Aren’t men just the worst?
About once a week, I here my co-workers say something along the lines of “Men are the worst.” Feeling the awkwardness in the room as the only full-time male staff member, I tend to reply with a simple “I agree.” Now tell us how you really feel, Rhys…you might be saying. And well, it’s true. This is how I really feel. Most of the men in my life have massively let me down, and the majority of my scars in life come from the insufficient care of men with far more fragility than they’ve ever been willing to admit. The vast majority of opportunities I had to establish positive male role models in my life involved heavy handholding from my own father, who couldn’t allow me to participate in anything without being front and centre as a part of it himself. I love supposedly feminine things like fashion, cooking and dance, and I hate supposedly masculine things like fighting, violence, and the culture around sports like American football and hockey where “manliness” is projected by how hard you can hit or how long you can play through a concussion. I prefer to interact with and befriend females, out of the exact same reasons why I often hear the women in my life proclaim “men are the worst.” This is all to say that those bro-ey type of guys…the “Chads and Brads” as my co-workers would call them, just aren’t for me. And yet, I’m completely masculine.
THE MASCULINITY MISCONCEPTION
One of the greatest problems that I see with our current conceptions of masculinity, is that it excludes the vast majority of men, and focuses solely on a select few bad Adams apples who have given all men a bad reputation. And to be honest, that is totally fair. It’s difficult to argue with a “men are the worst” comment when throughout time, men have done some pretty horrible things. But there’s dialogue that exists in feminine circles and beyond where it seems as though all men have been lumped together as one big evil machine. This is contributing to a few problems for the shall we say “nice guys”, who are only becoming increasingly fearful to lead, dominate and initiate. As fear strikes the quivering boots of these nice guys, the actual idiots who desperately need changing, continue to live blissfully unaware that they are a problem.
Men don’t know where to start when it comes to getting in touch with their “masculine” side, because the misconceptions around masculinity have caused them to believe that being masculine doesn’t fit who they really are. Most men think they don’t fit the “masculine” mold, which suggests to me that we need to redefine what masculinity truly is, and help men understand how they can get in touch with their masculine side, without ever being afraid of stepping over a line and engaging in the toxic behaviours that they would already never engage in. So, after the longest introduction in the history of introductions, here is how to be a true masculine man, without being toxic.
LEADING AND INITIATING
When it comes to dating, social situations, work life, and really any context, you as a masculine man should be confident leading, initiating and dominating. This doesn’t mean that women can’t lead, initiate and dominate things like conversation and dates. Instead, it means that you as a man should be prepared to do these things too, and know when to step forward and when to step back.
Over the past few months, I’ve had conversations with several men about how they are fearful to lead, dominate and initiate…and not only in a dating context. I’ve had women tell me the exact same thing. Even just today, a friend told me a story about the time she travelled to Miami with her best friend, looking fly, looking good, expecting guys to approach, and not a single one did. She said to me that most men aren’t willing to lead and initiate, and that dating is becoming increasingly tougher because it’s rare to find someone who actually wants to take control of the situation. I’ve seen this first hand with male friends in my life. In fact…I was the exact same way.
When it comes to dating specifically, it’s biological and rooted in tradition of thousands of years for the man to lead the courtship dance…much to the chagrin of the man reading this right now. There are not only unfortunate gender roles but laws of attraction that we simply cannot escape from. We could escape from this and just sit back and wait for things to happen, but in doing so, we’d sacrifice our level of attractiveness and our ability to actually get anywhere in the world. So the first step to being a confident, leading man, is to first become confident and comfortable with yourself and your abilities. That’s easier said than done, but it’s a step that cannot be skipped. You can’t go from Wonder Women to Superman over night. That just wouldn’t make sense. But once you’ve gone from Wonder Woman to Superman over the span of several nights, go ahead and fly. Start leading and initiating in all aspects of your life, and you will become a man that others want to be around.
Another really important step when it comes to leading and initiating goes along with what many men are afraid of: offending others and saying something wrong. And while I don’t care if I’ve offended you in writing that, don’t get me wrong. Don’t be a prick. But remember who I’m speaking to here. You – the man who is so cautious and careful with your words that you are rarely ever going to actually offend someone or make a derogatory comment that would get you into trouble. So with that, don’t be afraid of confrontation. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts and perspectives, don’t even be afraid to offend someone. Go about it in a way where you’re not being homophobic, racist, ageist, sexist, abusive, etc. That’s toxic, not masculine. But at the same time, you don’t have to shy away from making your voice heard. Establish yourself in any context by being a leader, being a vocal presence and by trying to make an impact on the environment around you.
Then when you realize how awesome you are, Superman, and start to positively impact the lives of others through your positive persona and intentionality in your conversations, don’t go flaunting it about. Don’t brag about your exploits or seek the validation from others to tell you that you’re awesome. Awesome people don’t need to prove to anyone else that they are awesome. They just naturally are awesome. And those are the men that are often most in touch with their masculinity…because they know how to exude their confidence, without overdoing it.
