Many men nowadays are confused, misunderstood and overwhelmed.
Most are ignoring it, some are realizing it but only a few are admitting it. Why is that? No matter how far you go back in history, since human communities exist the social expectation has been that men have to be on top of things. That is how men have been raised by their parents, teachers, and trainers. Never to show weakness, to always be the tough guy in front of other men, to always find a solution to problems, to always be the strong shoulder for their girlfriend or wife.
Despite the dramatic, technological developments over the past 20 years, the social structure and perceptions of society, the outside image and what is expected of men is still the same: Indepently of the current trends of men style such as Marlboro Man, moustache, metrosexual, spornosexual or lumbersexual: men always have to be strong and powerful.
Well, there is nothing wrong with that. But “strong and powerful” means different things to different men, especially in a time of increasing individualism as today. What all of those men have in common are the questions: “How do I reach that? How can I be somebody who gets the love from other women and the respect from other men?” This is where men are getting more lost and overwhelmed than ever before in history. That is why men need male role models and guidance.
Let us have a look at what kind of men are currently out there. This is not a complete list, but it gives you a rough overview:
1. Pumped Men: This group of men pumps their muscles 3-5 times per week for hours in the gym, eats mainly salad and chicken for years, and swallows protein shakes, creatine and all kinds of pills to get a piece of a masculinity. I see the following issues with those men: Although pumping muscles demonstrates some typical male components such as taking challenges and showing persistence, it is missing two major components: Courage and impact. Courage is a component men can train to have. Being ready to face the moment when it comes – similar to soldiers preparing for war. And second, by spending hours, weeks, months and years in the gym pumping muscles you don’t have the time to leave an impact in the world except if you are earning money as a bodybuilder or model. But 99 % don’t. So they all often work in jobs they don’t like, spend their spare time in the gym or in the kitchen to prepare their shakes and vitamins. To have an impact means to do good in the world. To leave a legacy. Something that matters. That is why most of these men go through a “gym crisis” after a few years, because they miss a vision and purpose in their workouts as they are not contributing the world by that.
2. Career Men: This kind of man is very masculine: He is successful, dedicated and disciplined. He works long hours, shows persistence, is tough in negotiations. A modern warrior. Emails are their weapons. But what those “warriors” don’t realize is when the war is over. When they should go home. When they have to take care of their wounds from the war. They continue the battle with a grimness like in the famous Thirty Years’ War in Europe in the 17th century. But for what? The day comes for many of those men when they realize that the only battle is with themselves. There is no one else left in the battle field. They ‘killed’ anyone else. The own family has been forgotten or they left. Even if those men return home, they cannot let go of their habits to fight, they forgot the ease and joy of life. They have massive issues to live without battles. Many are addicted to work after decades and take themselves far too serious. They have to distract themselves from ‘life’. They always find an email left to answer.
3. Family Men: Family men are often in the opposite situation compared to career men: They don’t like battles, confrontations or hunting. They don’t like to leave their comfort zone. There is nothing wrong with that. I highly appreciate men who take over responsibility for their family. I really do. Although it doesn’t look like, they do have something essential in common with the career men: They usually both are not able to take care of themselves. Regular workouts or wellness breaks, relaxing, pursuing a hobby, reading a good non business related book, meeting friends and so on. They don’t fight for their rights, because they serve others. Which is noble, but dangerous once the ‘beast’ inside a man – his anger and frustration – is waking up. That is why regular self reflection is important as well as taking some time for themselves to enjoy and relax.
4. Easy / Lazy Men: The easy or lazy men are also an interesting phenomenon in the modern world. They are born in a first world country with financial stability, a credit card, a social system and internet. Their attitude is ‘minimal work and maximal fun“. They are not showing any masculine attributes compared to the three groups above. They are the farthest away from the idea of having impact in the world and leaving a legacy behind. They are overwhelmed by the world and just want to have a good time in front of their TV and their Playstation. As long as they can financially afford this lifestyle, there is nothing wrong with that. I admire them sometimes as they have a lot of fun and easiness in their life. Something what other men could learn from them. But some of them did not choose to be this way. In their youth these men were not in contact with successful male mentors, shining fathers and role models, and they are often scared to make a step into the unknown. The more complex and digital the world is becoming, the more of these men will be created.
Daily consequences of globalization, digitization and emancipation of women
How did it come so far that men are confused, misunderstood and overwhelmed. Mainly, I see three trends:
1. Globalization: Before flying to other countries became affordable to the mass and global TV stations conquered the world, we lived according to local, social behaviors. We did what the others in the village did and rarely got impulses from people from other cities or countries. Globalization allows us to get impressions of dozens of completely different cultures in a zap. The question many people have: Are the values and perspectives my parents and teachers taught me the right ones? Men question their environment and decisions much earlier than before, and often fall into a crisis. I.e. many young people do not want to follow the path of their career oriented parents and are looking for a life filled with more purpose, joy and meaning.
2. Digitalization: Before the internet it was already hard enough to take care of ONE life, but now we take care of TWO: The real and the virtual world. And this is overwhelming for everyone. Every thought we invest in the virtual world and how people are perceiving us leaves less energy for the real world. What many people doesn’t (want to) see, we cannot grow as human being in front of our smartphone or tablet but we grow by real interactions and experiences. The more we care about how many likes and retweets we got on Facebook and Twitter, the shorter the time that’s left for the real world. Don’t get me wrong, the internet has its benefits. But it is about finding the right balance between the real and the virtual world. This is a unique challenge that none of the generations before had to face. As experiencing the virtual world is so much easier than the real world, we often decide to live out our wishes and desires secretly out of the comfort of our home. The result is human isolation and internet addiction. I am convinced that loneliness is THE biggest challenge of the 21st century. So how do we deal with it and find a way out? Let’s summarize it like that: The more you are in front of the screen, the less a man you are. Because life, adventure and impact to the world does not happen in front of the computer, but in real life. The internet is only a tool, not life itself.
3. Emancipation of women: Before women got equal rights in most western countries (and there is still a long way to go), the game was easy: Men decided in many areas at home and in politics over other men and also over women. Men had the financial power, women the sexual, household and emotional power at home. Meanwhile it’s not enough that men provide financial stability for a family, women want more. Better husbands, better fathers, a career, their fulfillment beside their role as a mother and wife. But how does a man deal with this new situation and still keep being a man?
So, the heat is on, the cards on the table. The question remains: Where do we go from here? What is the way out of this misery in a time in which men are disconnecting more and more from the world and themselves?
The answer: A New Masculinity.
Read about it in blog Nr. 2 of this series “Why Men Have to Rise – Part II: It’s Time for a New Masculinity.”