Growing up, I believed that only a certain type of man was masculine. I’m certain the timing of my youth, in addition to the area in which I lived and the men that surrounded my shaped my view of masculinity. A true man, in my youthful mind, was a guy who was silent and somewhat emotionally absent. He provided for his family by hard work, dedication, and loyalty. He could fix anything and preferred the outdoors because indoors was for rest only. He was liked by everyone because he was tall, dark, and handsome.
In discussing this with my therapist, I am nowhere near this stereotypical male. Yeah, I provide for my family. I’m pretty quiet, but mostly because I just don’t have a lot to say really. The attributes end there for me. I work out at the gym for health reasons, but I like the way that having a stronger body makes me feel. I have tattoos because they represent something significant in my life, but I also feel more masculine having them on my body. Yet for the life of me, I just can’t fix most things. I like being outside, but would choose to be inside reading, writing, or relaxing. With all of these things in mind, I don’t fit my view of masculinity.
Most men don’t, which I never really thought much about. But I think that most survivors have a view of “a real man” that they, nor anyone for that matter, could achieve. And because of that, we “fail” at an unrealistic expectation that no one else things we need to achieve anyway. This rabbit hole that we find ourselves in takes us down many dark paths, self-destruction, low self-image, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies.
I need to take a good look at what I believe a true man is all about. Sure, I can look at the guys in my group who struggle with the same things I do and call them “real men.” But what about those who are more effeminate, or men who are slight in built, or men who prefer to stay indoors all day long? They are men, too, and if I truly believe that then I must expand my view about masculinity. I can’t confine it to the narrow list of attributes that I cannot even subscribe to myself. As part of my healing, I need to consider my views on masculinity so that I don’t exclude or judge people harshly because they don’t fit a particular stereotype. And it’s not because I don’t think men who fall outside those parameters aren’t men because I sincerely know they are. It’s so that I can come to grips with my own view concerning myself. If I can relate to another man who has some of the same traits I do, then I can convince myself in the dark times that I’m worthy enough to be called a man.