LISTENING & HEARING OTHER PERSPECTIVES
In addition to leading and initiating, masculine men need to understand when to take a step back, and hear out other peoples’ perspectives. Men tend to be very action and goal-focused, and are often wrapped up in what they’re going to say next, neglecting the actual words being said. LIKE YOU RIGHT NOW, probably thinking about something else, as you’re reading my words. Stop thinking, and start listening. Take a step back and actually listen to what is being said, how it’s being said, and what the deeper, underlining meanings behind what is being said represent.
When having conversations with people, make eye contact, nod your head and show that you are listening through your body language (i.e. leaning forward, shoulder relaxed, hands calm). Don’t interject, don’t think about yourself or what you’re having for dinner…listen. Listen to what is being communicated, and the message that the other person is trying to convey. And if you can’t comprehend that from the conversation itself, ask questions, or even paraphrase what’s been said to you in a new way. Paraphrasing for clarification will allow the person talking to you to tell you even more details about the topic, without you needing a hot and ready question to keep the conversation going.
To establish an even greater connection, you can mirror the body language and tonality of the person talking to you. So if they’re sounding really excited talking to you, it’s best if you use the same enthusiastic tonality…even if this sounds feminine to you. If someone is excited to talk to you, you should already be naturally excited anyway, so really, you’re just being authentic.
Then when it comes to being a masculine, master listening and empathy skills, and hear out other people’s perspectives without constantly feeling like you need to interject your own. It’s fine to disagree and stand up for yourself (see the first section), but you shouldn’t be going about it in a way that puts other people down and makes them feel of lower value to you. A real man pumps others up, not bring them down. In order to pump other people up, you need to listen to them, and understand what makes them tick.
If you’re really willing to take your masculinity to the next level, start by listening to your friends, peers, co-workers and family members after asking them one simple question – “Do I engage in any behaviours that could be considered toxic?”
GET IN TOUCH WITH YOUR FEMININE SIDE
This may sound counter-intuitive, but one of the most common characteristics of masculine, manly men, is that they are all in touch with their feminine side. Let’s quickly start off with a brief discussion about fashion and grooming.
When it comes to fashion and grooming, some men think of it as being “girly” or “feminine” to look good and dress well. This is not the case. Being sloppy in your appearance says to the world that you are willing to be sloppy in other areas of your life. It’s just not a good look…literally and figuratively. Ask anyone with any degree of femininity who they find masculine and attractive, and they will probably give you some myriad of men who dress well, are well groomed and who look after their bodies. This doesn’t mean that you need a beard to be masculine (or that you have to be 6’4 with muscles). But there’s nothing particularly masculine (or attractive) about someone who doesn’t maintain their physical appearance. So as a masculine man, you need to start prioritizing your physical appearance and make an effort with clothing, skin care, facial hair, and hairstyle. Don’t get lazy in thinking that being good in one area means you don’t need to try in other areas. I thought I was a good dresser in high school, but a lot of the time I didn’t even wear belts. I also wore socks that had holes in them. My complacency in thinking I was a good dresser caused me to overlook some of the most important parts toward actually being a good dresser. Silly high school me.
So, we now know that masculine men understand how to dress and groom themselves well (which shouldn’t be typed as feminine but here we are); but what else? Well, a lot else. Masculine men…
- Know how to be friends with women without seeing them as sexual objects or mountains that need to be climbed.
- Know how to communicate in a way that is inviting and inclusive to all, without saying things like “no homo”, “that’s so gay” or any other derogatory remarks.
- Don’t blame their faults or shortcomings on “being a guy”. But actually take ownership in their failures, and actively make efforts to work through them.
- Don’t play into strereotypes of what a man should be, and aren’t afraid to engage in stereotypically “girly” activities.
- Are emotionally available, and intentional in sharing their thoughts, emotions and vulnerabilities to the world.
Out of all of these, I have to unpack the last one on the list in particular. Suppressing how you’re feeling will only lead to more trouble, more pain, and continuous cycles of problematic patterns. Getting help when needed is far more beneficial than you suffering on your own. So recognize trauma from your childhood that could be causing you to have emotional or behavioural concerns into adulthood, and work with a therapist, psychologist or life coach to address those concerns. One of the greatest signs of a tough man, is someone who knows when to seek help, versus when to truly tough something out and do it on their own when the circumstances are right. How do you know when the circumstances are right? Well, usually at that point you’ve been given guidance and help from knowledgeable others. Seeking is help is not a sign of weakness, but strength. The same goes for vulnerability. Not only is vulnerability actually more attractive than you realize, it establishes a greater connection with others, and allows you to showcase a true, authentic version of yourself. So as a masculine man, don’t be afraid to get in touch with your emotions in a totally “feminine” way. Embrace both the feminine and masculine in you, and you’ll easily be able to jump from Wonder Woman to Superman in no time.
Being a masculine man is all about being confident in your masculinity, without being overbearing or unwilling to get in touch with your “feminine” side. It’s about knowing when to lead and initiate versus when to take a step back and listen. Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s about working hard to go about things in the right way through being intentional with your words, messages and actions. Masculine men don’t need to be strong, 6’4 alphas with beards, but they need to self reflect everyday as to how their behaviours could be problematic and how they can do better to be the best version of themselves.
So there it is! How to actually be masculine, without being toxic. Be sure to check out more articles on your quest to become the very best version of yourself, and follow on social media via the links below! Thanks for reading and see you soon.
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