In 1996, during my inaugural group meeting at the clinic, a cold realization washed over me. As the word “man” hung on the tip of my tongue, I was seized by insecurity. Could someone riddled with imperfections, often shrouded in silence like myself, genuinely claim that title? My heart raced and a cascade of self-doubt enveloped me. Could I wear the badge of “manhood” when I often felt voiceless? These introspective queries churned within me, creating a frozen whirlpool of confusion.
Suddenly, another surge of anxiety hit: what if others perceived my internal turmoil? What if they unmasked the façade I had so meticulously constructed? The fear of being labeled an imposter intensified, making me recede further into my mental fortress.
True manhood, as I later understood, is not merely a function of growing older or ticking off societal milestones. It encompasses a deeper trinity: self-acceptance, forging genuine connections, and courageously displaying vulnerability.
Historically, the blueprint of manhood was straightforward: be the bedrock, the shield, the achiever. As we evolved from cave dwellers safeguarding our clans to agrarians working the land, our roles shifted subtly. The onset of industrialization and the digital age recalibrated the measures of a man’s worth. Success metrics spanned from scholastic achievements and athletic prowess to professional accomplishments and intimacy. The modern man is often precariously straddling a line between age-old tenets and today’s ever-evolving benchmarks.
Renowned author Andrew Reiner encapsulated the current sentiment, noting, “Masculinity, once a steadfast trait, now wobbles on shifting sands”. Today’s man grapples with an internal conflict, trying to harmonize personal beliefs with external societal demands.
The challenge is multifold. We are nudged to build fortresses of physical strength yet maintain reservoirs of emotional depth. To be both the gallant knight and the empathetic listener. The past deemed emotional intelligence an adversary to masculinity, but today, it stands as a testament to a mature man’s character. But here is the conundrum: in a world that occasionally misconstrues vulnerability as frailty, where do we foster this essential trait?
For many — including me — the sanctuary lies in group sessions. In these forums, we are not seeking external approval but yearning for mutual understanding and acceptance. Traditional settings may have weaponized our vulnerabilities against us, but within groups like EVRYMAN, sharing becomes liberating. Here, vulnerability is not met with disdain but celebrated as valiant honesty.
The quest to define manhood is as much an individual pilgrimage as it is a societal reckoning. The labyrinth that society constructs might confine us, but the true odyssey is charting a path authentic to oneself.
On that transformative evening in 1996, cocooned in the group’s empathetic embrace and echoed insecurities, a profound epiphany struck me: Perhaps, beneath the layers of doubt and self-critique, I was indeed a man.
Does the title of “man” resonate effortlessly with you? How easily can you call yourself a man? Can you speak it as easily as you say your height?
What unseen chains restrain you? What keeps you from believing, feeling, and saying that you are a man? What are your reasons — and who gave them to you? What is your degrading self-talk, your hidden beliefs?EVRYMANMale EgoMens Healthmens' workvulnerability