Men’s mental health and silencing the inner critic

While episode 1 of Third Culture Therapy podcast showed us what female Arab writers can teach us about our mental health, episode 2 delved into the world of men, their feelings and some of the social and cultural limitations they face in talking about them. 

My British-Syrian guest, Omar Lababedi, talked about building businesses, silencing the inner critic and how joining men’s talking circles has been a ‘game-changer’ for balancing his own emotional and mental health. 

I want to share some of my personal takeaways from episode 2 with Omar and what particularly resonated with me. 

Firstly, Omar’s mention of how the inner critic works by highlighting minor shortcomings at the expense of major accomplishments was useful to hear.

In the months before launching this podcast and while producing it, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions ranging from solid conviction and excitement to self-doubt and epic frustration. 

I relate to what Omar said about that inner critic voice zeroing in on the small flaws and magnifying them at the expense of everything else. 

 Listen to the episode here

Someone recently gave me a tip I have found helpful and comforting: write a list of what you have achieved in a day. 

From the teeny tiny to the big, instead of – or at least in addition to – your usual to-do list. 

I’m a big lover of lists and ticking things off them. 

They help manage my over-active mind and any worries I have over my perceived lack of productivity, and they give me a sense of achievement. 

But they can sometimes increase my anxiety or disappointment if not enough gets ticked off, or if the list keeps growing.

Turning things around and having a list of what you’ve done is a good antidote to feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome. 

I know it’s not unique to specific backgrounds, but often I’ve found those who come from immigrant backgrounds have a strong sense of obligation to ‘do really well’ in life – because their parents did. 

This often comes in the face of many obstacles – or because of the sacrifices our parents made – almost as a subconscious (if not conscious) form of compensation. 

We can become pathologically weighed down by this duty to be or do something ‘great’ or ‘super successful’,

Denying us the basic human experience of just being our authentic non-performative selves. 

Secondly, Omar shares his experience with Mankind Project (MKP), which was enlightening and highlighted the strength that sharing and connecting with others has. 

Particularly among men, who typically don’t often find that sort of open vulnerability with one another. 

I really appreciate Omar’s honesty about the cultural expectations he faces around marriage as an Arab man. 

Women are very often at the receiving end of that pressure, or inherent judgement, and I’m fairly certain that I don’t just speak for myself when I say we have grown weary of it. 

Hearing another gender face the same toxic problem offers comfort and sheds light on how it is not just an issue women face.

I would love to hear about your experiences. 

I’m sure many can relate.