Number 21 in a Series
What are the characteristics that define masculine and feminine?
In my youth, trying to be a “man” required pretzeling myself into the mold of what masculine was supposed to look like. 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.
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 striving for those “masculine qualities” of winning, being right, being in control and above all not being emotional. (Real men never cried unless it was over something really important such as losing a championship game.)
I didn’t have a clue as to what it meant to be so comfortable with 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, such as 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 I uncovered parts of myself that had been buried for a very long time. For example, I’ve discovered an exquisitely sensitive person who is easily moved to tears. I have come to love experiences, such as discussions and films, that touch me emotionally.
It feels so good to embrace such an integral part of my being that I 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.
My journey has been blessed with many important milestones. I have been guided by some amazing spiritual and psychological teachers not bound by conventional thinking through their books and workshops.
From a men’s therapy group I learned to turn to men for support. Previously, I had only allowed women to see my softer side and only known women as nurturers. Now, I was beginning to trust men, and in the process, learning to better 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, a skilled athlete and very emotional, and an intellectual who was not afraid of looking foolish. The friendship encouraged me to discover many new parts of myself.
Throwing off the yoke of trying to live up to what I’m “supposed to be” is only one part of answering the question, “Who am I?” Living more in integrity with my unique self is a lifetime adventure of discovering more about the beliefs and fears that create the self-doubts that disconnect me from my heart.
I’d like to be able to say that I’ve discovered a common human essence beyond masculine or feminine, but I have not. I do believe that masculine and feminine cannot be defined by characteristics and that we are all much better served by being rid of those meaningless terms. And, I know that as I feel more and more comfortable with who I am, it feels great not having to prove that I’m a man.
For Your Journey
- What frustrations have you encountered trying to live up to prescribed definitions of your gender?
- 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?
First in the Series: From Head to Heart
Next Week: # 22 – Living in the Mystery
BECOMING YOUR OWN HERO illuminates a path available to us all to attain the kind of personal power demonstrated by our most revered and inspirational heroes. Marianne Williamson, #1 New York Times best-selling author said, “I highly recommend this illuminating and touching look into the possibilities of staying connected to our hearts, even when facing difficult situations.”
Photo: Flickr/Art Gallery ErgsArt