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How to Be a Man
Like it or not, it takes more than a pair of cojones to achieve manhood. Cultures around the world have rites of passage to symbolize it and customs to preserve it. Although there is no one way to categorize manliness, there are certain attributes almost everyone would consider to be "manly."
Part 1. Mind
Number 1. Know yourself.
Find out who you are and be happy with that person. There's no one way to be a man. A 'real' man can be a logger who wears plaid and doesn't shower for 10 days; a 'real' man can also be a professor who talks about Milton and Shakespeare. All men, however, know who they are and respect themselves in and out.
Number 2. Be knowledgeable about something.
It doesn't really matter what it is, but you should consider yourself pretty familiar with one area of expertise. Men may not know or want to use fancy, two-dollar words, but when it comes time to getting things done, they know how to act. They use their smarts to get it done. What area of expertise do you know? Here are just a few areas you might consider diving into.
- General knowledge. You're the jack of all trades. You could win a pretty penny on Jeopardy! if you cared at all about being on TV. You know the difference between participles and parts of speech, pterodactyls and pterorhynchus, and a $99 suit and a $6,000 suit.
- History. Increasingly rare, the man who's a student of history gives himself the benefit of a very wide lens when contemplating problems: he can draw on Roman artillery strategy, Cold War negotiating tactics, and obscure French economic policy, among others. He knows that history isn't just about preventing the mistakes of the past from happening in the future.
- Women. Some men turn the opposite sex into a field of study. If you want to be knowledgeable about women, be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. There's nothing worse than a man who thinks he's God's gift to all women, but who's stubbornly insulting, cavalier, and clueless. Note that this does not apply to all men and that such stereotypes like "being a lady's-man" are not only out-dated, but also presumptuous.
There's nothing wrong with making a mistake. Only the insecure man thinks that making a mistake is bad, because he's not comfortable with who he is in the first place. Confident men know when they're wrong and aren't afraid to admit it.
- Learn to say "I'm sorry" in different ways. Men know that saying "sorry" doesn't always have to be verbal. A ticket to a baseball game, breakfast in bed, and a camping trip are all ways to say "I'm sorry" without moving the old vocal chords back and forth. Men know that these are often more effective ways of communicating regret than two measly words.
What is the man-code? The man-code is an unwritten set of rules that some men live by, often evolving but rarely changing. If it means something to you, take the man-code seriously. It might tell other men that you respect them as much as you respect yourself. Remember that this is all to be taken with a pinch of salt. Every man is different, you are different and if this list doesn't resonate with you or mean anything to you, do not feel as though you have to go out of your way to achieve these things. Here are a few items on the list:
- Dating no-nos. You may never date another friend's sister (or sibling), unless you actually intend on marrying them. You may never date another friend's ex unless you have his explicit permission. Explicit permission means actually asking him.
- Share your possessions when possible. If a friend asks for a pair of work boots, a drill, or a crock-pot a day in advance, you should be kind enough to loan it to him. Cars, lucky items, or partners are not necessarily applicable.
- Birthday presents for other men are always optional. If pressed for information, you may always lie and tell them your significant other ordered you to act.
- Never initiate conversation with other men at a urinal station. It is never acceptable to choose a urinal immediately adjacent to another man if an open, further-removed urinal is available.
- No smiley-faces or emoticons are necessary when texting another guy. Although acceptable (not preferable) to use when texting love-interests, keep use to a bare minimum.
Understand that all men in all cultures may have, to some extent, been socialized in ways that may be psychologically and culturally damaging, and may bring unhappiness. The first step in creating a sense of self in manhood is to examine the environment in which you were raised, as objectively as you can.
- Did you grow up in a culture where it was acceptable to abuse someone, whether physically or verbally, who was "out of line" or insubordinate? Violence is more often the result of cowardice than a genuine impulse to solve a problem. Using violence or threats against friends or family to "show your authority" is unhealthy and damaging.
- Were you taught that being "tough" means suppressing emotion, holding in tears, and never exposing vulnerability? The drawback here is that you also learn to internalize and suppress these emotions which then fester and get worse. Focus on being a different kind of tough: be a reliable, strong figure who can handle adversity.
- Were you taught to hate/fear anyone who's homosexual? Understand that only one thing makes you gay: having a romantic and sexual preference for people of the same gender. The kind of music you like, the clothes you wear, whether you cry at sad movies, buying your wife flowers, being sensitive or nice to others — none of that makes you gay. Outward displays of homophobia point to a man's own sexual insecurity, not his prowess and is not cool in any way, shape or form.
