Being A Real Man Isn’t Easy – Men are so confused. Men want to be women; women want to be men. Gender fluidity is a thing. Men have more challenges today than ever before. Stereotypes and archetypes are changing. Does anyone really know what it means to be a man anymore? I am pretty sure my parents (the greatest generation) had no confusion about what a man was.
Coming through the Second World War, society had an engrained sense of masculinity which included aggression, competition, stoicism, toughness, and independence. The culture at that time defined masculinity by global violence and conflict, which were truly horrifying. Men were expected to kill or be killed, disregard pain and suffering, and win at all costs.
This concept continued through the Korean conflict until the 1960s, when a cultural revolution occurred.
Even though the hippy movement took over fashion and the arts, most men were expected to be providers, chase careers, and climb the corporate ladder while being law-abiding, law-abiding family men. Society still viewed issues in black and white. Success was largely measured by the paycheck. The baby boomers were the last generation of men who knew exactly where they belonged in society and felt that they were needed to fill that role.
After the 1960’s women became more and more important in society, breaking rigid gender roles as well as glass ceilings. The focus on equality and fairness left the romantic vision of masculinity behind. “Masculinity” has become a lost art.
Today men are struggling with their identity and their place in society. Activists accuse men of creating all of society’s woes and focus blame on the male gender for even the most remote problems society faces. No wonder men are shut down, confused, lost, and abandoned. Men need clarity in what is expected of them and how to measure themselves in such a gender-fluid society.
The true characteristics of a successful man today don’t have anything to do with “masculinity.” The same characteristics that make a successful “male” makes a successful “female”. Biological differences aside, it is more important to be a successful “human”. Here are three traits that men should aspire to evolve.
All humans are hard-wired for connection, communication, and compassion. Many men have trouble with these concepts primarily because they are taught as children to suppress negative emotions like guilt, shame, and fear. They must learn to open up and be vulnerable to be available to others. One of our basic human needs is validation. It is fundamental to our need for connection. Ironically, our fear of rejection and humiliation causes us to avoid opening up to people and asking for what we need. Our avoidance prevents connection, and we suffer. If we can admit our needs, we can get them fulfilled and create community at the same time. It takes courage to open up to others and ask for help, and to do that transcends gender.
Having integrity is difficult for men today, primarily because of the rapidly changing values and beliefs we encounter every day. The traditional definition of “integrity” is “honest with strong moral character.” Old morals of men as family providers and heads of the household are no longer relevant. I believe men need a new definition of integrity. I propose that integrity now means “being true to yourself and others with compassion, responsibility, and kindness.”
Men no longer need to live up to some ideals of others; we must live up to our own potential and take responsibility for our words, thoughts, and behavior. It is critical that men stop pretending to be “fine” when they are suffering. Society doesn’t want to hear men complain; it wants them to take charge and lead. The problem is that we lie about how we feel to seem masculine. It isn’t helping. By being true to yourself, you are honest about yourself. We deserve help.
3. Unlock the prison door:
Men (and women) imprison themselves in the past. Regret, guilt, blame, and shame can emasculate even the strongest man (or woman). Coupled with a fear of the future, we cannot live in the present. We obsess over the past and project that negativity into the future. For people to know who they are, they must let go of who they think they were and quit assuming who they will be in the future. There are only three ways to let go of the past and concentrate on the present.
The first is forgiveness, the second is to be grateful, and the third is to forget. Amnesia is the easiest, but we are prone to making the mistake again. We don’t have to forgive others; we must forgive ourselves. It is all about us. If men would focus on forgiving themselves, they can be released from their self-imposed prison. Alternatively, if we can feel gratitude, we free ourselves from guilt and shame and shift from negativity to positivity. Men must become more positive.
Using these three traits daily will help men to discover who they truly are. Shattering the illusion of who society wants men to be is just the first step to becoming the man we are born to be. Focusing on who we truly are will unlock the true power within.
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