Many men feel ashamed because of gender stereotypes, which are generalized roles concerning how a boy or a man is supposed to act. In order to be a man, a boy is expected to follow certain rules: he should not cry, he should be good at sports (especially football), he should enjoy watching sports on TV, he should like outdoor activities like fishing and camping, he should be distant and not susceptible to excitability, he should not entertain creative thoughts, etc.
When a boy doesn’t feel like he measures up to “the norm,” he ends up feeling like he doesn’t qualify as a man. I can relate. Coming from a family of collegiate and professional athletes in football and baseball, I fell short of the family standard since I excelled in sports like track, but I was cursed at basketball. I couldn’t sit through more than 30 minutes of fishing, and as the only insomniac, could never wake up before dawn to go hunting.
I spent years kicking myself because I couldn’t appreciate my creative talents; music, theater, and public speaking are alien in my family. Even though my dad was proud of me and encouraged me in these areas, I felt like I was letting the family down. However, I was making this all up in my head. After high school my family attended a corporate reunion of all the extended families. I met a cousin who was super jacked, and thought he must be one of the top football players; it turned out he was trained in ballet.
By only embracing male stereotypes, I was cutting off my potential in becoming a better man. The truest form of a man occurs when he recognizes both his masculine and feminine qualities because every single person has both. Women are attracted to a man who combines both. This is why women are attracted to a gentleman; “gentle” being considered a feminine trait.
Carl Jung claimed we need to integrate the “inner opposite gender of ourselves” in order to achieve our full potential. It’s like when Oz from American Pie discovers he’s good at Glee, long before the TV show became popular. In turn, he meets and begins dating a girl he would have never noticed otherwise.
Anima is the term Jung used to describe the feminine qualities within a man, and Animus to describe the masculine qualities within a woman. A guy does not identify with these unconscious feminine qualities, but projects them onto a woman when he feels a strong emotional attraction. This explains why a guy becomes all gushy when he meets a woman he wants to pursue. A woman can awaken a man’s creative talents that were unconsciously dormant. All of a sudden, a man in love becomes a master poet, a floral expert, or a natural ballroom dancer.
Beginning in the 80’s, the United States Army used the slogan “Be All You Can Be.” As men, Jung points out we only tend to develop those qualities and characteristics that are symbolically male. However, we are holding ourselves back from being all we can be, and perhaps from great achievement by not integrating the anima into our consciousness. While family influences our masculinity, don’t be afraid to explore innate talents or gifts you may brush off and consider feminine only because they are not recognized within the family.
Don’t allow society to dictate how you’re supposed to act as a man either. I spent years living behind a facade, and compensated for my shame by living in the gym, attempting to present a superior masculinity. In reality, I became a stronger man when I allowed myself to experience surrender, and prepared myself to be a greater man through inner healing.
In a nutshell, here are the 5 unexpected ways to be the best gentleman:
- Define your own masculinity
- Explore your hidden talents
- Integrate the anima into your conscious
- Embrace whatever is necessary to become a better man