Hey you, what’s your definition of a man?
Is it Gaston from Beauty and The Beast?
Is it George Clooney?
Is it John Wayne?
Is it James Bond?
Is it The Rock?
Growing up as a man in this world, in a Latino culture, and spending most of my life in a sports environment, this is what I learned and was taught about being a man:
You don’t cry.
You don’t talk about your feelings.
You toughen up and figure it out, never asking for help.
You never let anyone see your weakness.
You don’t ask for directions.
You’re superior to women.
You don’t chase women, they chase you.
You’re the man of the house and what you say always goes.
If someone questions your manhood, you fight them.
You can’t be too nice or people will take advantage.
When another man acts weak you call him a p*ssy or a f*ggot.
Screw someone over before they screw you over.
Your woman is your property and you have to fight any man trying to take her from you.
Women are irrational and emotional and you can’t trust their judgment.
Men cheat, that’s just what we do.
You provide, protect and procreate — that’s it.
… and so many other “manliness” rules and guidelines.
But who came up with these rules?
They definitely weren’t made up by God, the Universe, a Higher Power or whatever spirituality you follow.
They were made up by a human being, by our culture.
Probably out of fear or our humanistic need to want to label everything and put it into its descriptive box.
“In the development of masculinity, femininity, and inclinations towards homosexuality or heterosexuality, nurture matters a great deal more than nature.”
— Albert Ellis, American Psychologist
You know what I’ve realized the definition of a man is now?
A purely biological and sexual identity one.
We have XY chromosomes instead of XX.
We have testicles instead of ovaries.
We have more testosterone than estrogen.
We have a penis instead of a vagina.
We have more body hair, bigger bones, and muscles, bigger hands and feet.
Nowhere in our genome is it written that we have to be tough and violent, that we’re not supposed to cry, that we’re not supposed to get in touch with our feelings and emotions, that we’re not supposed to ask for help, that we’re better than women, that we’re not supposed to show weakness, that we can’t be kind, tender and sensitive.
Yes, some of these biological advantages definitely served us well tens of thousands of years ago when we were living in caves and we couldn’t go on Amazon Fresh to get our groceries delivered right to our doorstep or we had to fend off a lion jumping out of the bushes… but it’s 2019, times have changed, drastically!
And we need to change right along with those times.
Now, I know what some of you may be arguing: nice guys finish last, you have to know what you want and take it!
While it may be true in some cases that nice guys finish last, KIND guys never finish last.
The difference between kind and nice guys is this:
Nice guys do nice things because they want reciprocation, they want people to like them, they want something in return. That’s why sometimes their niceness might be taken as weakness and people will take advantage. And because they want to maintain this air of niceness, they won’t speak up or stand up for themselves for fear of not being liked.
Kind guys, on the other hand, come from a place of authenticity and truth. They don’t do kind things because they want something in return or because they want to be liked, they do them because that is genuinely who they are and they are not afraid to show it. They don’t act from a place of desperately needing to be liked, because they love themselves exactly as they are — fears, flaws, insecurities, failures and all. They see the similarity and humanity in others; by practicing empathy they see themselves in others. They don’t practice the Golden Rule to get something, they practice the Golden Rule as a way of life.
There’s nothing weak or unmanly about being kind, in fact, it takes MORE courage to be kind because it goes against what our culture says a man is supposed to be like.
We need to begin to break this assumption of what our culture says a man is supposed to be, it is causing more harm than it is good. By telling and showing young men that emotions, feelings, and expressions are weak, we are telling and showing them that they need to be something they are not.
We are making them feel like they are not good enough, like they are not man enough unless they embody what society deems it is to be a man. And telling anyone — man, woman, boy, girl, adult, child — that they are not good enough just as they are is a recipe for disaster.
Encourage men, young and old, to talk about their emotions and feelings. Give them a safe space where they won’t be judged or ridiculed for not living up to our “rules” of what it means to be a man. Just because we have penises and muscles and testosterone doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to cry, or be scared, or feel lonely, or ask for help.
Let’s do away with these old and dated ways of being for men that have been handed down from generation to generation without anyone stopping to think for a moment why we have these rules and the detriment they can be having not just to our young men, but to the world as a whole and every living being in it.
What does it mean to be a man?
It means to be strong, courageous, and bold, not by embodying what someone else says a man is supposed to be, but by embodying exactly who YOU are through honesty, vulnerability and expression.
Previously published here and reprinted with the author’s permission.
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