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Picture by: Nhlakanipho Nhlapho

In every comic or action movie we watch, men are always the imperishable superheroes, always protecting the feeble and fighting evil. These expectations have been enforced on men since the very beginning of time, demanding and imposing unfair standards on them. From that alone and other imbalanced societal beliefs, anyone can understand how men continue to hold the opinion that they should be superhuman protectors and providers.

When the words ‘self-care’ come up, a lot of men are sincerely at a blank. They don’t know how to define it, let alone what it means to practise it, a clear indication that many men could be at a big risk when it comes to their emotional and mental well-being.

29 African men agreed to give a voice to this conversation by revealing what mastering the critical art of practising self-care meant to them.

  • By cultivating original thoughts that aren’t prompted by deceptive narratives. I spend my time introspecting my life, whether in solitude or in marathon discussions socially. I also read a lot of books, and reflect on topical issues.

– Lead Design Engineer, 34

  • Society has not really nurtured a space for men to express their emotions. We are constantly expected to be these protectors with indestructible strength. Men never really get to prioritise their emotions; the only thing that we mostly focus our attention on, is all our physical needs.

– Radio Personality, 21

  • ‘Indoda Ayikhali’

The only person I can completely trust with looking after me is always ‘me’. And honestly, sometimes I just find it less burdensome to just ignore my own emotional needs. Perhaps one day I’ll finally be comfortable enough to share my struggles and frustrations with someone.

– Forensic Analyst, 24

  • Being aware of the company I keep, the relationships I get myself into, even what I watch on television as well as the type of books I read. I introspect everything and mentally protect myself from any toxic spaces.

– HR Manager, 23

  • When emotional matters arise, I only attempt to find the befitting solutions all on my own. I feel, always doing things this way can be improved on my part. If only I could communicate effectively, then maybe I could be easily understood, and things would work better in my favour.

– Validation Officer, 44

  • I don’t think guys place as much emphasis on their emotional well-being as women do. We need serious help in this department. Mentally however, I think we all just indulge in things that stimulate our minds, be it through what we read, watch, or listen to.

– Trainee Auditor, 27

  • I suppose I don’t consciously prioritise it. But I do try and keep trusted friends. People I can confide in. I write poetry. I listen to music and sermons. I also read specific writings about Christ. I’d also like to travel more often.

– Content and Digital Executive, 32

  • Self-care is an everyday struggle for me. I find comfort in meditation, prayer, and reading the Word of God; that’s always able to bring me a peace that surpasses all understanding. Knowing God has my back, gives me the assurance that my hardships will not devour me.

– Paramedic, 31

  • I do a lot of meditation for my metaphysical health. I believe the body, mind and spirit are universal and connected. An injury to your psyche for instance can cause physical harm to your body. I believe health really starts in the mind.

– Creative Dream Architect, 36

  • I believe that the purpose of my spirituality is my means of securing my emotional and mental well-being. When I find myself destabilised emotionally or psychologically, I call upon myself to resolve my own issues. I believe that it’s a quintessential semblance of maturity, to stand on your own two feet and not to crumble under pressure.

– Attorney, 33

  • I do my own grooming because hand care is a daily necessity in my line of work, however I don’t use a specific brand. I’ve had oily skin since my late teens & it’s always bothered me. My wife recently bought me Nivea face wash, I’ve only used half for the past 4 months!!!

– Acchoucher, 38

  • I intentionally surround myself with men of the great substance. I’m quite ambitious, so whoever doesn’t speak to the same ideals, I eliminate instantly. When a person is able to expand my thinking and experiences, I also reinvest my resources in response.

– Account Manager, 29

  • ‘The only time some men prioritise their emotions is when they’re hiding them.’It’s always been my understanding that the best way to deal with other people, is when I’m most aware of my own mental health or stability. That equips me to cope better with different circumstances.

– Youth Pastor, 37

  • I cannot survive without self-care, it would cause unnecessary emotional and mental dysfunction in my whole entire life. Self-care remains a crucial priority because it helps to discard of immense pettiness in my life that doesn’t require my attention.

– Lecturer, 39

  • I grew up with a misguided mentality about self-care, so it never became something I took seriously. I always told myself, ‘it was just for black kids who wanted to be white.’ But as I’ve matured, I’ve witnessed the importance of practising self-care. It’s helped me to have a better perspective on a lot that’s happened to me and how to best approach most situations. It’s now become one of the most valuable tools for my development.

– Businessman, 30

  • In my view, there really is no such a thing as ‘self-care’ for men. To us everything is translated into anger and rage. Anyway isn’t that how we stay functional? All I aspire for, is to device a mechanism that assists me to apply my mind more.

