how to be a man

Why Ideals of Masculinity Are Hindering Your Success

Have you ever had your masculinity challenged? If you’re a man, you probably have.

You can’t wear certain things and talk about your feelings – lest you’d be called a woman.

That’s because many of us have firmly rooted misconceptions about what it means to be a man. And as those beliefs are challenged, it’s natural to feel some uncertainty.

Clashing movements cause conflict

Never before have masculine ideals been challenged like they’re being challenged today. The Feminist and Women’s movements have brought many men to fight antiquated notions that men are the stronger sex. And although the glass ceiling still exists, women are beginning to command higher salaries and hold more powerful titles.

This shift has caused movements on the other end to help men stand up for the ideals they so firmly believe. The Mythyopoetic and Men’s Movements are two examples.

But are we fighting for something just because it’s comfortable? Or does our society need those masculine ideals?

Regardless of which side you sit on, this post will challenge your beliefs. Because masculine ideals don’t just hold women down, they’re also damaging to men. Here’s why:

Masculine ideals may hinder learning

This is an interesting concept, but according to research from the University of Cambridge in the U.K., boys who identified with and planned to follow traditional masculine roles were the least successful in school. This may be because traditionally, the male ideal was one of strength. These boys may be likely to value brawn over brains.

Traditional masculinity masks emotion

As humans, we are emotional beings. We have a deep-seeded need to connect with other people on an emotional level. But if you happen to have been born a boy, you’re out of luck.

From the time we’re young, we’re taught to hold back tears and suck it up. We’re taught that emotions equate to weakness.

In fact, the only emotion that men are allowed to have (according to the unwritten rules of masculinity) is anger. But that may also be a natural progression. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that when you suppress your emotions, you’re more likely to become aggressive.

Masculinity encourages aggression

Masculine ideals hold that the strongest and/or loudest of the pack is the leader. This may have worked when we were living in caves, but it’s not working in our current society.

Have you ever worked with someone who so obviously clutched these ideals? You’d be in a meeting and he’d be screaming at the top of his lungs at some poor sucker who dared disagree with him.

If you’re lucky enough to own the company, you might just get away with this for a while, but there are still consequences. Bosses who treat their employees this way see very high turnover rates, which can affect the company. And of course, if you’re not the boss, you’ll soon be fired for your “masculine” yet unprofessional behavior.

Why is it that “that guy” is almost always a guy. You rarely hear about a woman who consistently behaves this way in a professional setting. That’s probably because the idea of femininity doesn’t promote aggression.

Men are more likely to suppress problems

We know that we’re discouraged from talking about our feelings, but we’re discouraged from asking for help. Part of the masculine ideal is to be able to handle any situation. Who needs directions? You can just feel your way there.

But a resistance to getting help will almost always make a problem worse.

According to the American Psychological Association, men are less likely than women to seek help for mental health problems.

In the case of depression, a man may feel emasculated to have to sit down and talk about his feelings. He may not want to admit if he’s dealing with anxiety because he’s afraid it’ll be seen as a weakness.

The biggest issue with suppressing problems is that it doesn’t work. When you try ignore a problem like depression or anxiety, it doesn’t go away. Your feelings will always be there, so you may try self-medicating. It’s a slippery slope.

Self-medication can lead to addiction. And now you have a bigger problem for which you don’t want to get help. So you focus on the negative aspects of treatment and convince yourself that you’re better off as an addict.

But you know deep down that you should ask for help. If only your toxic masculinity would let you.  

Masculine ideals may keep you from being you

When it comes to sexuality, there’s no wiggle room within traditional masculine views. If you’re a man, you mate with and marry a woman.

But what if that doesn’t work for you? What if you don’t like women in that way?

From the time we’re small boys, we’re told that anything feminine is “gay.” No one actually explains it to us, but we understand it to be an insult. It was meant that way.

Think about it: boys are often called gay as an insult before they even understand sexuality. So their first impression of homosexuality is very negative.

You may not know exactly what it means, but you know you don’t want to be gay. Imagine how gut-wrenching it must be to go through puberty and realize that you identify with that very term. It’s difficult to say the least. And now imagine that your father was the person who introduced that term to you as a boy. This happens more than you might think and way more often than it should.

Masculine ideals keep men from being honest with themselves and the world. Covering up your sexuality can have serious mental health consequences.

Masculinity can hurt your relationships

Just as there are men on the side of the feminine movement, there are women on the side of the masculine movement. But you’re unlikely to be surrounded with these types of women.

From friends to aunts to spouses to coworkers, you have many relationships with women. The problem with toxic masculinity is that it teaches boys that men are superior to women. Just as the term gay is used as an insult, so is the word girl.

To hold true to these beliefs, the best thing to be is a heterosexual, masculine man. Whether believers say it outright or not, they consider everything else inferior in some way.

Just like a person of color would have trouble being around a racist, most women try to limit their time around men who hold misogynist beliefs. This really puts a damper on your relationships.

To all the men who are offended when your masculine ideals are challenged: Understand that no one is taking away your manhood. You can be a heterosexual man who enjoys baseball and smoking cigars. But it would behoove you to recognize some of the toxic beliefs of yesteryear. If we can leave those in the past, we’ll all have a better future.

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