen on me, and I felt guilty for feeling that way. For years I felt overwhelmed and ran away from the responsibility. I helped where I could, but I resented it because I didn’t feel like a man, and instead I tried to grasp this feeling of masculinity through emotional spending (including excessive credit card use) and toxic behaviour in my romantic relationships.

There are just so many ways that men are expected to be masculine. From childhood through to adolescence and a young adult, I felt that I was not particularly masculine and ended up exhibiting “toxic masculine” traits such as aggression and promiscuity because I didn’t know how to manage or release my emotions, let alone talk about them. Honestly, I didn’t know what I was feeling until very recently.

Is this a cultural problem?

From my experience, and from speaking with hundreds of men about this, I can see that it’s universal, but that different cultures do have blanket views on what is expected from men in society.

From the moment we step into the classroom or social settings as a young boy, we enter some sort of “fight club” with a set a of spoken, unspoken rules that follow us for most of our lives:

– Don’t cry (cried A LOT recently for the first time in 15 years!)

– Humility is king

– Don’t ask for help (I still struggle with this!)

– Don’t hug your closest friends (ah the various man-greetings – avoid the crotch!)

– Show little emotion (don’t want to be seen as weak right?)

– Don’t use words to show tenderness (who here shows love through gifts or acts of service?)

– Don’t cower from danger (i.e. “man up”)

– Don’t reach out for comfort or reassurance (as if a man needs a hug?!)

The man I became.

Now then, because of some of the rules above, I grew into a man that felt guilt and shame when good things happened to him, so much so that I would play them down and deflect praise elsewhere or onto other people. Equally, I craved love and attention and looked for it in all the wrong places! It’s counter intuitive I know, but I feel that many of you reading this will resonate.

“Am I worthy?” I’ve spent years feeling that I wasn’t and admit that I’m still working on fully believing this. Unfortunately, it all stems from not feeling enough from such a young age, coupled with being taught that humility is king.

From the age of 18 I crippled myself into debt and I didn’t tell anyone about it. Let’s be honest, men don’t ask for help as it is, but asking for money, or help with money? No way! It took me 14 years to pay it off, jumping from job to job, managing credit cards and loans, and using that as my reason for staying at my family home until the age of 31.

Recently I realised why I got myself into that situation:

  1. Spending made me feel temporarily worthy and important
  2. It was something I could control
  3. It made me feel like a man because I was seen to have money
  4. I never wanted to leave my mum, I felt that she needed me and getting myself into debt meant that I really couldn’t leave home

I was an emotional spendthrift, and I couldn’t tell anyone – how laughable would that be? What would people think of me? (Actually, I did have to tell my mum at one point because she asked for rent and I had to tell her why I couldn’t pay anything). I felt immense shame as a man living at home with my mum.

As I write this, it feels like a journal to myself, expelling words from my heart onto this computer screen for the first time. Some of the words I’ve articulated here have never been said before, with realisations occurring in real-time.

It felt normal to feel shame and keep the stress of debt to myself. Normal to feel guilt, to suppress emotions and spend money that wasn’t mine. Normal to be so insecure in who I was, who I was a man, to feel unworthy, confused by what I wanted from life and what was expected of me. It was a lonely place to be. My mind consumed me and the thought of speaking to a therapist didn’t resonate at all – my issues weren’t worthy of counselling – “this is what every man goes through right? This is just the way life is, and it’s my duty as a man to get on with it, after all, that’s what it means to be a man, right? To just handle it.”

This is how I embodied masculinity.

The all-time low.

At 31 years old, I hit rock bottom. A flight to Morocco and one Reiki healing later I learnt a deep lesson and realised my purpose. I knew instantly that I needed to help men understand themselves in a world where they’re encouraged to live by the list I referenced earlier, and that it never needs to get to breaking point to seek help. (For those that want to learn more about this part of my journey, please drop me a message or check out some of the podcasts I’ve spoken on via Spotify.)

Paying it forward.

I knew that once I gave men a safe space to speak and open their hearts to reveal their true emotions, their mental health, relationships, thoughts, and their lives would improve; most importantly, they would realise that they are not alone. When I look back and reflect on this moment, I wish I had a network of men to speak with so that I didn’t solely have the narrative in my mind as a soundboard, and to understand that my situation was not unique to me.

BrotherhoodDXB was created. The mission: to get men talking and create a network of conscious, connected men. Conscious of their emotions and connected to themselves and their purpose. I now hold weekly men’s circles, run various self-awareness and development programs and coach men towards understanding themselves better whilst empowering them to own their emotions.

BrotherhoodDXB was created to help the everyday man, the man in a suit, the entrepreneur, the builder, the teacher, the man that doesn’t even think he needs help at all. Truth is, you don’t need to be clinically depressed to feel the pressure that life throws at you, to feel overwhelmed because you don’t know how to manage your stressful job, look after your family, and find time and energy to be the most romantic partner, let alone feel deserving of time to yourself. The pressure of being a “man” can be overwhelming, but only if we go through it alone.

There is an abundance of help for those who can articulate the state of their mental health, but what about the men that don’t speak up, or feel embarrassed to see a therapist? How many of you reading this can really confide in your closest friends or your family? From my experience, I’ve found that men would rather confide in a stranger (or not at all) than their nearest and dearest.

The statistic that is often used is that men are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than women.

I truly believe that one conversation could save a life.

Let’s stop being a statistic.

So here’s my message – get out there and start a conversation and you may just save a life.

With Love,



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