Men have been known to be driven, driven by work, the need to be successful, to gain material possession, to be stoic and strong, just to name a few. These are all masks men wear to hide who they really are, the fears they have, and the pain they want to avoid.
MEN ARE DRIVEN TO HIDE THE MOST VULNERABLE PARTS OF THEMSELVES
Deep down, people, including men want to be accepted, loved and feel good enough. Yet along the way they receveid so much messaging to be something other than who they are and it creates an inner battle. The constant dialogue from as early as they can remember is to suck it up, toughen up, boys don't cry sends the message that what they are feeling isn't ok, therefor they must not be ok they way they are. Thus begins the need to prove to themselves, their families and the world they ARE good enough. This is where the masks come in and after many years working in the trades and meeting men my whole life, I saw how prevalent this was.
Lewis Howes, author of The Mask of Masculinity discovered there's 9 masks men wear to prove themselves and cover up where they don't measure up. Perhaps it was being picked last for teams at school, or the father that humiliate you when you cried as a child, maybe it was being called stupid, or the girl that dumped you for the more successful guy. Nearly every man will have their version of these experiences that were humiliating and painful where he just didn't measure up. Solution - the mask. It's a way to hide as well as a way to stay protected and safe.
Most men wear a variety of masks to shield the ongoing expectations of what it means to be a man.
LET'S EXPLORE 5 OF THOSE MASKS
THE STOIC MASK - vulnerability is seen as a weakness and emotions must be supressed. There's no crying, no fear, just a wall of protection created to protect the rejection and judgement that will come if anyone sees his emotions.
THE ATHLETE MASK - sports is how men prove themselves strong and valuable. Lewis shares a good athlete is a good man. He spends time getting strong with the need to win at all costs. And if he's not a good athlete he will be come a great fan.
THE MATERIAL MASK - this is so prevalent in our society. The saying "whoever dies with the most toys wins" mentality shows men determine their worth by how much the can accumulate and show-off to the world. See I'm successful and measure up, because look at all the things I have. The watch, the car, the boat, the house, the wife, the family, and even the job, are all part of his identity and self-worth.
THE AGGRESSIVE MASK - men have been raised to be tough and never back down. To take what they want, they are the hunters and they fight to prove themselves. It's has been normalized for men to punch holes in walls, but to be emotional, that is just not ok. "Boys will be boys" and "men will be men" has given them permission to be aggressive.
THE INVINCIBLE MASK - men takes risks, they feel no fear. They are too busy doing all the things to consider the consequences. They have no problems, they are strong, they got this and need not worry about the consequences of excessive drinking, or drugs, dismissing health problems. They are invincible.
I'm sure you can relate to many if not all of these at one time or another in your own life and definitely see others in your life wearing these masks as well.
So what's the solution?
"It's in the most difficult and challenging moments that we find the most meaning" - Lewis Howes
Awareness is the first key. Being aware of what masks you are wearing and see the negative impact that mask is having.
Next is where the work comes in, and it won't be easy but you need to look back in your life to see what experiences created the need to wear that mask in the first place. This means confronting and feeling the pain of things you've worked so hard to hide and forget. Things that had been done to you, as well as getting honest where you have created pain for others.
This can feel extremely terrifying because underneath the mask, you don't even know who you are. Your masks have become your identity and without your identity, how can you be valuable in the world?
Howes says "an easy journey isn't a journey at all, it's a walk in the park. He shares that he went from passive-aggressive, egotistical, easily triggered, stereo-typical dumb jock to an inspired and inspiring, empowered and empowering, approachable and compassionate and loving...man. Not only did my business exploded, my relationships with men and women got richer and my life is more fulfilled because of it".
I can tell you I have had the same experience in my life. After being raised with generations of toxic masculinity, experiencing every mask there is, having to deal with my own anger and pain from my past, turning in was the best decision I have ever made.
I had to look at my own masks of working out to get stronger to stand up to my bullies
I had to take off my stoic mask that kept me strong and not feeling the pain of my life
I worked all the time to prove I could provide for my family
We are programed to believe that we need to change our outside circumstances to feel better inside, when that just perpetuates the problems, because it's never out there, it's ALWAYS WITHIN.
Yes there are moments I still wear masks, we are human and that will happen, but I can recognize it now and have tools to more through it. In doing this work I have also attracted them most amazing relationship with the most amazing woman that does her own work too. We are able to recognize what's going on in the other and gently remind and offer support to heal what's holding us back. It's created a level of connection and intimacy I never thought was possible. It's been the most amazing healing journey. Not always easy, yet always worth it!
Travis Belanger is a dynamic coach, speaker, best selling co-author and founder of
Men On Fire. Travis helps men IGNITE THEIR LIFE and reclaim their passion & purpose to create the success and legacy they desire. When men redefine how they identify themselves and change their dialogue, they create a more fulfilled life. Travis has been having intentional conversations with men most of his life which allows men to open up and be more vulnerable. That’s why he created Ignite Your Life Men’s Brotherhood for men to come together to support each other, share ideas and struggles.
After going through a divorce and multiple relationships struggles, he realized that there was something missing in his life. He began a personal growth journey that would change him forever. Staying busy and always go-go-go, he ignored everything on the inside. Once he became aware of this, he realized that how he had been living, wasn’t serving him in a positive way.
Travis began looking for answers to why he was struggling and not where he wanted to be. He realized he was the common factor in all of it and knew it was time to change. After reading numerous books, taking personal development courses and connecting with mentors, Travis realized there’s so much we don’t know and it became his life’s mission to share it with other men.
Society perpetuates men living in their traditional stoic, unemotional, “provider” roles, but not necessarily in a way that creates the best version of themselves. Travis helps them open up and be more connected, authentic and successful.
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