Part 2. Body
Number 1. Clean yourself, even if you are living out in the woods.
A man knows that cleaning ones body is necessary, every animal does it, but don't fall into the trap of "grooming yourself" as part of some modernist social trend. Grooming has become a business and corporations and companies never tire of convincing you that you need endless amounts of unnecessary products. The modern "grooming" and "manscaping" business is all done in order to make money, not because its noble, healthy or moral.
- You don't have to shave every day, especially not if you are growing a beard. Some men can not grow a proper beard, and that's okay, maybe then its better to stay clean shaven. Other men have very good beard growth, which is natures call to them to grow a full beard. Men tend to be afraid of what potential partners think of facial hair. No one should dominate you into shaving you beard when you don't want to. Be yourself, as nature created you, be your own self.
- You don't have to shave your chest or body hair in general. You don't have to live up to any nonsensical and superficial image of "smooth, chiseled (plastic) man" created by modern fashion, advertising and movie industry, again in order to make money. Be proud of what makes you a man, and the physical attributes nature has created to give you your male identity.
- Shower and bathe when necessary. A man benefits from showering when he is dirty or smelly — not necessarily every day. Some may choose to stay dirty or smelly for a good reason (working on a car, or about to work out).
- You can cut your hair and finger nails regularly. Most men like no-nonsense haircuts, although some men prefer hair that is a little longer or style and that is fine also.
Being a man doesn't mean you need to be ripped. It does mean you need to take care of your body. (For some men, that does mean lifting weights.) Adjust to the responsibility of being by keeping fit: do cardio, yoga or pilates (not only for women), strength training, or sports, combined with a healthy diet. At the very least, walk about 30 minutes a day to burn fat and build some muscle.
Number 3. Wear clothes that fit you.
Your clothes don't need to be designer or cost an arm and a leg. They do, however, need to fit you. Not all men are muscular and stocky, and therefore don't look great in baggy, loose-fitting clothes. All men will need:
- Great jeans. One pair of casual jeans, one pair of work jeans, and one pair of formal jeans should round out your wardrobe. Build around the basics.
- Some button-down shirts. Again, a couple casual item, a couple for work, and a couple formal button-downs should be enough for the average man.
- Decent shoes. Men probably want between three and five different kinds of shoes at any given time: formal shoes (for work and/or big occasions), tennis shoes, work boots, casual shoes (chukkas, lace-ups, sneakers, etc.), or slightly-less-than-formal shoes (oxfords, top-siders, loafers, etc.). Mix and match depending on your needs and habits.
Men are born adventurers, making the lure of drugs very real. Men who are comfortable with themselves tend not to rely on the crutch of drugs for support. Even with bills weighing them down, work staring them in the face, and personal projects (not to mention football) looming, men find a way to appreciate the beauty of life without sedating themselves.
Part 3. Spirit
Number 1. Develop your own principles.
A man isn't always comfortable being judge, jury, and executioner, but he knows right from wrong and expects others to play by the same rules. Look inside yourself and ask: would I want someone else doing that to me? This should help you develop principles to live by.
- A man never steals, even if he is desperate. A desperate man learns to ask others to help him instead of helping himself to something he is not entitled to.
- A man helps others in need. He knows when others are down on their luck and need a helping hand, even if the utility lies in the gesture itself.
- A man trusts his friends, significant others, and family. He follows through with what he says he'll do and expects others to do the same.
- A man never lies — to himself or others. He develops a conscience that gives him good feedback and allows him to be comfortable with the truth, even if it hurts.
Men are naturally ambitious. We want to be breadwinners and have the admiration and respect of our peers. Not all men choose the same career paths, however, so ambition doesn't always amount to the same thing. Whatever career or profession you choose (you may have many), set goals for yourself, live up to or exceed them, and reinvent yourself whenever you need to. Define your own idea of success.
Number 3. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions.
The main difference between a man and a boy, and adult and a child, is that men are responsible. Men honor their commitments, accept their duties and are accountable for their actions. Men clean up after themselves (figuratively and literally).
- Men know that anyone can father a baby, but only a man who understands and accepts responsibility can be a good father.
