Bear with me here . . .
Forget about Donald Trump for a moment.
Imagine you meet a man one day. You slowly get to know him. His character becomes more and more obvious to you, both from what you see of him and feedback from others.
It becomes apparent that this man is not a nice person. He publicly insults women, minorities, and anyone who isn’t like him, which includes you. He says something one day only to hypocritically say the opposite another day. He seemingly does this in the moment to get the best reaction he thinks he can get, not because he actually believes it.
He continually plays things at a school-yard level, ignoring questions, saying what he wants and intentionally trying to make others feel inferior to him.
From what initially seemed like a bit of an egotistical dick, soon shows his true colours: a truly racist, sexist, narrow-minded, inconsiderate, entitled, buck-passing, dishonest, narcissistic, and completely self-centered megalomaniac who will say anything in order to try and win over whoever will provide him with the most benefit.
If you met and learned of the true nature of a man like this, what would you do? Would you avoid that person? Would you think to yourself, perhaps, “I want to be nothing like him!”?
You might not consciously think that but it easily becomes a barometer of what not to be.
While I have essentially described Mr Trump above, I have also described every trait that a healthy, well-rounded and truly masculine man is not.
I have described the anti-man.
In a world of cloudy, misconstrued messages everywhere, the path to manhood is grey. We are constantly told to “Be a man” and everything that comes off that, which basically signals a dangerous and detrimental list summed up as:
- Don’t be weak/show weakness. Whatever that is; seemingly don’t cry or show emotion.
- Be tough. Sort problems out yourself and never ask for help.
That’s essentially it, in a nutshell.
What we’ve done is send generations of boys into a murky manhood that sees us by and large a bit lost and confused on what it means to be a man. So we fake it, we put on a front that presents a version of ourselves to the world that we think is the right one. The manly one.
By trying to be stoic, we’ve kind of butchered the term. Self-reliance, strength, and resilience do not mean never asking for help, or tapping into your feelings and what you’re truly experiencing, and then sharing that with those important people in your life.
In the end, what we’ve done is make it incredibly confusing for boys and men to understand what a good man is, we’ve made it daunting for men to be themselves.
To me, what this means is when we try to define what it is to be a man, the traits and qualities we want to value and live, it’s not clear, and it’s creating the picture we see the world over.
This is reflected in frightening statistics in mental health among men, suicide, violence, assault, abuse, crime and a general disconnection from self and others.
While I and many others around the globe work to change this and create a clearer, more positive definition of manhood and being your own man, helping men to live more fulfilling and purpose driven lives, it can be tricky to wade through the confusing messages we constantly see.
Enter the useful anti-man, or as I described it in my book Unleash Your Alpha, the anti-alpha; an anti-example.
Enter Donald Trump.
This is a man who infuriates, who continually provides new and grosser examples of just how much of an awful person he is. This is a man who provides us with example after example of what a man is not, nor should never be.
His unbelievable rise into politics and run for President of the United States is seen by many as an indicator of how some people have become disheartened with the status quo. Yet, as one New York Times contributor put it recently, it more accurately depicts the insecurity of men stuck in this trap, clinging to Trump’s image of masculinity in echo their own desperation.
What I see in Mr. Trump right this minute and with each subsequent window into his true character, is yet another lesson of what a man isn’t. And on the most public of stages.
What I personally see is an incredibly positive thing; quite possibly the most accurate example of what a man is not. An example of what we do not want out boys to grow up to be; not only not the whole, but not any one of his character traits. Not one.
I also see more and more people rallying against him, against his narrow, out-dated, and highly misconstrued version of manhood. While many of us are working on small scale teaching and facilitating this, Mr. Trump is opening the door for a conversation around manhood and masculinity on a huge scale.
As it’s been shown over the years by likes of Joseph Campbell and The Hero’s Journey, we humans reflect life in stories and the kind of stories we relate to have a hero and a villain.
Often times it’s the villain who provides space for the hero to show up. It’s the villain who helps to show the way for the hero. It’s the villain who the hero must defeat to truly become the hero.
You’re the hero, I’m the hero, and every other man has the capacity to become the hero, if we choose.
Mr. Trump is playing the villain remarkably well. Essentially everything he does or says is an example of what not to do, and the more he does it the more men and women are stepping up and having a much-needed conversation around what it means to be a man in 2016.
This, we need. From here we can get clearer on what makes a healthy male role model, and we can slowly start to make change on the path to manhood.
This is how behaviour change works: pay attention, increase awareness, make change.
We are currently entering a bigger conversation to increase awareness, next comes change on a larger scale.
If we can allow ourselves to see the beauty on having this villain so present, we can see the lessons in it.
With that in mind, I say thank you, Donald Trump.
Photo credit: Getty Images