Masculinity Redefined: Paving The Way For Our Children

We can choose to be rooted in fear, or we can choose to root ourselves in strength.

We need to stand up, speak out and become the strong leaders we wish we had.

We must be resilient and drop the ego (fear) in order to move ahead.

Masculinity has been a hot topic as of late, and ironically it’s been fueled by anger and fear. It has been at the forefront of the news, the theme of office chatter, and a point of conversation and opinion all over social media. Trump obviously became the major player, with his erratic and disrespectful behavior exploding before us, but following the election it seems that much of this behavior has continued - and not just from Trump.

Some might say he has given men permission to bulldoze and the general population to cast judgment on their neighbors. Some might say that he’s a terrible role model for our children, our nation. Others are simply fueled by the negative energy, which sets fire to their own anger & fear and has caused major disruption around our country.

Maybe there is some truth to that, but the reality is we are all responsible for our own behavior and how we respond to things we aren’t comfortable with. I believe Trump is shining a light on his own insecurities by being so vulgar and crude. It's a one-man theater show that is hiding the darkness & truth behind the curtain. He’s one man, one person who is in the spotlight - but let’s be honest, he isn’t the only one.

The aftermath of the election has caused a lot of tension in our Country, as we anticipated would happen regardless of the outcome. It has brought out the worst in everyone, because: FEAR. Fear is our own insecurities about being vulnerable and letting go of ego, but fear doesn’t help us move forward or address the real issues.

So, instead of talking about "locker room chatter”, shaming the behavior we see in others, or becoming fearful of people in power roles - what if we started asking why? What if we begin to ask what is going on within men (and women) that is perpetuating this volatile behavior?

It's in the answer that we will find opportunity for growth & change. It's not in the anger, resentment & fear.

We put very little value on the things that we feminize. As a society, we struggle with the idea of masculinity and what it really means. Our little boys are raised to be tough and told to not cry, or to “be a man”. They aren’t encouraged to ask for help and are given the impression that to show vulnerability is a sign of weakness. Rather than lift up feminine traits in both men and women, we suppress that behavior and focus on burying all the “stuff”. And, as a result, emotions come out in destructive ways - insecurities, vulgarity, aggression, and even depression.

I’m quite familiar with the masculine spirit, though I’m not an expert. Rather, I’d call myself a lifelong student - a researcher, I suppose. Between being close to my dad, having a brother, the male best friends in my life, a coach that scarred me, and well…husbands, I’ve done a lot of research.

Add to that, all women have their own masculine spirit and many (like myself) struggle with understanding the appropriate balance. As girls we are raised to believe that speaking out isn’t feminine and women who are too vocal are viewed as controlling and bossy. I always related more to men than women, though, and maybe it was due to my own insecurities about appearing weak and vulnerable, maybe it’s because I steer clear of drama, or maybe it’s because being emotional never felt safe.

Yes, I’ve seen and been the object of inappropriate behavior. I had a college coach that shamed my body; I spent time in the hospital while sick with a young woman who was raped, trying to fight for her life and find a reason to respect her body and herself. I’ve personally been stalked, violated, verbally abused, and belittled. Yet, I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t always stick up for myself.

But this more than the objectification of women, feminism, racism, or any of that “locker room talk” that has been discussed. The topic of masculinity right now should be about responsibility. Our responsibility to raise conscious men and women; to educate & empower in our homes, communities and workplaces; to stand up as leaders and address the things that should be happening.

Inclusivity. Vulnerability. Acceptance. LOVE.

We must stop respecting poor behavior and begin shining a light on it.

Masculinity isn’t just a gender thing, it’s as much about the male spirit as it is as the female spirit. It’s about getting to a point where it’s okay for men (and women) to acknowledge what isn’t okay, but even further - to make a shift. For men to feel secure in their own masculinity without wearing a mask of false “manliness” or toughness, and for women to recognize their own value, to not accept inappropriate communication, and to find their voice as leaders.

I’m raising two boys. And, just as it is crucial to raise our girls to be strong and accepting of themselves, it is of utmost importance to me that my boys understand the healthy balance between masculine and feminine; powerful and gentle. As a mom I want them to be comfortable in their own skin. But, I also struggle with the expectation that we all should toughen up...and when my incredibly sensitive toddler is distraught with emotion, I sometimes find myself thinking or even saying, “stop crying”. And then I shame myself for thinking it.

But, I’ve been programed to think it. I even say it to myself. I often apologize for feeling vulnerable, crying or making a mistake. And if I, a female, struggle with this feeling of not being strong and powerful - I can’t imagine the challenges that men face with this very same thing.

A lot of people feel a false sense of security around a man who is strong, capable, and tough; they focus less on the inner workings of the spirit and more on the exterior or the perception. But I can tell you first hand, that the perception is often misguided and when a man spends so much time proving his manliness through words, physique and outward untruths - there is usually something they don’t want us to see.

To me, a man who is gentle yet confident, soft yet strong, vocal yet thoughtful is a man who is masculine. A man who can be comfortable with his own vulnerability and his own flaws, respectful of and empowering to others, and knows when to show up and how.

A conscious man.

On the contrary, a man who puffs out his chest and plows through people in an effort to prove his self-worth and “manliness” is nothing but a coward. A man who is hiding his own insecurities by bulldozing through people, controlling conversations, evoking power and aggression when grace is more appropriate is not masculine, he is insecure. Unaware. Masked.

So let’s flip the script. Let’s teach our children that shielding insecurities with a masculine mask isn’t the answer. It doesn’t serve us.

It isn't healthy to block our hearts, but being a little vulnerable is.

Let’s redefine masculinity.

I want my boys to walk free of masks or costumes, and rather - be completely comfortable in their own beautiful, unique skin. To be at peace with what resides in their hearts, and not have to pretend.

It is our responsibility today, and every day to speak up, hold our kids, students and friends close, talk to our children positively, and love one another.

We can’t change the past, but we can influence our future.

Let’s start to let go of the fear that is consuming our country and instead begin to focus on stepping up in our own households and cities, by leading our children, our equals and our superiors to rise up against the hate and the anger. Let us be and empower others to become female and male leaders; 365 degree leaders; conscious men and women who are okay with being vulnerable and giving a bit of grace.

There is strength in vulnerability.

There is power in hope.

There is freedom in moving ahead.

We must root ourselves in truth and become the strong leaders necessary to keep us all united.


Kelly TravisComment