I remember wondering endlessly if I was gay as a young boy.
Why? Because I consistently got the feedback from my male peers that I wasn’t a traditional male.
As my male friends played basketball to impress the girls in our class, I sat on the sidelines and ‘gossiped’ with my female classmates.
While my guy friends played rugby, I was in musicals.
While my guy friends wanted to get off the phone after 90 seconds of problem solving conversation, I would routinely spend hours at a time on the phone with my female friends.
And strangely enough, through all of my teen years through to mid-20’s being a sensitive and seemingly feminine guy, I had always had a girlfriend. It was cognitive dissonance of the highest degree. I thought to myself “I’m so NOT a manly man. How can girls still be interested in me romantically?”
While I have always been more sensitive and intuitive than most of my friends, it took me almost two decades to realize that being sensitive had nothing to do with femininity. And if it does by some people’s definitions of the word feminine for them, then hey, great… I’ll accept that too.
So what if, as a man, you decided on your own personal ideals of masculinity and you lived your life according to your values and not some regurgitated bullshit that you read off of a Buzzfeed article?
How To Be A REAL Man (In 3 Easy Steps)
To opt out of the societally constructed version of masculinity and choose for yourself, it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Here are three simple steps that will help you become a real man (at least in the eyes of the person whose opinion matters most… yours!).
1. Decide On Your Values
Our values are our core beliefs and standards about what we expect and will tolerate in our lives.
What does this mean? Here are a few examples of my personal values in action.
A woman wants to start dating me but then I find out she’s a smoker. For me, cigarettes are a huge turnoff so I politely decline. My underlying value states that I will only spend my time with people who want the best for themselves and treat their bodies with respect.
A few months into starting this website, I had a few offers from people in the relationship industry who wanted to partner up with me on some video courses that would have made me exceptionally wealthy very quickly. The people making the offers had a track record of massive success, but they also had a history of shady ethics. I would have been making six figures within a few months of launching a product with these individuals, but I would have been selling my soul to the highest bidder. I declined because my underlying values stated that I will only ever put out products that are marketed in ethical ways and that I truly believe help the world.
A few years ago I was getting on a bus in my hometown. I was about to enter when the bus driver told me to board through the rear door instead because someone in a wheelchair needed to get off through the front door and it would take a minute. Now, when you board the buses in my hometown it is either assumed that you have a prepaid bus pass on your person, or you go through the front door and pay when you get on. Having been shooed to the rear door, I had not yet paid. When I got on the bus I realized that it was densely packed and I would have had to push my way through 30 or so bus riders in order to get to the front to pay my fare. So at the next step I got off the bus, ran to the front (we have long buses that don’t stop for very long), and reboarded in order to pay for my trip. Could I have taken the bus without paying? Absolutely. It would have been easy. But my underlying value system stated that every dollar I spend is a vote that I cast in the world… and I enjoy supporting products and services that I feel benefit the world.
So where do you set boundaries in your life where you decide what is or isn’t acceptable? How do you behave when no one is around to judge your actions? What things do you do that make you proud of who you choose to show up as in the world?
Decide on your personal values, adhere to them regardless of external incentives, and you will be a much better and happier person for it.
2. Do What You Want To Do
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be” – Abraham Maslow
Mmmmm… one of my favourite quotes of all time from my homie Maslow! The only way to ultimately be at peace with yourself is to do the things that you know you want to (as long as they don’t harm anyone).
If there is a burning desire to accomplish, create, or be something in this world that lives within you, you must adhere to this inner voice.
What does this have to do with being your version of an authentic man? Everything.
I believe that it is our frustrated desires and our under-utilized potential that eats away at us from the inside.
If you have a book, or an album inside of you that gets ignored… or you have a career path or potential romantic partner that you want to go after but you never do… it will eat away at you like acid eroding the under carriage of a car.
Life is short and it’s the “what ifs” that eat away at you the most.
What if I had just gone to that concert despite what my friends’ opinions of that artist was? What if I had approached that woman who I told myself was out of my league? What if I had broken off from the corporate world and started my own thing?
Whatever burning desires live inside of you, pay them the attention they deserve. You must listen to them and act accordingly… otherwise they will end up hurting you.
3. Let Go Of Needing To Justify Your Actions Or Preferences
You don’t need to justify your actions or your way of being in the world to anyone.
I do some pretty weird stuff with my life.
I run an internet based business. I spend a few summer days per week at a nude beach. I often go to BDSM/kink themed parties with my friends. I spend more money on vitamins and supplements than some people think is normal. And I have experienced resistance to all of these things on multiple occasions.
But you know what the great thing is? At the end of the day, I only have to answer to myself and my conscience. When I’m lying in bed at night and I’m navigating the whirring thoughts in my mind as I doze off to sleep, the only question I can ever ask myself is “Did I live today according to my values and beliefs? Was today a day of integrity for me?” And if the answer is a resounding “Yes!” then I feel like I have stayed on my path and used my day wisely.
So why do so many people justify their actions, preferences, or way of being in the world to others? Because they’re still tied to the external validation and need for approval from others.
The need to fit in is universal and hard wired into us. External validation isn’t unhealthy either. The forces of social tension keep us safe in a lot of ways and keep social order in place. But where this tension oversteps its boundaries is when we start living our lives for other people and not primarily for ourselves.
In the process of individuation in human development (separating from our parents) we learn how to shift from being someone who is primarily concerned with pleasing our parental figures, to discovering who we are and how we want to view the world. Personal values are largely formed during this stage as we question everything around us in our lives.
So if you still feel the need to justify or explain yourself to others (even without prompting) then you might want to consider how much importance you place on others opinions of you.
If you need someone to incessantly tell you you’re doing a good job or doing the right thing, maybe you need to tell yourself that more often.
What It Means To Be A Real Man
Individual cultures tell us that there is only one way to be a man. And living in the male box can feel pretty limiting sometimes… if you let it get to you.
But you can also choose to just say “Fuck it. I am what I am. And that has nothing to do with my gender or orientation.”
So what if, as a guy, you need to feel an emotional connection before you can sleep with someone?
So what if, as a guy, you sometimes don’t feel like having sex with your partner?
So what if, as a guy, you get emotional while watching American Idol contestants get closer to their dream by making it through another round?
None of these things makes you any less of a man.
Don’t live life in someone else’s reality. Choose your own path.
And by being you and inhabiting your version of what it means to be a man, you will give others around you permission to do the same. You will be a beacon of hope for others who need a role model who owns their stuff.
Dedicated to your success,