How does this statement touch you? How do you respond to it? If you’re a guy, how does it feel to say it yourself?
For much of my life, it would have triggered a lot my insecurities and judgements
For me, it’s a mindset I was only embodied when I was 39. So what on earth was I between puberty and 39?
I was a man who didn’t feel entitled to call himself a man.
And at no point during that time did I say it - and if I did, I doubt I would’ve fully believed myself.
The problem with manhood is that there simply isn’t a clearly defined goal post. It’s something we have to keep proving and there are no clear guidelines about what we have to prove and how to prove it. We’re basically cast adrift to work it out on our own once puberty is done with us.
How much money do I need to earn before I’m a man? How many children? How present? How strong? How tough? How successful.
In our culture manhood has become something we do, not something we are. And thinking this way can leave us exhausted, crippled and constantly doubting our validity.
I’ve been there. For over 20 years walking in the no mans land of modern masculinity, with a gnawing doubt that I’m a man and an uncertainty on how to achieve it.
And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve worked with clients in their 50s who still don’t feel like a man.
One thing I’ve discovered: In this world, you’re the only one who can make this call.
In a number of traditional societies, when a boy began puberty, he was initiated into manhood. He became a Man of the tribe, sometimes as young as 12 or so.
How do we reconcile this with our idea of manhood, which you couldn’t possibly claim till sometime past 18?
In these cultures, manhood was a responsibility you grew into. Let me state that again, in the present tense.
Manhood is a responsibility you grow into.
How different would our world be, if our pubescent boys were told they were Men, and taught and guided and supported to own that and all the responsibilities it entailed?
There’s something deep within me that gets excited about this idea and what it could mean.
So, right now, without this cultural kind of a culture around manhood, what can we do?
We need to own being a Man.
Try it on. It’s a responsibility to grow into. It’s not a definition. It’s not a destination. It’s not a something you have to do. It’s something you are. And it’s something you’re continually learning how to embody.
If someone calls you a boy, look at them like they’ve just delivered the kind of insult you’d tear their throats out for. Let a bit of that anger steel your resolve. You are a man. You may have been acting like a boy, your boyhood fears and patterns may have caught you, but it does not mean you’re a boy. And tell them to shove their judgements.
This also applies to the next time someone talks about what real men do, or being a real man.
So many men are in such a crisis about their masculinity, that we need to self-initiate.
Try it on. “I am a Man”.
What in you doubts it? What in you fears the judgements of others as you say this? What fears and anxiety arise?
This is exactly where you need to go, exactly what you need to look at.
If not now, when are you going to call yourself a Man?
What is that you think you have to be or do?
Being a Man is simply something you already are. It’s a responsibility to grow into, and it’s always a work in progress. Try it on, and let me know how it goes.