Do Men Cling To Their Mask of Masculinity?
I used to regard the life I was leading as a lie. My fear was that people would see me as weak, indecisive and scared. I wonder whether this is typical for men? I wonder what lies inside their masculinity?
According to Tony Robbins we all have a Primary Question. It’s a question we ask ourselves everyday of our lives, one that controls our focus and the direction of our lives. For many years my Primary Question was, “What if I’m found out?” I regarded the life I was leading as a lie, a mask, an attempt to bolster my male power. My fear was being found out by someone, by anyone. My fear was that people would see the real me, the weak, indecisive and scared me.
My Front of Determination
To avoid being discovered I put on a front of strength and determination. I hid behind a view I had of masculinity, of male power, a view that I thought protected me.
As I developed my view of myself and moved beyond this phase, as I started asking myself better questions, I found that I was left with a borrowed view of masculinity. I realized I was lost, as a man. My view of myself was based on an idea of being a man that I thought was attractive to women. I realized this was false when I discovered that the women I knew saw through this mask.
It was only when I looked closely at myself, when I discarded what I thought a man should be, that I started living as the man I am. It was then that my outward presence shifted, it was then I became just me, a masculine man not a not pale shadow of a male stereotype.
The context within which I now see myself as a man is one of honesty and authenticity. Its not that they are necessarily masculine characteristics, but they do reveal a man in his true essence. My mask is swept away and what I now see as masculinity appears free and clear. Women see this and respond to the clarity. The nature of the masculinity revealed is personal to me. There is no one model, there are many forms of masculinity, all equally valid.
Looking from the other side of the shift I wonder where the mask came from and why it was so deeply entrenched. It contributed to the failure of a 30 year marriage and to the bankruptcy of two companies.
Our Core Essence
I am British, white, and from a normal middle class background. My family were not well off but we did not want for anything. I had a good education and nothing abnormal happened in my life. This is the kind of background that produces many normal men, men who grow up behind masks, feigning masculinity.
I believe that there is a core essence we are born with, an essence of sexuality, gender and personality. This essence creates us as straight or gay, masculine or feminine, extrovert or introvert, etc. This is not the whole truth but it does influence how we react to life, how we make decisions about ourselves.
This core is overlaid in the early years, up to about age seven, with the experiences that most powerfully influence our development. This period can re-inforce or suppress our essence. The influence and effect, or lack of it, of our parents is primary and it is backed up by friends, teachers and many others.
It is in this period that I believe the idea of a mask is born. This when we decide whether we are worthy, whether people like us. It affects our sense of self. Our sexuality and our view of gender can be affected as can be seen in the dramatic effect that sexual abuse can have. It often corrupts the victim.
Beyond these years we continue to grow in a cultural milieu that influences us. As men, if we have decided that by the age of seven that we are not worthy, we will often seek refuge in stereotypical ideas of masculinity to hide what we really are.
William Pollack said in his book "Real Boys' Voices",
When boys speak about 'being themselves'. Many describe a double life in which they are one person in public — a cool guy who plays fast and lives by the rules of the Boy Code — and somebody completely different in his private life, often a much more creative, gentle, caring sort of guy. Others say they can 'be themselves' only after they go home, go to their own rooms, and shut out the outside world. What just about every boy says he knows all too well is what I call the mask of masculinity, a stance of male bravado and stoicism boys learn to use to cover over their inner feelings of sadness, loneliness, and vulnerability, to act cool, and to protect themselves from being shamed by their peers.
This can happen to all of us but why is this particularly an issue for men.
Transition to Manhood
Men are normally raised by mothers not fathers, although this is slowly changing. During the formative years, up to age seven, boys tend to be more influenced by women. This is still so today with the large number of absent fathers, for whatever reason. A boy accepts this female role model until the time of separation comes. This is the time when boys are about to become men, puberty is approaching and society dictates that they need male role models in order to develop their sense of masculinity. In tribal societies this was dealt with by ritual and initiation, recruiting the boy into the dominant male group.
