I grew up in a culture where men aren’t supposed to be showing their emotions. You know, the typical Asian male. He’s suppose to stoically get into a good University, do something related to Science or Math, get a ‘stable job’, get a wife, raise a couple of kids and achieve career success, whatever the hell ‘career success’ means.
Singapore, my home country, also happens to be one of the costliest cities in the world. A patriarchal society where the metric of success of largely measured by material wealth and academic success. You’re supposed to achieve these pursuits stoically. The expression of any emotion or vulnerability along the way is seen as weak.
Masculinity in the Modern World
In both traditional and modern societies, masculinity is often referred to as the more dominant sex and the females as the ones that are more nurturing.
Men should be assertive, tough and focused on material success, to chase whatever is big strong and fast. Whereas women should be modest, tender and concerned.
You see these stereotypes portrayed as main characters in movies: a man slinging guns, saving the world, doing acts of heroism as though they are figures of infallibility.
Our culture reinforces these unachievable ideals into the minds of the modern man. His life is defined by the pursuit of material wealth, being around lots of hot women, with acts of heroism and infallibility.
Historically, men have also always derived their self worth from their careers and professions. However, in recent decades that has changed. Women have equal opportunities as men and are even outperforming men in some areas.
Hence, you get a generation of men working in jobs he doesn’t like, for the money he doesn’t need, just to give it to a woman who can make her own or possibly more than him. However, because of traditional gender roles, he is stuck in that cultural role: make money, fuck bitches and take nice instagram photos.
You and I are ill equipped with this area of our life. The pursuit of material success and wealth as an assertion of masculinity isn’t enough.
I started researching into an unconventional masculinity.
No, I don’t mean self help movements that consist of ‘Mum and Dad didn’t hug me’ pity parades or your typical self help rituals that seem painfully forced and ineffective. However, a masculinity that is integrated. One that isn’t just defined by traditional social roles, expectations and traits such as assertion and dominance, but also introspection and vulnerability.
The Making of Mr Nice Guy: The Modern Pushover
Psychologist and author Robert Glover make the argument in how an absent father/parent can be the making of a ‘Mr Nice Guy’, who constantly fails to assert his needs in his life.
I also observed that people with difficulty in this area of their life (including myself) often have a history of a troubled childhood.
This could be overly strict parents, a religious upbringing, abusive/ absent parents or past trauma.
Psychologists argued that the father is important to a boy’s development of identity.The presence of a father’s body during a son’s developmental phases is integral in the son developing a positive sense of self as masculine.
It’s researched that people growing up without a father figure suffer from a diminished self concept, behavioural problems, truancy and poor academic performance, delinquency, youth crime, promiscuity, teen pregnancy, mental health disorders, experience lower employment, homelessness and host of other issues.
They may feel a sense of abandonment, betrayal, not being able to fit in and feeling different. Without paternal approval, boys may experience emotional pain that leads to attempts to prove themselves. This includes intense competition with other men, engaging in risky behaviors, criminal ‘tough guy’ behavior, intending to scare the world into seeing them as men.
This is also known as false confidence, a confidence that’s derived from overcompensation.
The effects of emotionally unavailable fathers are almost identical to those where the father was physically absent.
It’s also shown that a good relationship with his father teaches a son to better solve problems, allowing him, as a man, to deal with daily stress in more productive manners.
There’s also a second argument.
During the pre-industrial period, fathers bring their kids to work day. Father and son worked side by side from sunrise to sunset. This was seen as normal. Fathers taught by example, apprenticing their sons into trades, simultaneously imparting lessons on hard work and virtue.
However, during the industrial revolution, fathers abandoned the workshop for a place at the assembly line. There is a clear line drawn between home and the workplace. Fathers left for work in the morning and didn’t come home for 10-12 hours. Child rearing is left in the women’s hands. Hence, you get a generation of men who spent all their time with Mum, growing up with Mummy issues.
How to be More Masculine – No More Mr Nice Guy
Confronting these issues head on is one of the key tenets of getting more comfortable with your sexuality and being more sexually confident with the opposite sex. It’s a form of matured masculinity, instead of being an overcompensating prick.
You may not think you’re one of ‘these people’. However, if you constantly find yourself tripping over the same problems, getting involved in toxic relationships, choosing bad partners, then there may be something there, you’re just not aware of it.
The process consists of being introspective about past events or experiences that might have lead to current issues. The idea is to get in touch, process and grief through the emotions you avoided or suppressed through the years. This can mean being introspective about how you felt about certain events and people in your life.
Getting in touch with these emotional realities enables you to be more assertive, more comfortable with intimacy, better understand your life motivations, connect emotionally with others and set boundaries in your relationships, hence bettering your relationships.
