Being a guy is kind of hard, especially in today’s climate. The heinous choices my gender has made, and continues to make, are put on full display for the entire world to see. From Bill Cosby to Kevin Spacey to Jeffrey Epstein, these men have brought a negative stigma onto men everywhere. “Are men trustworthy?” is a question I’ve heard a lot as of late, particularly from women. It makes sense. Add the societal expectation to remain strong at all times, and you have a recipe for disaster. “How does one go about being a quality guy?” is a frequent topic of conversation amongst my peers and mentors alike, men who understand the current narrative surrounding our gender, and who want to positively change it. How do we show future significant others, current significant others, and the entire world that we aren’t all bad?
It starts with each of us, ourselves: Focus on improving yourself, becoming the best man you can be, and watch what it does for your life. So, with no future ado, I’d like to share five truths my guy friends need to know about masculinity, things that will undoubtedly make their lives as men generally better. Apply these principles to your life and you’ll be on your way to differentiating yourself from any negative status quo.
1) Your ego will get in the way of your ability to succeed.
We all want to be the best, but not all of us have placed ourselves in a position to be the best. More importantly, no one is good at everything. And yet, I see so many of my male counterparts trying to “one up” each other in meaningless ways. For instance, I had a friend who struggled to make layups whenever we played basketball, yet he went out of his way to attack the best defender on the opposing pickup team. We were supposed to be allies in a unified front against our opponents but ended up having to quell a disagreement amongst teammates for no reason other than ego. The worst part about it? His girlfriend was present and was far from happy with his overall performance, one that was more focused on being the most prolific scorer and less on doing the things he knew how to well. Their relationship never recovered from that setback. Ego, from my vantage point, stands for “edging good out.” Learn to control it before it inevitably ruins the good in your life.
2) You don’t have to be the best at everything, just your best self.
This ties into the first point but isn’t the same thing. There’s a profound difference between being the best at everything and being your best self. One is achievable while the other is unrealistic. Personally, I believe many males struggle with this, thinking the two are the same. Because of this flawed belief, they act as if ego is a good thing when it’s not. Wanting to be the best at everything stems from a desire to be able to compete and put your best foot forward. There’s nothing wrong with that. Things become problematic when ego starts to rear its ugly head, encouraging men to act in ways that are detrimental to the well-being of others in an effort look better than everyone else. Tearing others down to build yourself up isn’t productive or healthy. So, what’s the alternative? Being your best self! It allows you to drown out the voices that, like most males, cause you to feel threatened by those around you, voices that are a direct result of the unrealistic expectations of our egos. More importantly, it keeps your conscience clear. It’s hard to feel threatened by anyone or anything when you know you’re putting your best foot forward day in and day out.
3) It’s okay to be in touch with your feminine side.
While many males will deny it, we all have one. It’s the part of you that is more emotional than logical. The side that gets excited about going to your favorite places, bonding with loved ones, or doing something substantial for that special someone in your life. The side that enjoys cuddling under a warm blanket in the Wintertime with your significant other. It’s the side that feels things deeply, especially things you wish you didn’t feel. The side that yearns to connect with others in meaningful and profound ways. Without emotions, we would be heartless robotic entities wandering around daily, searching for purpose or meaning. And yet, all too often, males only exhibit emotions that appear masculine in nature – like anger. There are no emotions exclusive to the male or female species; we all experience the same feelings, even if in a myriad of ways. So, the next time you feel compelled to only exhibit emotions deemed manly, ask yourself where that belief comes from. Is it truly yours, or is it reflective of the society you live in?
4) Vulnerability is key to emotional and mental health.
This is irrespective of whether or not the relationship is intimate or romantic in nature. If someone matters to you, then you should learn to be vulnerable with them. Vulnerability ushers in levels of mental and emotional release that are impossible without transparency. You’d be surprised at how good it feels to get major burdens off of your chest by sharing them with someone you love and trust. All too often, however, I see men try to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, believing this to be macho. There’s nothing masculine about breaking down, which is likely to happen without vulnerability. No one can carry the weight of the world forever. Being vulnerable is essentially trusting that the person you’re opening up to is willing to lighten your load. If that person truly cares for you, they’ll want to do that very thing. The more you’re able to express emotionally, the better you’ll fill, and the more room you’ll have to fill yourself up with positive emotions like trust, openness/vulnerability, and so much more. It’s made a difference in my own emotional and mental health; I’m willing to venture it can do the same for you.
5) There is no “one-size-fits-all” definition for masculinity.
No two men are the same and yet every day, I find myself surrounded by males who believe they have to subscribe to a certain brand of masculinity to be seen as a man. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Not every male is brusque or virile; some of us are more mild-mannered, shy, or effeminate if you will. None of that should take away from your masculinity. Those are merely differences in innate characteristics. If diversity is truly as important as society says it is, then diversity amongst the varying types of men should be on that list. Pretending to be something you’re not takes away from your ability to be seen as the man you truly are, not the man you think you need to be. Men come in all different shapes, sizes, hues, with varying personalities. There’s a beautiful tapestry that represents the variety of takes on masculinity and what it looks like. Trying to be someone you aren’t, in an effort to please those around you, takes away from what makes you and the collective male tapestry unique.
Being a man in today’s world is challenging without a doubt, but it becomes less challenging the more you put these five principles into practice. I’ve shared this wisdom with my male counterparts that are willing to listen, and it’s made a positive difference in their lives. It’s my hope that they can do the same for you.
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