The transition to manhood can fail to work for many reasons. It can be forced and happen before the boy is ready for it, the father may fail to provide guidance or it could be unnecessary and harmful to the boy. In many urban contexts this transition happens on the streets with gangs taking over the role of parents. The story of Oedipus is a myth about this period of transition.
This passage can result in confusion for the boy/man, depriving him of connection to his mother and not replacing it, causing him to fall back on the stereotypes he is fed by the media and by friends. This slowly becomes a mask, a masculine stereotype.
In my case I lacked the guidance from anyone to make this shift and, as I retreated from both my parents, I found it difficult to know who I was or how I should behave.
Much of the blame I put on the view of men I had from the media. All men face these issues and the resolution is to help boys and men face the shifts they go through and understand that they can make their own decisions and frame their own masculinity.
Beyond the Mask
I now live way beyond the mask I wore when I was younger. I see myself clearly and understand the issues I faced through my life. I have successfully dealt with the issues and feel happy and relaxed as a man. I no longer worry about being found out, I happily let people see my true essence, see me as I truly am.
Many men have not had the advantage of gaining the understanding and experience to take their life beyond their troubles. I now work as a Men's Coach, helping men to move forward and come to terms with what they have been avoiding.
Is your life relaxed and peaceful? Have you come to a clear understanding of who you are as a man? Have you dealt with the issues you had when making your transition from boy to man? Let me know in the comments what your view of masculinity and how you balance it in your life.
Life is all about making a choice regardless what is thrown at you. Overcoming these so call obstacles that will assist you in becoming a better person. Go against the grain and do not just grow into that idol that society wants you to be. Fighting to keep your own image and standing fast for what you believe in is the only thing that counts.
Your Masculine Features—They Drive You
For men it is important that they get in touch with the maleness they were born with, their masculine features. The sense of being a man that was imprinted in their brain in the womb.
Many men struggle because they believe the lie that it is all a social construct. They believe the story that is told that we are all the same. They believe that we are all masculine and feminine inside. They believe that, in their core, there is no difference. They believe there is no such thing as inherent masculine features.
I am not arguing the biological or genetic pros and cons, that's for another day, I am speaking from my experience.
Socialisation has an enormous influence on what we become, it is responsible for much of the crisis of masculinity I see today. Socialisation is what affects men and what stops them being men.
Men have a bad reputation. They are dominating, cruel, selfish, lacking in feeling, sexual predators, child molesters and brainless idiots. The problem is that much of this is true. Many men are some, or all, of these.
Women have been fighting back against men for several generations. They have been fighting against domination by men. They are having some success in this, women are being increasingly accepted as equals in the workplace and elsewhere. They still have a long way to go and their success will only come as men, more generally, see the necessity for it.
Unfortunately many men believe that equality for women will only come through their rejection of dominance and all that is associated with it. That means they reject any sign of strength in themselves, they reject their masculine features. This is wrong. This does not help women.
To see women as equals, men do not need to buy in to the idea that they need to be weak. On the contrary they need to find their internal strength so they can welcome female strength. They do not need to 'find their feminine' in order to let go of domination of women. They do not need to give up their masculinity.
To put my view clearly:
Men have Masculinity in their core and Women have Femininity in their core.
The polarity of this is what relationships thrive on.
This does not mean that men can not embrace feminine qualities and that women can not embrace masculine qualities.
Women's equality in the workplace comes on the back of embracing qualities such as focus. This does not make women masculine, it provides the qualities that create success at work.
Equally men's success as fathers today comes by accepting the feminine quality of nurturing. It does not make the man feminine, it rounds out his masculinity.
Men need to find their inner power and strength, and lose their dominance. Men need to find their focus and presence, and lose their emotional repression. Men need to become men, men that appreciate and understand women. Men need to get in touch with their masculine features.
Men, you can accept your core masculinity, you can embrace it.
