Being an open and vulnerable person feels like walking a tightrope to me, it’s naturally who I am but one misstep and I feel like I’ve gone too far and become pathetic and weak. This is drummed into men as they grow up – the idea that you need to be strong and confident to be successful. I’ve often felt the weight of that notion deep inside my stomach when up at late hours of the night, running through situations in my head where I haven’t acted like the proper representation of a man. I try to justify my own feelings and projections as ones from someone who understands the deficiencies of that traditional view of gender roles, who is okay with the idea that they don’t match the guidelines set and they can be the person they’re meant to be; yet there’s still that doubt. The doubt that even though logically you know you’re a good kind person that has purpose – you still don’t fit the ideal manifestation of what a man is.
This insecurity has been instilled in me since I was a child, a lot of which came from my favourite man on Earth – my father. He never would have put too much thought into the idea that those offhanded comments about different men in our lives would play through my head when I’m 24 and should have long figured out who I am by now. The best men were great footballers, blokes he met in the Navy, tough nuts that worked in mechanics and on wharves. The great qualities of these men were their resilience, their physical attributes, how much piss they could drink. These men weren’t insecure they were legends with utmost confidence, men who I should aspire to be.
So what happened to me when I was the smallest kid in my year group halfway through high school? The kid that couldn’t hit the side of a barn with a football? What was I meant to be and how could I be happy with who I was as a man? Why is a 15 year old kid so worried about all this shit? I was ruined by anxiety about my height, praying to Gods I don’t believe in that I would someday break six feet tall, one day look like my Dad. One day be the man my Dad is. It took up so much of my brainpower that now at 24 and as tall as Dad ever was I still feel short and I still feel insecure because it was who I was for so long. I’d go to North Albany grand finals with him and meet his old teammates who would tell stories of “Mad Dog” Phil fighting and drinking and being everything I ever thought a real man was. Tough, heroic, athletic, confident, a winner. My self image was still a casualty of my anxiety and I still didn’t feel like I lived up to mine or anyone else’s expectations.
All this insecurity seems to compound and make things worse – real men aren’t insecure about who they are.
Or are they?
Or, hear me out, maybe the insecurity isn’t actually based around gender and maybe it’s because of the gap between who you are as a person and who you want to be? That person I wanted to be has very obviously been shaped around my ideals of what a man is as I’ve grown up, but that person isn’t who I truly want to be at heart. It’s the person I want to look like. The visual of the man who’s confident at what they do – fits the mould of a successful human with the vague athletic career, the wife and happy family, the good job and healthy investment portfolio. The healthy body. In reality I’m quite happy with the things I’ve done and the person I’ve become as an adult because I’ve actively pursued things that I want. Maybe it was my subconscious guiding me in the right direction while my anxiety was clawing at my teenage ideals but I’m truly content with who I am. The past year has really opened my eyes to see that I am proud of myself, I am a good person and I shouldn’t settle for a life where that is doubted by me or anyone else. I spent years with people who didn’t like aspects of me as a person, who judged who I was and made me doubt myself too. Now I’m free
I relied on myself to love myself and it brought me to people who also love me for who I am. Even with the flaws because that’s me. No traditional views of gender matter any more. No thoughts of the ideal man to be matter any more. I am me and I’m happy with that. With sickness, with lack of athletic ability, with odd hobbies and interests. With a personality that doesn’t quite match the stoic, strong and closed-off ideal man of yesteryear. I enjoy being vulnerable, I enjoy being open, I enjoy sharing myself with others. And if any of that was ever in doubt – this is written on a website where I’ve told everyone my deepest insecurities with zero barriers for anyone to find and read. Isn’t that neat.
Being a man doesn’t matter, being the person society projects on you doesn’t matter, being authentic to yourself matters.