What does toxic masculinity mean?
Traditionally, men are taught to be self-reliant, strong, dominant and unemotional. Societal and peer pressure to live up to these narrow, often harmful stereotypes is what causes toxic masculinity. And this pressure doesn’t just negatively impact men – it negatively impacts all of society.
So, what does healthy masculinity look like?
Healthy, positive masculinity is about overcoming the societal pressures and stereotypes that say certain values and emotions are ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’. We believe that men can be strong and competitive, but they can also cry, be empathetic, emotionally authentic, and care for their skin and mental well-being.
Embracing this limitless range of emotions and values is the key to teaching positive masculinity to this generation and the next.
How can I embrace positive masculinity?
Here are 10 ways to redefine and expand masculinity:
Communication isn’t just about checking in with others – it’s about asking for help, too. Whether it’s at work or at home, help from others doesn’t make men ‘weak’ or less self-reliant – it displays humility, openness, authenticity and positive masculinity.
Asking for help and staying in regular contact with people is also a form of self-care – our unique study shows that men who do this alongside activities like exercising, meditating and reading are 2.2x more likely to feel balance in their lives and 1.6x more satisfied in themselves.
2. Be vulnerable
What causes toxic masculinity is often the belief that being unemotional is a form of strength. However, experts say being vulnerable and expressing our emotions (rather than hiding them) is the key to healthy, positive masculinity. Forget ‘man up’ – let’s ‘open up’.
Dr. Gary Barker, CEO and Founder of Promundo, says: “They cry, they connect, they listen, they care. We need to find ways to make these qualities the ones we agree our sons (and daughters) need.”
3. Be empathetic
Men can be confident, ambitious and competitive – but empathy, compassion, kindness and respect are also crucial. Science agrees: Research by the University of Texas in Austin suggests men who are compassionate, vulnerable and emotionally balanced have more confidence than men who are unforgiving of themselves and adhere to masculine stereotypes.
4. Hold yourself accountable
Being confident and a strong leader shouldn’t be confused with being unaccountable for our mistakes. Don’t be defensive, take criticism personally or be afraid of admitting failure. So, don’t ‘grow a pair’ – listen, learn, apologize and grow as a person instead.
5. Start a daily skin care routine
Men have been taught that caring for their skin is a feminine attribute. But keeping skin clean, healthy and hydrated doesn’t doesn’t just help you feel fresh and confident – our research shows men who make grooming part of their self-care routine also spend 44% more time caring for others. For us, caring for yourself and others is what defines masculinity.
6. Care for your mental well-being
Caring for your mental well-being is a crucial part of holistic self-care and positive masculinity – but our own study suggests men care less for their minds than their bodies on a weekly basis.
7. Create healthy work-life boundaries
Speaking of mental well-being, research by Virginia Tech reveals checking work emails off the clock can cause stress. So, close your laptop. Go offline.
Drawing boundaries between work and home isn’t just a form of self-care – it allows you to be a fully present dad, partner and person, teaching positive masculinity to others, too.
8. Recognize care as male success
Many men view their power, status and income as benchmarks of male success. It’s okay to be ambitious and proud of your achievements, but positive masculinity means recognizing care as success as well.
This is especially true for active dads – when they care for the people they love from day one, it improves their partner’s well-being and inspires their sons to care. So, celebrate these amazing caregivers. They deserve it.
9. Have a sense of humor
Dr. Rashawn Ray, Professor of Sociology at the University of Maryland, says: “Manage pain and emotions by laughing every day. Talk to the funniest people you know daily.” We couldn’t agree more.
We also recommend following accounts like bostonbeaman. When we learn to laugh at what causes toxic masculinity, we can recognize how restrictive (and ridiculous) the stereotypes we adhere to really are.
10. Care for your community