I Believe in Masculine Men—I Believe in Our Essence
I believe that all men are born with an in-built masculine essence, we are all masculine men. The basic energy that drives us from deep inside. It is the energy that determines the way we feel. I believe in men with male energy.
During our life we adapt in response to events and life challenges. We do this to survive as human beings. Regardless of the nature of these events and challenges, the intensity with which we experience them shapes during our lifetime. This adaptation is a result of a basic fear that is rooted deep inside each and every one of us, namely that we are not good enough as we are, and therefore the people that matter most to us in life won't love us. We do not understand masculine men.
Growing into Masculine Men
This fear is such a strong motivator, that we force ourselves to adapt into whatever we feel will retain that love, in order to prove to our source of love that we are worthy. It works for us in the moment, so we stick to the strategy!
It is through this adaptation that we put our authentic selves to sleep. Part of this is the masculine energy inside us. We shift away from the connection to our inner core, and leave it behind as we perceive it as too dangerous and in many cases too painful to remember.
As we grow into adulthood, this adapted masculinity becomes more confused about the role it plays in a our life. There are several reasons for this.
First of all our fathers, mothers, teachers, peers and the media are very happy to present us with role models of masculinity men and, using symbols and archetypes, construct images based on socially accepted rules as anchors for us to grab onto. We unconsciously embrace these ideals and adapt to them.
Secondly, following the growth of the strength of women men were invited to join in household life, and women took on jobs in the workforce. This led to a reversal of roles, and more equality in the relationship. This is often referred to as 'new' or 'integrated' masculinity perhaps 'confused, is more appropriate.
People believed this newfound equality in relationships was the solution to many problems, in their personal life as well as in their relationships. But looking around in today´s western society, it is clear to me that something else is needed. Most people are still not feeling fulfilled. The question is why not? What else do we need?
The answer is that we need to re-awaken those parts of ourselves that are dormant within us and find our own 'Personal Masculinity'. We need to find our own route to our deep masculine. We need to discover the masculine traits in men.
Having grown through our personal life experiences to a stage of sharing and equality, men are now ready to clear up the confusion by adding their true core to the mix. This means moving away from society's and parent's role models and discovering who we really are at our core. One of the major elements in this is the re-awakening of our own male characteristics.
In re-awakening the dormant parts of ourselves we will become whole, as we become whole we won't need people or material goods around us to fill the void inside us anymore. We will be complete and from that completeness we will act and behave differently, as we connect from a place of feeling at ease within ourselves.
From this place of completeness, we will create a new type of relationship with the people around us, as we no longer feel dependent. In an intimate relationship, where a clearly defined masculine essence is present, a strong polarity is created. A polarity that can be missing in a relationship based on equality.
Here I deliberately move away from the overused 'masculine' and seek to define what I see as re-awakened or personal masculine men, . It is my belief that we need to look at individuals as a whole, and define personal masculine energy with the help of certain traits. These traits are a mixture of masculine and feminine characteristics, a mixture that we are all composed of.
Masculine and Feminine Characteristics
To determine the specific combination of masculine and feminine energy for individuals, I have looked at a range of characteristics of the masculine and the feminine nature. I have chosen six characteristics we believe are the most basic to the core masculine and feminine energy.
The six basic characteristics of masculine energy are: Presence, Stamina, Grounding, Power, Focus, Encompassing. By comparison the six basic characteristics of feminine energy are: Freedom, Chaos, Surrender, Nurturing, Spontaneity, Trust. I will look at these characteristics further in future articles before explaining how they are used to describe everyone's personal masculinity.
We often find ourselves in a state of Confused Masculinity. We reject the 'old masculine paradigm'. We reject the old macho images created by society and our peers. But we become lost as to what to replace it with. Yes, we become open, authentic, honest, but we can stray into a confused state where any sense of masculinity is lost.
We need to look to out our personal masculinity, find its strength and fully live it to regain any sense of ourselves, to fully become Masculine Men.