We live in a very hyper masculine society; framed by the popular, physical images of ‘real men’ delivering a specific gender language. Men, according to the social norm, are to present themselves in such a way that is void of any personal inadequacy. He is to celebrate his masculinity through an exaggerated set of activities. These activities often become daily rituals that are subconsciously designed to keep others from considering him a sissy, slightly feminine or weak. Some guys put forth these frenzied efforts to create a hedge against being revealed as feminine or soft, while most others do so in fear of being humiliated or dominated by other men.
From a very early age, young boys are taught to have contempt for their peers who aren’t star athletes on the playground or after school, football field. As teenagers, males begin engaging in ‘masculine performance’. Many join sports teams, lie about their sexual conquests, dress in such a way to mirror the trends of their male role models, and make fun of those who he feels don’t measure up. These guys engage in catcalling and escalating acts of violence when in a group setting alongside their male counterparts. As guys grow into their manhood, this masculine performance is exercised in the weight room. While attempting to prove himself to his father, coach, boss, peers, co-workers and friends, men tend to build a physical shield around their insecurities.
THIS SHIELD COMES IN THE FORM OF MUSCLES.
A lot of men who grew up feeling physically unattractive, socially unaccepted or personally inadequate, hide those insecurities behind a hard and chiseled exterior. Building muscles becomes their way of controlling the ways in which they are perceived as a normal member of masculine society. Very few males actually workout and build their bodies for health and wellness reasons. The large majority do so in fear that they will be unmasked, emasculated and labeled as not being a ‘real man’. Having muscles is yet another way for these guys to overcompensate for the fact that they were not loved by their fathers, noticed by their peers and more than likely, did not appeal to the opposite or same sex. The more they workout and build muscle mass, the more these guys begin to feel in control of their everyday lives.
MOST DON’T EVEN REALIZE THAT THEY SPEND SO MUCH TIME IN THE GYM AS A WAY OF BURYING THE PAIN THEY’VE NEVER CONQUERED.
My life experience over the past twelve years has revealed quite a bit. As I have met men of every socio-economic standing, as well as those who are considered conventionally attractive, I find that many of them have a very low, self esteem. The individuals who many of us would assume are extremely confident and sure of themselves, tend to feel extremely unsuccessful and unattractive as well. As society teaches us that masculinity is created by a sense of strength, power and conquest, I find that these individuals tend to subconsciously compensate.
By social standards, in order to fit the accepted mold of masculinity, one must remain in control of their physical, social, emotional and mental self. Masculine men are considered to be tall and bulky. They do not display emotion unless it is of anger or upset. Masculine men are always in control of their finances, family structure and immediate environment. Having the ‘look’ of being powerful by maintaining muscles and a toned body, easily fills the check boxes of the masculine expectation.
The gym then becomes a place where these guys feel they can prove themselves beyond their feelings of fear. Lifting weights for hours at a time and then wearing the results publicly gives insecure men a sense of power. This power is perceived as strength by onlookers and therefore solidifies the concept of masculinity.
Masculinity is not defined by the existence of male physiques. The circumferences of a man’s chest, neck, thighs, forearms and calf muscles has nothing to do with manhood. Instead, it further perpetuates a sense of inadequacy amongst young boys who grow up to maybe not resemble their action figures and media heroes. Masculinity isn’t the result of being able to sexually perform at a moments notice, having a large penis, big bank accounts, a love for sports and the ability to conquer a lion. It is more about maintaining a strong sense of self awareness in the male form.
DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE AS A MAN? CAN YOU IDENTIFY YOUR POSITION AND PURPOSE IN THE WORLD?
Do not confuse ones muscles with a fleeting sense of masculinity. A man’s exterior can be very misleading, especially once you get to know his character beyond the chiseled body.