Are you a real man or just an impostor trying to convince everyone?
We feel so much pressure to constantly perform, show little emotion, nab the most desired females, and make bank. It’s hard to feel like a “Real Man,” living up to the standards of Superman, Bruce Wayne, James Bond, or Conan the Barbarian especially since they’re all fiction.
We have this idea that real men are muscular, heroic, handsome, rich, confident, and well-spoken, seducing gorgeous women no matter how unavailable they are. Our icon of masculinity chops wood, sweats sawdust, smolders tall, dark, and handsome. He always knows how to save the company, what she needs to hear, and how to lead the room with authority. Our man always stands back up, never quits, and doesn’t know the meaning of surrender. He is as flawless as the six-pack abs teased beneath his open button-down oxford. We’ve all seen him, worked hard to become him, envied, and resented him. He’s the reason we often feel insecure around men whom we perceive too closely resemble that ideal. Especially, when we are around women, on dates, trying to escape the friend zone, and pushing her to see our dominance. That ideal is why we try so hard to flex our muscles, our wallets, and our insistence.
Some of us feel handicapped by our genetics, lack of money, or social anxiety. We never quite measure up, living in the shadow of the superior man. We resent the muscles we don’t have, the bank account she wants, or the silver tongue of the suave ladies man. Each of us strives in our own way to achieve as much of the ideal as possible, eventually accepting our place along the spectrum of masculinity. It defines us as men. Our identity forms as we learn to appreciate what and who we can get. Some of us accept Beta status or at the very least, the knowledge that there’s always a bigger alpha out there. It can feel comforting, give us the excuse we need to stop trying so hard, to justify our limits as beyond our control. We can’t all be the perfect man, we tell ourselves, seeking less attractive women, taking lower paying jobs, allowing the bully to get his fill. It’s how the universe works, being pragmatic we say, making the most of a tough situation.
Despite this self-imposed modesty, we still often feel like impostors, like men who are never really as macho as we’d like to believe. Often we push aside emotions in favor of the more masculine path or hold back our thoughts for fear it might undermine our goals. The more masculine or further along the spectrum we see ourselves, the more likely we are to feel such reservations. Your identity as men becomes cemented by this ideal, the source of your strength or core of your being.
It’s why it can feel so good to take home a woman out of your league, trash talk during a pickup game, see a colleague fail, make it rain for a stripper, or use self-deprecating humor to get a laugh. We all have our ways, developed strategies to feel like a man, to feel justified in who we are. Whether you’re a bodybuilder, manly for muscles, always aware of Schwarzenegger’s seven Olympia titles; a wealthy hedge fund manager, never having enough, yearning for Jordan Belford’s bravado and Gordan Gecko’s greed; a nerd for tabletop gaming or Magik the gathering, power-gaming for peak optimization, obsessively watching the leader boards and cons for the next Leroy Jenkins; or simply the serial first dater, non-monogamous new relationship energy fiend, imagining the ecstasy of Hugh Hefner playboy parties; we all long for more, highlighting our best traits for all to witness, that in our own way, we occupy a slice of the ideal masculine. Yet we all come up short somewhere, unlike flawless superheroes of legend, each of us missing distinct pieces of the man puzzle. So we feel like impostors, pretending to be manly, hiding or disregarding those same missing shards. We are dishonest in who we really are, presenting an image for the world out of a necessity to exist. We hide in this way, coveting our true thoughts and feelings, to carry an ideal we can never live up to simply creates a hole within us that must constantly be filled. An emptiness that always falls short. From an ideal we always feel emasculated by.
Anytime she rejects us, our raise is turned down, we lose the game, or that bastard cuts us off in traffic, rage bubbles forth for not being manly enough. We are impostors, feeling shame for such blunders, failing to be who we thought we could be. Whether you know it or not, unconsciously, this ideal towers above us like carved granite, mighty as the Colossus of Rhodes.
Do we really think that the leaders of tomorrow should be defined by their muscular physique, deep voice, aggressive persistence, intolerant entitlement, hetero-normative subjugation, stoic isolationism, or manipulative sexual prowess?
We can do better.
Indeed, much like the #metoo movement, we are all culprits in its making. Every time we reinforce this impossible ideal, it’s like slathering another layer of mortar upon its stone. Our sculpting hands obsess over every emasculating crack in its foundation. We are terrified of what will happen if the great statue were to collapse; every time we tell boys to stop crying and act like a man. Or whenever we’re afraid to be creative, believing that as men we’re better at math, more analytical, prone to business. Or when we comment about our friends being pussy-whipped, acting like a fag, or goading them into proving their toughness. Or when you hold back feelings from loved ones, abstain from the affection you crave, and deny the vulnerabilities of others.
Women reinforce it as well, anytime they shame us for being too sensitive, too effeminate, following a passion above money, or expect us to pick up the tab. Every commercial, sitcom, and movie that features the brooding hero swaddled by helpless women, rich debonair gents proving his undying love with expensive diamonds, and even the bumbling husband who needs a wife to help mother his every ineptitude. Everywhere, we are taught that the closer we come to embodying the statuesque ideal of masculinity, the more virtuous and valid we are as men. It is why, both men and women, give way to the manliest of us and why women always step aside on the sidewalk, betas cower before an alpha, and fans slobber adoringly for chiseled bad boys.
It is time to tear down the edifice of our decadent masculinity and build something anew, a new idea of who we are and could become, a masculinity that is no longer dependent on genetics, riches, or women. A new ideal that allows us to be true to ourselves, to feel free to explore, and exist without shame. An idea that promotes the best of us and waters the best of who we can become. It is where you aren’t judged by outdated mandates of manliness, but instead by the content of your mind, and the passion of your heart. An ideal that will allow us to equally explore our sexuality, our fashion, creativity, friendships, careers, and emotions so that we may define ourselves instead of being defined by others. Only then will our impostor syndrome as men fade into the radiance hidden below.
What’s your take on what you just read? Comment below or write a response and submit to us your own point of view or reaction here at the red box, below, which links to our submissions portal.
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