Is There Such Thing as a ‘Real’ Man?

A real man should always treat a woman with respect.

A real man should always be forthright about his intentions.

A real man should never use women as his emotional rehabilitation center. 

A real man is always there for his family…

You’ve probably heard or read this type of perfectionism everywhere in life and particularly on the internet. I’m not saying that it’s not healthy to aspire to be a “good man,” but the truth of the matter is that it’s a whole lot more complex than that.

In theory, yes, a man should be all these things (and more!), but in reality, no-one can do perfection. I’ve tried it myself, and it doesn’t work. In fact, the harder you try to be perfect the bigger those gaping holes in your personality become.

No-one is perfect; everyone is a little jaded by their life experiences, and everyone messes up. We’re all confronted by the grey area in life and we all have to make bad decisions from time to time. Sometimes life presents you with only a few bad options and no good ones. Life is…messy.

So what IS a good man? What makes a good man? How do you know when you’ve come across a good man?

Great questions. I doubt anyone can give you the same answer, and from the same perspective.

I bet if you asked ten thousand people from across the globe their answers would all be somewhat different. The reality of it is, is that men have to decide what masculinity is for themselves.  Our beliefs will be driven by the culture in which we we raised and our specific upbringing for sure, but then our life experiences and personal beliefs will round out what our expectations are for ourselves.

My idea of masculinity is what masculinity is for me, and that’s it.

The irony of it all is that we seem to do it to ourselves as we try to find a place to fit in the world like the infamous “square peg”.  Most (if not ALL) people are rough around the edges. There’s no hiding that fact.

And as we get older and learn lessons that our parents told us long ago; when the penny drops, a lot of us seem to relax and be content with those rough-edges that we have, and we realize that if we want to fit into the world, then the world has to fit in with us.

I grew up without a father figure in the household, and I had a lot of problems. My own dad, wherever he was at the time, wasn’t there and able to give me the emotional support when puberty was throwing the works at me. I grew up with no healthy ways of managing my stress and anxiety, or any of the negative stuff most people naturally wade through; through my father I never learned the healthy coping mechanisms I needed to get by. I’ve seen it with my own little boy. He listens to his mum, but he copies me.

With no father figure and no coping mechanisms in place I grew up with a really warped sense of men and masculinity; many boys, we mimic our relationship with fathers, and since he wasn’t there regularly and gave me no emotional support when he was there, I grew up with complex emotional problems and ended up very jaded. My view on the world was scarred by my deep insecurity and outward hostility to men that I didn’t know.

I’m a firm believer that your world is shaped by your own inward perceptions. If all you see is flowers and rainbows, then that’s more of what you’ll see in life. The same can be said about hate and anger.

This all changed of course when I was healing and met many strong and empowering men in my journey. My wife’s dad for example. A quiet individual, but very fatherly, loving and kind.

The men in my groups that I’ve run before — all they wanted to accomplish was a better life for their family. I began to realize that through getting interested in other men and their stories that it was me that needed healing, and not the other way around. My perception of men was beginning to change for the better as I began opening the doors to listening to more men.

And it dawned on me as I talked to more men and threw myself into groups of different men is that masculinity is definitely a spectrum, and it absolutely cannot be defined in one statement. If you look at Steve Jobs, then look at Hulk Hogan, you will soon see that both are practically on the opposite ends of that spectrum.

So I guess that I can’t answer my question. There is no such thing as a real man.

A man, yes. But a “real” man? No.

Live as you want to — as long as you are comfortable with who you are and take responsibility for the consequences of your actions.

A version of this was previously published on The Relationship Blogger