What Masculinity Means to Me

By Tim Hopkins

For many years of my adult life I struggled with the concept of masculinity, with the values, traits and ideas around what it means to be a man. I guess I rejected the mainstream idea of how a man should be, as tough, controlling, and unemotional, and I didn’t have a replacement: I didn’t have a clear sense of what masculinity means to me.

Growing up I never had any healthy male role models. My dad was working all the time and he could not express his feelings. A lot of the movies around at the time had stars like John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. If I cried, I was called a sook or told big boys don’t cry; it wasn’t safe to express myself openly, so I learnt to suppress my feelings and built armour around my heart. I lived this model of masculinity for many years, from the posturing, heavy drinking, and workaholic, insecure sense of myself, always staying busy, as this distracted me from the present with how I felt inside; I was controlling and without a clear sense of direction in my life. Eventually there came a point when I knew this had to change because my life was not working too well in many areas, especially in relationships. I needed to discover myself again, shed my armour and find a new model of masculinity that felt right to me, to connect with the authentic part of me that was trying to be heard.

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I travelled many paths in my search. I’ve attended personal growth groups, and a men’s rite of passage weekend with the Mankind Project; I’ve also attended tantric training that helped me access my feminine feeling side and relearn how to express myself in an open, vulnerable and healthy way, and become more comfortable and open about sexuality, exploring and bringing into awareness my shadow side and coming to terms with it. Biggest of all in my search was learning to feel and trust my heart again. My life changed so much as a result of my journeying, I learnt what the healthy masculine meant for me; it meant living form the heart with the three big Ps: Presence, Passion and Purpose. I’ve learnt to love myself so I am not living from an empty space. One of the big masculine traits is to be driven and goal orientated but when that comes from an empty, numbed-out space, the unhealthy masculine seeks things outside of itself in the form of sexual conquests, attachment to power and consumables in order to seek validation and respect, or at least that was the habit of my unhealthy masculinity.

I think many of the problems we face now are derived from the unhealthy masculine energy that has dominated our culture for far too long, and contributed to too much corruption, control, anger, violence and competition. This unhealthy, patriarchal masculinity comes from such an insecure place that it has tried to control and suppress the feminine; it has suppressed women’s sexuality, spread fear and mistrust through the media to oppress people and create wars, and allowed a raping and pillaging of the planet’s resources.

Another name for this unhealthy masculine energy could be the immature masculine, which may be represented by a wounded boy living inside a man’s body, trying to run the show most of the time. I believe that this level of consciousness is slowly changing as people become aware of the control mechanisms in place; it’s like we are slowly waking up, and I believe we are waking up faster and fast, as we live in a time of rapid expansion of consciousness.

The feminine is re-emerging and I firmly believe it’s one of the roles of the emerging healthy masculine to support and encourage this; whether that be through men getting in touch with their feelings, healthy support and education around sexuality, or supporting more equality among sexes, equal pay structures and job opportunities, and taking away the unequal competition in the workplace so women don’t feel they have to compete with men and live through their masculine. The world desperately needs more balanced structures of the masculine and the feminine, especially higher in the power chain.

So, to go back to the original question about me knowing my own sense of masculinity, I now have a much clearer view of what masculinity means to me. The healthy masculine lives from an open heart, he feels and speaks his truth, and from this place he finds his presence, passion and purpose in life. He is in touch with himself on a deep level, respects himself, does not need things outside of himself to feel better as he is full already, and asks for help if he needs it. He lives from a balanced, grounded, present space where he feels comfortable with moving from his masculine to his feminine in support of himself, his partner, his family and the world he interacts with on a daily basis. I still fall off the wagon quite a lot; but I am so much more at ease with who I am, how I feel about myself and what feeds and opens me, which in turn allows me to better express and share my gifts, and my life direction.