My wife and I often have conversations about how we want our boys to be able to express themselves and their thoughts and feelings without judgment, and not to think they have to fit some societal image of what a boy or man should be. In the book I’m currently working on, I try to go deeper into this topic on a personal level and share experiences that have impacted me, both positively and negatively, and what I’ve learned from them as a result.
Then just last week I came across this video with Lewis Howes, talking about his new book, The Mask of Masculinity. In this interview with Marie Forleo he brings up many very valid points that I feel have been destructive in our society regarding how boys and men behave toward each other, toward women, and in many different life situations. Some of these messages include hiding feelings, needing to be aggressive, and generally to conquer or dominate anything or anyone.
While I believe it is true that there is a very real influence of testosterone on behavior, and have felt it in myself, teaching boys and men things like having empathy, the value of meditation, emotional intelligence, compassion for others and better communication skills can go a long way in helping to reduce the fallout associated with the promotion of machismo as an acceptable norm.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t encourage strength, pride, leadership, athleticism or any other similar skill or trait, it’s just that we value the others just as much, if not more. We have to teach them that it is okay to be hurt or vulnerable, and it is okay to support others when they are. You can have healthy competition and good sportsmanship and compassionate fathers/brothers/sons/friends who are fierce protectors of their loved ones and of the rights of others around them. You can be artistic and smart and sensitive and also a hard-working rugged man as well. In other words, this isn’t an either/or scenario. It can be both.