For example, if you feel numb or detached in intimate situations, why is that so? Is there a fear of vulnerability? If you fail to assert yourself time and time again with women, why is that so? Is there a feeling of not being good enough? If you’re too afraid of speaking your mind or going for what you want in life, why is that so? Is there a fear of failure, rejection or abandonment?
In many ways, I submarined my ability assert myself in business, my dating life, along with many areas of my life. I would always self-sabotage or was afraid of confrontation or vulnerability.
When started being a lot more introspective about the failures and successes in my life, I found myself pissed off/ hurt/ apathetic at many past events and got really angry at a lot of people around me. When you’re confronting these emotional realities, developing weird beliefs or finding yourself in angry phases going to be part of the process. That’s normal, inevitable and a necessary part of my growth.
How to Figure Out Your Emotional Truth
Writing letters and emails can be helpful for expressing/ reflecting on your genuine thoughts and feelings.
For years, I wrote emails to the people the misgivings I had against them. It helped to a certain extent.
One way to you can ‘reclaim your masculinity’ is by taking part in group activities and learning to work with other men in groups. There’s research that suggests that there are benefits to doing things together such as having a beer at the local bar once a week. Group activities build bonding and a sense of camaraderie. Developing male relationships also helps undo your monogamous bond with Mum.
You can join a team, go to sporting events, have a poker night, go fishing or have a beer with your male friends. Male friendships have the potential for depth and intimacy because there is no sexual agenda. With men, there’s no pressure to be someone else other than who you are. There’s no need to please, placate or lie that a lot of men tend to believe they have to around women.
I used to stick to individual activities such as martial arts or hitting the gym. However, I realized that group activities can help improve my relationships with other men. One of my proudest moment in recent years was accomplishing a common goal working on a marketing project side by side with a friend.
Forward thinking dating coaches have found out that the lack of confidence around women is partly rooted in sexual shame, that is often rooted in one’s childhood. This is why pick up artists, often after years of going at it, find themselves often chasing a phantom and are often more/equally as miserable as before.
They don’t solve the root problem: their own emotional issues. The long term solution is through long term introspection and possibly seeking out psychotherapy to help you through it.
- Seek Out Role Models
You can also take this opportunity to examine your relationship with your own father and seek out healthy male role models.
You can always network and find mentors that help you achieve your goals.
I attempt to surround myself with men who have traits that I look up: accountability, integrity and the ability to challenge themselves. I recommend you to form relationships with men who not only have traditional masculine but the ability to open up and share himself.
David Deida, a popular writer on masculinity argued that masculinity is like a boat in an ocean, spearheading it with a direction and forging a path. Traditional masculine traits often entail accountability, confidence, decisiveness and a go-getter’s mentality.
He argued the idea of an evolved masculinity as a man who has BOTH heart and spine. The man with all spine and no heart is the macho jerk. On the end of the spectrum, you get the sensitive wimp who is the man with all heart and no spine.
The superior man is the man who has both heart and spine, not lacking one or another.
The Way Forward: Blazing New Trails
Camille Paglia once declared that a woman is simply is, but a man most become. Masculinity is risky and elusive. It is achieved through a revolt from women and is confirmed by other men.
Simply making a ton of money isn’t enough anymore, traditional achievements and conquests by themselves aren’t enough. Having money and nice things are nice, but it doesn’t make you feel truly fulfilled anymore. Conventional masculine traits such as courage, ambition and technical skill aren’t enough. It also takes introspection, vulnerability and a willingness to fail.
There’s no longer any socially universal norm for masculine achievement. You’re now free to define yourself in a new way, an eccentric manner that has never been done before.
This can mean being more free with your praise, being more comfortable with expressing emotions, traditionally more feminine behaviours. Or it can be in the form of starting off a music project, a dance project, publishing a novel, going to Africa on a humanitarian project, and ultimately defining yourself that’s not held back traditional societal gender roles.
You are to blaze your own trails.
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Sarkadi, Anna; Kristiansson, Robert; Oberklaid, Frank; Bremberg, Sven (2008-02-01). “Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systematic review of longitudinal studies“. Acta Paediatrica. 97 (2): 153–158.
Renati, R.; Cavioni, V. & Zanetti, M. (2011). “‘Miss, I got mad today!’ The Anger Diary, a tool to promote emotion regulation”. The International Journal of Emotional Education. 3 (1): 48–69.
Dunbar, R., Launay , J., Wlodarski, R., Robertson, C., Pearce, E., Carney, J., et al. (2017). Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology(3), 118-133.