Reflecting on the toxic aspects of my own masculinity was an interesting experience. I did not expect to find much too much to be concerned about to be honest. I figured I would learn a thing or two, give myself a pat on the back, and be done with it. For the most part, I was correct.
Over a 28-day period, I reaffirmed my positive attitudes towards women and my own physicality. I clarified the meaning sex holds for me and the power it holds to impact my life. I realized that a balanced life is what I should strive for instead of money and ego-trips. All-in-all I have done–do–masculinity OK.
Along with the good, however, comes the bad. While I could go into the minutia of my shortcomings, such as my issues with control, ambition, and financial security, I will spare you that. I think it is more important to get to core of these issues. Interestingly, the same thread seems to run through all my “opportunities” for change, which is fear.
Do not get me wrong. My approach to life is pretty ballsy but mostly in terms of work. I have no problem taking on unfamiliar roles or starting new ventures. I take my lumps almost as easily as I do accolades. My personal life, however, is a different story. Thinking about it, I have always been afraid to fully be my authentic self in front of others. Judgement has always been a hard thing for me to deal with–I suppose. At times, it has been crippling, leading to a very stagnate life.
Have social expectations around what masculinity is supposed to look like been a factor in my ambivalence towards self-expression? Maybe. Putting my thoughts down on paper has always been a very personal and emotional process for me; therefore, the concept of exposing my “underbelly” to the masses had always been met with a sense of anxiety. Unfortunately, there was a great deal of shame attached to tapping into that kind of vulnerability. Luckily, I have been able to work my way through this, but there is more to my lack than that.
In truth, I have a problem going for what I want in many respects. I hate conflict, despite my love of a good argument, so I often cave in to what others want. I hesitate to disagree and voice my desires for the sake to keeping my relationships “low maintenance.” I rarely say, “No,” when asked to do things I do not want to do. While not soul-crushing things, necessarily, they make life rather tedious and make maintaining my relationships seem arduous. I have no one to blame but myself, however. The responsibility to change this narrative lies in my hands and no one else’s.
This realization got me thinking, though. So much of the discussion around “toxic masculinity” centers around demonstrations of hyper-masculine traits that oppress and minimize others, but that is only part of the story. Touching on this subject involves exploring both extremes of toxicity, not just one. It was halfway through my self-assessment that I came to the realization that it was not adhering too much to male stereotypes that has caused such an imbalance in my life, it was not connecting enough to them.
Stereotypes are not always a bad thing. Positively-aspected, they serve to give us an idea of who we could be and what we should strive for. With some variances, we all probably hold similar paradigms around what good sons, fathers, and lovers “look” like, providing us with blueprints—of sorts—to follow in order to attain our most perfect selves. While some may look at such concepts as limiting and exclusionary, I would put out there that they can—at the same time—be liberating and empowering.
As I have stated before in a previous post, exploring the concept of masculinity is touchy, as one cannot do that without, simultaneously, making some sort of statement about femininity. Qualities like strength, determination, ambition, and assertiveness are genderless. Men and woman, both, can pull any of those out of their hats like the Sword of Gryffindor when they need it. If anything, gender more impacts the level of external acceptance of their utilization. That being said, why not take advantage of the liberties afforded to me by my maleness and take a look at the parts of my own self that need a little “manning up?”
Having a balanced life is top priority for 2019. While I feel like I have made great strides in terms of juggling my professional pursuits to achieve a sense of fulfillment, getting my own internal environment in sink will be just as important. So, what will an empowering and properly assertive new year look like? I am not sure, but you will be the first to know.
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