- Men refuse to make anyone do anything they themselves are unwilling to do. As a result, they appreciate the difficulty and risk other people take on their behalf.
Making sacrifices is part of growing up, whether you like it or not. The difference between a man and a boy is that a man steps up to the plate, while a boy hesitates or complains. Especially for the people in his life that he loves, a man looks at sacrifice — whether it means devoting time, money or other resources to people aside from himself — as his duty.
Number 5. Be a good man.
Integrity is doing the right thing, for the right reason, even when no one is watching. It can be tempting to think that by meeting your self-defined responsibilities as a man, your job is done, but that doesn't always make you a good person. Never stop trying to do the right thing and re-evaluating your character and integrity. If you're going to be a man, be a good man, or else it's no better than remaining a boy.
Part 4. Love
Number 1. Use your inner gentleman.
Your inner gentleman tells you the things to do that you know you should — but sometimes are too lazy — to do:
- Paying for dates, unless the love-interest in question views the act as some barbaric throwback to a more misogynistic time. Treat with caution.
- Opening doors, helping into chairs, and saying "please" and "thank you." Generally putting the lover in question ahead of yourself out of respect.
- Doing domestic duties. Some men who are already in long-term relationships shirk their domestic duties: forgetting to take out the trash, do the dishes, change the diapers. Real men know that they must share in domestic duties, as unpleasant as they may be.
- Being a gracious loser. Man are naturally competitive, making this a tough one for some. Accept defeat with the same grace that you accept victory. Easier said than done.
Men love the chase of romance, but too often get lured into bragging about the conquest. Don't fall victim to the notion that if you don't brag about it, it didn't happen. Success in love speaks loud enough for itself. A quiet confidence will perhaps even suggest to your friends that you're a regular Lothario, even if you're not.
Number 3. Always treat your significant other with respect.
A simple list of dos and don'ts:
- Listen to what they have to say.
- Forgive them when they make a simple mistake.
- Follow through on what you say you'll do.
- Treat them the same way you'd like to be treated.
- Hold them to unrealistic expectations.
- Manipulate them to get whatever you want.
- Treat them as an object instead of a person.
- Assume that you know how they'll feel or react.
Lots of guys rush people into uncomfortable situations. By doing this, they not only alienate the lover but also keep themselves from getting what they want. Straight men know that when it comes to dating, the lady sets the pace: if she wants to rush into a whirlwind romance, he's usually game; if she wants to take things slower, he'll reassure her that he's there for the long-haul. By letting her set the pace, the man sets the relationship up for success and usually ends up richer in the bargain. This can apply to non-heterosexual relationships also but remember for all, the best thing in a relationship is the communication. Talk to your partner!
Number 5. Keep a little mystery in the tank.
Being intriguingly puzzling can be very alluring and seductive to some. Being mysterious does not mean being the strong, silent type. It just means holding back a little for a later time, surprising with an unexpected skill, trait or gesture.
- Surround yourself with good role models, even if they're younger than you are. Who in your life do you think is a good male role model? How do they act? What do they do? Learn from them, but remember that no one is perfect as well--they are still learning, just like you are.
- Being a man and being a woman mean the same thing, when it comes down to it - being a kind, respectful and true to you person. It is not defined by anything else, such as clothing preference, hobbies, or sexual preference.
- You may not want to marry. That is your choice; marriage is not a requirement for being a man.
- Consider taking healthy interest in children. Nothing is more attractive than a man being kind to children.
- "A strong man has no problem defending himself but a stronger man does." -Perussi- Know your own strength in other words. A mentally bigger and better man does not defend with his fists. Chill out. You can't strike back physically at everything that hurts you or you'll get hurt more. Don't put up with BS, but don't use your strength unless you HAVE to. Plus, you'll be a lot more respectable if you don't take revenge and try to practice the method of turning the other cheek.
It takes years to develop the qualities that differentiate men from boys. We all grow at different speeds. Keep working at it.
This article was co-authored by Trudi Griffin, LPC. Trudi Griffin is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Wisconsin. She received her MS in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Marquette University in 2011.
In other languages:
Italiano: Essere un Uomo,
Español: ser un hombre,
Deutsch: Männlich sein,
Português: Ser um Homem,
Nederlands: Een echte man zijn,
Français: être un homme,
Русский: быть мужчиной,
Bahasa Indonesia: Menjadi Pria Sejati,
Čeština: Jak se stát mužem
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