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The Meaning of Being a Man

What is the meaning of “being a man?”

What exactly does it mean to “be a man?”

I think the question is important because there is something in each man that drives him. There is a desire to discover who we really are. We long to be tested and to discover what it means to authentically be in our own skin.

What is it that drives you to reach within yourself, your relationships, your culture and search for what it means for you to be truly manly?

For me, it’s easy to identify what being a man is NOT:

  • Out-drinking the next guy
  • Defining myself by my possessions: a fast car or big home
  • Having to out-lift the next person at the gym
  • Having the loudest voice or most-valued opinion in a conversation, an argument or a meeting
  • Carrying a weapon or being able to do violence against another person… especially those physically weaker than myself
  • Being able to fix things
  • My gender nor my genitals

There is much more to being a man than the above.

Most of us look outside of ourselves for our first definition of what it means to be a man.
For my father, manliness meant drinking all of the time. It meant having a lot of secrets and being overcome by his own darkness. It meant being angry and depressed and uncertain of how to talk about anything that is important.
I grew up hating alcohol and I felt that it was like a demon that will possess you. In a sense I was right, but I have learned that alcohol can be used to bring joy rather than to be used as a weapon.

At a young age I had male role-models who defined manliness through male chauvinism, which teaches you that women are mere objects of your pleasure. Once you see a woman as an object, it changes you and it can be very difficult to erase the impacts from that limited thinking.

Other role models taught me that being a man was being a person of faith. That what you believe can change you.
Still other men in my life taught me that being a man is being willing to venture out of the city and learn how to live in the wilderness. So, I became a "Boy Scout" and spent many of my adolescent weekends living out of a backpack. But even there, older boys defined manliness as sneaking alcohol and pornography into the midst of our group. What the experience left me with was confusion.

The search for what it means to be a man is not a requirement. It is optional. Many men forgo a deeply personal search and instead accept easy definitions of manliness that involve:

  • hard drinking
  • being angry
  • misogyny
  • pornography and
  • having power over others.

But for some of us, we are willing to push beyond these shallows and into the depths within ourselves.

Along the way, I learned to search within myself and soon discovered that being a man has more to do with knowing yourself.
The examples of other men can be helpful guidelines, but they are only that: guidelines.
You have to find a way to enter through the narrow gates of your own consciousness, your own soul and find your own meaning.
You soon learn that being a man is knowing yourself and your strengths.
Being a man, first of all, is the willingness to be honest with yourself.

I don’t know whether it is a product of growing up in a home with an alcoholic, being introspective or because I earn my living as a life coach, hypnotherapist and inspirational speaker (or more likely, all of the above), but I've always believed that there is something more.

Manliness is knowing yourself, being honest with yourself... but it is also more than that. It is the choice to be fully human.
And being fully human is not always easy.

Personally, taking risks and pushing back against my natural tendency to be harder on myself than anyone else and refusing to allow my constant self-judgement to define my future are ways that I am being fully human. Accepting the discipline of a career and the responsibilities of being a pillar of strength and leadership have also awakened something within me.
Creativity and art push me to explore areas of my being that make me uncomfortable.
Having the courage to allow myself to slow down, to breathe and to close my eyes is also helping me to become more 'alive'.

And by the way, asking yourself 'who you are', should slow you down. A slap in the face is offensive, but it also asks an important question: “Are you willing to stop and listen?” and "Are you paying attention to who you are becoming?"...

Today, I invite you to stop for a moment and consider, “What is it that makes you fully human?”

I trust that the answer will surprise you…

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