What does it mean to be a man?
What defines being a man?
No matter who you ask you’ll get a different answer. How do you know when you’ve gotten there?
I didn’t start asking myself these questions until after I got married and had my first kid. I never really worried about it.
For the vast majority of my life I lived outside masculine norms, and yet I never considered myself un-masculine.
Despite my disinterest in social masculine norms these questions plagued my late 20’s. I wasn’t sure if I had crossed the threshold from boyhood to manhood.
Masculinity is like adulting. I was physically old enough to do it, and for all intents and purposes I was doing it. But I didn’t feel like I was there.
I often heard my dad say,
“When I grow up, I’m going to be a…”
Then he’d fill in the blank with whatever he was interested in at that moment. He’d say this even after he’d gotten a masters degree, and had a solid career. The last time I remember him saying it was when I was 17.
Obviously there is a disconnect with between growing up and feeling like an adult. Perhaps even more with growing up and feeling like a man.
Are you ready for a seemingly sexist comment?
Men are under a lot of pressure. Men in the church, even more so.
To name a few. Those don’t come with light mantles. No matter how you slice it that’s a lot of weight to carry. The more kids you add, the more it weighs.
The further we progress socially the more that society lashes out against masculinity. It can be a hard line to walk.
At some point we need to personally get to the point where we’re okay with who we are. Getting to that point is not easy.
Masculinity is defined by society. What it means to be a man in Cambodia is not the same as what it means to be a man in Russia.
To go deeper, what it means to be a man in Utah isn’t the same for what it means to be a man in New Jersey.
What it means to be a man inside the church isn’t the same as what it means to be a man outside of the church.
There’s controversy in standards as well. What it means to be a man from men is very different from what it means to be man from women.
Jack Donavan says that there are 4 social traits that make up masculinity. What those 4 traits consist of is defined by your social circles.
I love this list. It’s an inclusive and comprehensive list without being overly macho. They are the makings of great men.
Unfortunately social standards for masculinity are unwritten and assumed, making it incredibly difficult to nail down exactly what it means to be a man. This is where your social awareness is going to come in.
Remember in middle school when everyone looked at you weird after something you said. That image burned itself into your memory to never say that again? It’s a similar process.
You need to experiment with each of the four, see what fits and what doesn’t. When you get uncomfortable you know you’re on the right path.
Anything that is going to make you better should feel uncomfortable. It’s pushing you outside your comfort zone and making you well rounded. The real hard part is dropping your cognitive biases.
I’ll give you an example.
I didn’t start lifting, or really exercising, until 2 years ago. The gym can be incredibly intimidating.
I was uncomfortable for a long while. I was ignorant to gym culture, and etiquette. Not to mention I had no idea how to lift, how to use proper form or any of the machines.
I was lucky enough to have a workout partner. Someone to show me the ropes, both socially and physically. After a year I am starting to integrate and feel a part it. No where near mastery, but gained some courage for sure.
The real question is, are you meeting the standard?
Do you agree with these standards? If not what standards do you live by?