This Is The New Masculinity
Growing up in the '80s and '90s was an exciting time. Our parents were raised by a generation that fought in World Wars, Vietnam and felt the pressure of the Cold War for over 40 years. They knew all about hard work, community, and sacrifice.
They didn't have the luxury of fighting about which gender could use which bathroom or whether or not marijuana was good or bad for the body; they were too worried about putting food on the table and trying to stay out of the next military conflict.
Because of their tough upbringing, our parents also had a hard shell around them.
They didn't want to; they had to in order to survive. I remember as a kid watching grown men self-destruct and lose their temper. As a kid, most of my coaches told me things like, "Suck it up!" or "Don't be a little bitch!" We grew up on movies that taught us it was unmanly to show weakness and fell in love with lines like, "There's no crying in baseball!"
I'm grateful for these strong men. Strong men protect us from the wolves that will tear us down if we aren't careful. I'm thankful that my mentors taught me hard work, self-reliance, and how to work through adversity.
On my second day of a two-year mission to Mexico, I had a life-changing experience. I was homesick, lost, confused, sad, and struggling to say the least. My companion didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish. I remember having my monthly sit down with the President of the mission and he asked me how I was doing. Trying to be honest and looking for some support, I told the truth and said I wasn't doing so well. He responded by slamming his desk and saying, "Damnit, Elder Rex, I don't want any sissies in my mission! If you don't feel good, go get lost in work. You get homesick, go to work. If you don't like how it's going, go to work!" I got the message. I went to work and after two years of working harder than I ever even expected myself to, I left with the memories of a lifetime— a changed man for sure.
I share that message because my old President was a military man. He played a massive role in my life. My baseball coaches, dad, and real estate mentors had the same style.
I became a machine when it came to working and achieving. My emotions were blocked and I didn't have time to feel sorry for myself or process any weaknesses such as loneliness, frustration, or sadness. I had shit to do.
It wasn't until I started down this journey the past few years that I learned that there was more to life than being the best and taking first place. I went to a Tony Robbins seminar and he said, "Achievement without Fulfillment is the ultimate failure." That hit me right in the gut. I had stopped loving what I was doing. Sitting front row of an NBA basketball game wasn't even exciting, and frankly, I couldn't figure out why people cared so much about a stupid game. The parties became routine and I felt almost as if they were expected instead of appreciated by others. I was successful by every measure, but I missed this fulfillment in so many ways.
This led me on a journey of self. Why did I always feel like I needed to prove myself to others? To prove that I was enough? To prove that I was loveable? Why did I think that if others saw me and knew everything about me, they wouldn't love me? I hid every part of me that I thought would make me look weak. I over-posted on social media, trying to show the world that I was enough. God bless me, I was innocent, but I was screaming for others to give me worth because of my achievements when I was trying to say, "I promise I'm worthy of your love. Please love me."
A few years back, I read Lewis Howes' book, "The Mask of Masculinity," and it truly taught me how to embrace vulnerability, shed off this mask, and be seen for all of me.
The good, the bad, and the shameful.
I decided to open up to a few of my closest friends; this was so scary because I genuinely didn't know if they would still love me once they knew I didn't have life all figured out. What happened next was a miracle. They all loved me so much more. And the best part was, I could finally, for the first time, trust the love they were giving me. They KNEW me and STILL loved me! They even opened up back to me and the next thing I knew, I found myself loving them even more! Friends that I saw as the giants of the world, the most badass dudes in town, came clean and told me that they had everything from wives that abused them to moments as kids when a family member had molested them.
In these moments, I knew these guys would go from friends to brothers for life. We were all the same. We all had one issue or another. I remember one of my best friends pulling two other guys and me aside one night and asking us if we could help him. He was about to be a dad and he was filling the full pressure of the calling. Keep in mind this friend has Brad Pitt looks, a beautiful supermodel wife, and a 7-figure income in a business he is part-owns. Yet here he was, shedding his mask and asking us to tell him he was worthy of the role of a dad. He was asking us to give him words of affirmation so that he would feel more confident. I about laughed out loud; this man was everything a person should aspire to be and here he was being as vulnerable as a friend can be. At that moment, I loved that man more than I ever had before. I knew I was a special person in his life, and I knew that even he, like every other man alive, needed brotherhood and friends to support him and build him up.
Going back to the book "The Mask of Masculinity," a line says, "stripped of the various masks of masculinity, we're free to be who we actually are. We can love. We can find purpose. We can connect." This is the new masculinity. You have firm boundaries. You are committed to your family, and you are 100% integrity.
You are strong both physically and mentally. But you are also strong enough to take off your mask and be seen. To allow those around you to see your weakness and to love you anyway. You are brave enough to ask for help and willing to fall into a loved one's arms and cry when needed.
One of the men in my coaching group, "We Are The They," had a beautiful experience after one of our events.
Married with a couple of young children, this man did everything he could to provide for his family. A few years prior, he had visited some strip clubs on a work trip and never told his wife about it. He came clean for the first time to anyone in a cacao ceremony we did as a group. It was a safe environment where he could share that he had been wearing this mask and had not been honest with his family or us. He committed to go home and tell his wife the next day.
He did tell her.
Terrified of what would happen, he did it anyway, and he dared to get back into integrity. At first, she was sad and disappointed. It took her a couple of hours to process it and then he told me she came over and cuddled him on the couch. She thanked him for telling her and for coming clean. She said that she still loved him and wanted to help him with any other issues he needed.
That night when he called me, he told me, through his tears. "Jimmy, I was pretty sure my wife loved me all these years. But tonight, for the first time in my life, she saw me for everything that I am and now, for the first time in my marriage, I KNOW that she loves me."
What a gift we give ourselves when we are vulnerable, authentic, and integrity. Another man in the group went home from one of the retreats and told his wife about a pornography problem he had had since he was 12 years old. He'd never told a soul. He told me that he hadn't been able to celebrate a day of his life because every time he was being celebrated, he always thought to himself, "If they knew who I was, they wouldn't celebrate me." I was so sad for him.
He was in his mid 30's and never realized how loveable he was. He had the same experience with his wife as the other guy and now he gets to live as a FREE man. To be seen and loved for who he is and who he isn't and is becoming.
This is how you free your soul and heal the loneliness that men in the world suffer from.
It is only through this that we can heal our wounds. So that the next generation of strong men aren't only strong in self-discipline but are also strong enough to let their emotions in and forgive themselves when they fall short. I am so grateful that I discovered this for myself in my mid 30's and it is the gift of my life to help other men get to this place through my coaching program "We Are The They."