Finding role models for young men
I’ve just finished reading The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes. Here’s an extract from the blurb:
“At 30 years old, outwardly thriving but unfulfilled inside, Howes began a personal journey to find inner peace and to uncover the many masks that men, both young and old, wear. In the Mask of Masculinity, Howes exposes the nine masks that men wear to protect themselves – and the truth that lies beneath them.”
It’s an interesting exploration of masculinity and offers great insight into why men behave as they do.
Lewis’s book led me to the documentary The Mask You Live In. In one scene, a group of young men are given a picture of a mask and on the front are asked to write down what they allow the world to sees and on the other, what they don’t let people see, in other words, what is behind the mask? One of the answers was; funny, caring and happy, with sadness and fear on the reverse. I found this a very moving part of the documentary; it really drives home the fact that so many feelings are hidden. The documentary also explores the consequences of keeping such emotions hidden – depression and violence being among them. More importantly, it discusses the idea of masculinity and what it means.
I worry for the young men in my life – I worry for my son and nephews who are growing up in a world which is giving conflicting views on masculinity. What does it mean to be a man in today’s world? They are seeking out role models. Social media is full of images and reports of successful men, of men with perfect bodies and amazing cars. It seems sad that boys as young as 12 are obsessed with what their bodies look like. Their role models are often sportsmen who seem perfect. They rarely see how someone got to where they are today and are unaware that these celebrities represent only a tiny percentage of the total male population. They worry that they will never be good enough.
It’s refreshing, therefore, to find successful men, like Lewis Howes, who are willing to share their personal journeys and struggles. On his podcast and in his books he openly talks about his difficulties at school and how he was abused as a child. When he first opened up he was terrified as to what other men would think of him and was surprised to find that instead of them thinking he was weak, they congratulated him on his strength to open up. I think more men need to do this, especially successful men who are in the public eye. If they can turn to our young men and say – I was once like you. I was bullied/abused/lonely then they are paving the way for others to follow and for young men to accept and talk about how they feel instead of bottling things inside with often devastating consequences. However, to open up and be honest is to put yourself in a position of vulnerability – to reverse that mask and reveal what’s on the other side – if more people start to do so, then others will surely follow. So – stand up and talk!
Who do you think is a good role model for young men? I would love to hear your thoughts.