Masculinity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, denotes “the quality or nature of the male sex” and is “the quality, nature, or degree of being masculine [qualities appropriate to or usually associated with a man].”
I think that any male human being can attest to the complexity that is understanding masculinity. It’s something that’s been a point of contention for me all of my life-I’ve never fallen under this blanket idea of what the traditional man looks like. It is this very concept that has led to feeling inferior or perhaps even treated inferior to other guys.
I think it begs the question to describe why this is the case for me. Well, if you’ve ever seen me, you’ll know that I’m not quite a spitting image of traditional masculinity.
I am a fairly thin, average-height guy, with little to no build and features that aren’t exactly chiseled, defined, and sharp. I have more of a baby face. I’m not like the ideal image of a traditional man that is tall and rugged, super built and chiseled.
Traditional guys are typically sporty or athletic in some way. They are able to partake in manual labor easily and do it often! They are often more assertive or aggressive and enjoy acts that can resemble that.
I, in contrast, am not quite the sporty or athletic guy. I do not necessarily hate sports and will participate in some, but it’s never been my speciality or cup of tea. While I have the desire to help manually, I just do not have quite the capabilities to do so, like the traditional man may have. I also tend to defer to more passive activities as I am a passive person.
When people see a guy like me, they do not see a man. And it’s made me wonder – how do I fit in with all the other guys then? Where is my place? It’s not that I question my gender or my gender identity, but I feel insecure in it and who I am. I’m not one of the “cool guys.”
Not only do I project that onto myself, but I’ve had it projected onto me, whether it was meant to be done or not. People treat me like I’m fragile and act as if I really can’t do anything that involves using my body. In fact, it leads to stereotyping and assumptions that have destroyed my self-identity and confidence as a person. It’s frustrating to have things projected onto you that are not you.
So, where does that leave me? Am I not one of the guys? Am I doomed to just not fit in?
That’s where I was completely wrong.
I attended a men’s retreat a couple weekends ago not knowing what to expect. Could I enjoy this time? Will I fit in? Will people want to be around me?
And my answer came whenever everyone was so greatly kind to me. I was seen and valued. And I was told that the world’s opinions do not matter.
For myself and this case, it was realizing that I was made in the image of the Creator [God] and that His opinion was all that really matters. Whether this may be applicable to you or not, I cannot say for you.
What I will say is this – there will always be people that love you for you. There will always be people who will push you to grow, but it won’t be in an unhealthy way. It won’t be in a “man-up,” stigmatized and idealized way of trying to measure up to a ridiculous image of what a man is.
It will push you to be the best you, regardless of what society’s standards are and regardless of what others’ standards are. It will not happen overnight. It didn’t for me, and I’m still learning and healing.
But to my guys out there who do not feel man enough; The world’s idea of a traditional man is totally outrageous and does not resemble who you are created to be. Do not believe the lies you feel being spouted at you from every direction.
And for ways you can grow? Reach out to people who aren’t like you. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and befriended guys who probably are not anything like me, that maybe fit the bill of a more traditional man. And we’ve had some of the best times and conversations together I have ever had.
To quote Taylor Swift partly from her song “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”,
“Here’s a toast to my real friends, they don’t care about the he-said, she-said./And here’s to my baby, [s]he ain’t reading what they call me lately. /And here’s to my mama, had to listen to all this drama.”
And, here’s to you-let’s cut the crap society spews and stop hating ourselves over ridiculously idealized, stereotypical portrayals. Let’s start healing and start learning where truth really is about who we are.