Society puts a lot of pressure on us, and those expectations are even harder to meet when we have to deal with double standards on top of the whole mess. One of these double standards is whether you are "tough" or "sensitive." Whether you are the “tough” type or choose to be more “sensitive” in your approach to life, both are criticized. This is a particularly nasty double standard since it gets applied to people of all genders.

Gotta be tough

First, let's look at what it means to be "tough." Whether it’s disassembling a car while blindfolded, the well-worn image of a heavily bearded lumberjack wrestling a bear, or my personal favorite, Mel Gibson wielding the American flag as a spear at the end of The Patriot, we all have a pretty clear idea of society’s ideal of “toughness.” But these ideas about "toughness" are totally divorced from reality, with their own set of negative implications.

It is assumed that if a person happens to have a high tolerance to pain, or other supposedly "masculine" qualities, that they should be, or even are, devoid of emotion. This is especially true for men who often put off medical treatment, or otherwise, downplay injuries and illnesses that need attention. This nasty double standard also applies to women, who are criticized in equal measure for being tough, and therefore, "not feminine" or not being tough, but rather sensitive, and being called "needy."

Loosen up a little

On the other end of the spectrum, you have the sensitivity. A lot of people would say it's vulnerability, emotional intelligence, and maybe crying during made-for-TV movies. None of these are bad things by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they can be quite healthy. But because nothing healthy can hold a very high place in society, as sensitivity has become synonymous with "weakness." This, too, is a very unhealthy way of looking at vulnerability as an aspect of a person's personality.

Women receive the brunt of unfair criticism since women are "supposed to be" fragile and in need of saving, but any tolerance for a woman being sensitive goes right out the window as soon as she demonstrates this quality. Men, in particular, are criticized by society for sensitive behaviors, as it supposedly undermines their masculinity — even though many women have said that they prefer more sensitive men.

What does this mean for all of us? Whether you’re biologically a man or a woman, JUST BE YOURSELF! Don't pay any mind to whether people think you're "too tough" or "too sensitive." If you like to wrestle alligators, that's great. If you have an unapologetic love for romantic comedies, that's great. And, if you love both of those things, well that's great too. Life is a beautiful, diverse bouquet, and all of us should be free to enjoy it however we like, regardless of the opinions of close-minded gender bigots.

To finish this off, let's quote the Eleanor Roosevelt: "Do what you feel in your heart to be right — for you'll be criticized anyway."