There’s a lot out there in self-help media for men and popular culture about what it takes to be a man. I have a simple definition for this that I recently heard from an interview with Tucker Max, and I agree 100%.
Reach between your legs. What do you feel?
If you have a dick, you’re a man. It’s that simple.
If anyone gives you a definition that’s more complicated, see if you can identify what their hidden agenda might be. It’s most commonly an attempt to do one of two things:
1. Justify their own insecurities
Self-acceptance is a rare trait because it takes consistent hard work over a long period of time. But who needs genuine confidence when you can instead justify your own insecurities by pushing your own view of the way the world works?
The guy who’s spent his whole life on his career to the neglect of the rest of his life can say “a real man works for himself and doesn’t have a boss” to justify his decisions to himself. Or the guy who spends all his time the gym can say “a real man has abs like Brad Pitt in Fight Club” to hide from the the fact that he has no meaningful relationships. Be careful of this in the dating space and don’t base your image of manhood on what some “pickup guru” tells you.
2. Sell you a product
A common sales technique is to target peoples’ insecurities, accentuate their pain, say that only you have the solution, and get them to buy whatever you’re selling. In modern Western culture, many guys grow up without masculine role models or father figures, so it’s incredibly easy for marketers to take advantage of this phenomenon and use it to sell products. “Don’t feel manly? Well, let me tell you my definition of what a man is. By the way, I have a product that can help you achieve exactly what I’m telling you that you need to achieve.”
Choose Your Own Masculinity
Confidence looks different for everyone based on the combination of their personality traits and life experience. Are you naturally shy? Introverted? Working on your social skills? Recovering from past trauma or negative experiences? Depending on where you’re coming from, your path to success looks different.
That’s why you should make your best effort to avoid comparing your inside to someone else’s outside. Every high achiever has experienced setbacks and challenges that you can’t see just by examining them on the outside. You see yourself at your lowest points, but you only see others based on what they choose to show the world. This is why you need to pay attention to the social media experience you’ve curated for yourself: the people you see on a daily basis influence your self-image.
It’s important to recognize that despite anyone’s (including mine) advice to be internally validated, we’re social creatures with an innate drive to be accepted by our peers. We all still crave external validation to some degree. You can’t shut it off, but what you can do is be conscious of when that process is operating in your mind.
Choose your own version of masculinity that’s effective in your own life. Don’t define your own success by what other people say success means, because you’ll be constantly trying to live up to the expectations of others. You start living by the illusion “When I achieve this goal, then I will be successful.” But what that does is postpone your happiness to some hypothetical future that’s perpetually just around the corner.
Define Your Own Success
A better definition of masculine success is living by your values. This version of success can be instantly achieved by determining the tiniest action that you can perform that’s consistent with your values. If your value is to be a grateful person, you can express your thanks for someone important in your life. If you value is to always push your comfort zone, you can go out and make a day game approach. You’re living by your own definition of success, and it’s instantly achievable.
The best part about the living your values version of success is that you can achieve success even if you don’t feel good, positive, motivated, optimistic, inspired, psyched up, or in the mood. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your mind. Just take that next positive action and in that moment, you’re successful.
By doing this, you can avoid the trap of the high achiever. High-performing people in any field are often susceptible to fragile self-esteem. This is when they have a strong positive self-image based on how well they’re performing. This is great when they’re doing well, but when setbacks occur, as they inevitably do, their self-esteem comes crashing down as well. They stop seeing themselves as a “winner” and become a “loser”.
Both loneliness and neediness are helped by living your values, especially when your values are centered on meaningful work that impacts the world positively and close relationships. When you’re following your own masculine path, you’re more grounded and don’t crave the approval of women.
Live by your own rules. And choose your rules consciously rather than passively accepting what society, your family, whoever has chosen for you. If you don’t consciously choose your own rules than you’ll be living by someone else’s rules.