– Artisan Electrician, 29

  • ‘In order for me to take care of others, I have to start with myself.’I constantly have to find ways of shutting down the noise of the world we live in. I do this by getting closer to nature; mountain hiking, going to the isolated parts of the beach & just listening to the waves. The connection between man and nature is one I take very seriously.

– Poet Playwright & Performing Artist, 33

  • To love myself before I expect others to love me. How could I possibly expect others to take me seriously, if I fail to take my very own self seriously?

– Facilitator, 28

  • I would ideally love to have both a healthy and well-groomed mind and body, but with work and all the other distractions in my life, I can only do so much – and the “much” I’m prepared to do is more for my mind than it is for my body.

– Literary Blogger, 25

  • I’m super old school about this whole thing. I’m still stuck on archaic practices. I don’t practise any self-care at all.

– Assistant Manager, 30

  • I’ll be honest from the onset and confess that the concept of self-care is totally foreign to me. Self-care is always at the very bottom of my priority list. The closest thing to self-care that I practise is prayer. I don’t share my fears easily, my pain is a secret closet I cave in until the circumstances inducing pain and hurt sort themselves out. I’m too scared to be vulnerable. I mean, people look up to me. I’m so used to extending words of encouragement to the discouraged. Always thinking about how or what I can say to the hurting and bereaved.As a man it was drilled into me early on that, I can’t cry, as that automatically translates into weakness, a misinformed indoctrination that instructs that ‘men don’t cry’. These stereotypes are hard to break away from. I can’t let someone into a space that I personally rarely tread upon. I struggle to deal with my emotions head on. I suppress them.I once thought of keeping a journal to record my feelings on a daily basis. The only thing that kept me from doing that was the fear of possibly losing it. Counselling is also the last thing on my mind even when I think I need it.I imagine self-care to involve extreme levels of vulnerability. Opening up is bound to create an emotional attachment. What if that friend one day decides to walk out of my life, carrying my very sensitive emotional baggage with them? Even with friends, I’m always the listener refusing to speak up about my own daily struggles. A handicap that’s ensured that I put emotional self-care in the back burner, hiding behind my superhero mask.

– Administration Clerk, 31

  • ‘By listening to artists that really heal my soul.’I was raised by my mother to do everything wholeheartedly. It’s either I fully commit myself or I don’t even bother. Maintaining a healthy selfishness with my Saturdays and Sundays. I don’t believe much in God, but each person to be their own God. So I work on my God, have him create my world. Praise him. Pray to him. Feed him. Let him lead me.

– Author, 27

  • My soul always feels revived everySundaywhen I go to church, feeling strengthened enough to tackle the week ahead. I surround myself with positive and crazy people in the real world and on social media.I was raised to fend for myself and that it’s the man’s responsibility to provide for his family. Although roles between males and females overlap in our modern society, I still believe a woman is supposed to assist a man with his domestic needs while he provides financially.

– Marketing Officer, 26

  • Self-care, for me, is generally an exercise that ensures that I am able to take care of my family long term. There isn’t a defined schedule or list of things I do for myself but rather taking my mental and physical health more seriously in order to sustain myself.

– Management Consultant, 30

  • After a mental break down a few years ago, I started seeing a social worker who recommended leave from work. Now I only preach twice a week. Self-care for me is prioritising my own health by not compromising myself with always putting others first.

– Full Time Pastor, 57

  • By exposing my mind to things that add value. Stretching my mind by asking hard questions. I prioritise understanding myself, others and the world I live in. I find the Word of God as the best manual in this regard, both for my mental and emotional health.

– Labour Practitioner, 35

  • Men usually don’t have outlets to voice out how they actually feel, so it’s always important to find things that will help with finding their voice and easing off the pressures of life. I love the arts, travelling and a bit of gaming. I’ve made it a habit to internally discern and sustain that I’m always in great shape.

– Art Director, 27

  • By investing my time reading a lot of thought provoking material. Emotionally, I always try to talk because it’s essential to my own sanity. I do these regularly and intentionally.

– Student, 20

  • I have mentors, counsellors, friends and family that I’m accountable to, ensuring that my mental state is always in check. My emotional well-being is usually dependant on my social relationships. I suffer from depression and anxiety a lot, so I’ve come to truly value having the right people around me at the most perfect times. Having someone I trust to talk to is key in sustaining continued happiness.

– Broadcaster, 28

About the writer:

Sinawo Bukani

Sinawo Bukani is a Digital Marketing Recruit at Umuzi Photo Club. She recently quit her corporate job as an Asset Management Associate to invest in her Super Powers as a Lifestyle Blogger, Literary Journalist and Content Marketing Creator.