Dr. Jordan Paul is through with the concept of “masculinity”. He feels that throwing off the yoke of trying to live up to what we’re supposed to be opens up the way forward to greater self-esteem and more fulfilling relationships. Here is how.
For my first fifty–three years, trying to feel good about myself meant pretzeling (don’t bother looking it up) into what a “man” was “supposed” to be.
When I thought that athletic men were macho, I made myself into a competitive athlete. Discovering that those skills were not helpful in my next masculine endeavor girls and sex, I became a sex obsessed, competitive sexual athlete who never showed tears. (Except during very momentous times, like losing an important game.)
Enter the men’s movement. Alas, after many workshops beating drums, listening to poetry, shouting out my anger and finding my inner warrior, I was no closer to feeling comfortable and secure within myself.
I was still driven by “masculine qualities” such as control, winning and being right. I didn’t have a clue as to what it meant to be so comfortable with all parts of myself that I didn’t have to prove anything. And I certainly didn’t feel comfortable embracing my feminine, whatever the hell that was. Only after serious difficulties directly related to denying essential parts of myself, like losing my marriage, did I begin traveling a different path. Asking the question “What does being fully human mean for me?” made trying to live up to some definition of masculine unimportant. Especially when I realized that everything that makes me truly happy happens naturally when I’m connected to my heart.
Engaging in a discovery process to connect to my heart uncovered parts of myself that had been buried for a very long time. For example, I’ve discovered an exquisitely sensitive person. I’m moved to tears easily and love experiences that touch me emotionally. It feels so good to embrace such an integral part of my being that I had denied for so long. Thinking of that beautiful little boy forced to bite his lip so as not to cry brings me to tears right now.
Along the way I have been blessed by some wonderful teachers. I was attracted to books and workshops with spiritual and psychological authors not bound by conventional thinking.
I joined a men’s therapy group and it felt especially good to turn to men for support. Previously, I had only known women as the nurturers. I had always felt more comfortable allowing women to see my softer side. Now, I was beginning to trust men, and in the process, learning to trust and nurture myself. For the first time since high school, I established a “best friendship” with a male, Lee was the first man I had ever known who had developed and balanced the many sides of himself. He was a successful businessman and a creative artist, as skilled athlete and very emotional, and an intellectual who was not afraid of looking foolish
The friendship encouraged me to uncover my heart and discover many new parts of myself. One of these was my ability to play and have fun. I had always been a very serious, “nose to the grindstone,” responsible and produtive kind of guy. Lee, on the other hand, was very comfortable playing naturally and noncompetitively. Our friendship extended into everything we did. At parties I allowd myself to dance freely, giving my body permission to gyrate in ways that felt connected to my internal rhythm. Biking, hiking, listening to music, watching sunsets and sunrises, having philosophical discussions and reading poetry – all flowed easily and joyfully. And we laughed a lot.
Throwing off the yoke of trying to live up to what I am “supposed to be” is only one part of answering the question, “Who am I?” Living in integrity with my unique self is an on-going adventure of discovering more about the beliefs and fears that create the self-doubts that disconnect me from my authentic self, my essence, my heart.
This process has left me feeling more and more comfortable with who I am and not having to prove that I’m a man, feels great. It has also left me believing that masculine (and feminine) cannot be defined by characteristics and that we are all much better served by being rid of those meaningless terms.
- What frustrations have you encountered trying to live up to definitions of masculine?
- What are you discovering about your true self?
- What do you think of my contention that defining masculine and feminine by traits is meaningless, if not downright harmful and should be thrown out of our language?
Photo: Flickr/Hairy Jacques