Men, are you really being YOU?
Gender stereotyping and social conditioning throughout thousands of years have left the majority of us completely unaware of how we have lost touch with our true selves. Our emotional range, whether male or female is HUGE and our thoughts are infinite. Humans are universally alike, regardless of what country we’re from, the colour of our skin, our religion or gender. We’re alike because while alive we’re ALL conscious and we have an endless ability to think. We think, we feel, and we act.
However, our thoughts are heavily influenced by the nuances and deep-rooted prejudices and influences of culture, our own upbringing, our workplace and even our family. This can cause deep conflicts within us over who or what we think we should be versus who we really are. When we take the time and effort to be truly honest with ourselves, many of these prejudices become myths under which we have lived our lives for many years. In this article we show that it is possible for you to enter a new phase, to release those myths and live an authentic and happier life, less worried about what you should be doing, achieving or wearing and more about just being and enjoying your life.
Faulty thoughts lead to faulty deeds
Traditionally, the way men think & act is generally expected to be strong, non-feeling, and agentic (i.e. action orientated). Although this is now being challenged, it remains the dominant mind set in the upper echelons of the business world.
I believe this stereotype can mask our true selves as we seek to comply with a social norm. Men (and women) act in certain ways to fit in at work, to be part of a group, to not stand out inappropriately or to not be vilified or bullied simply for being different. It’s understandable that we do that as our innate survival instinct encourages us to form collectives of like-minded and similar looking people to keep us safe.
That historic programming is however letting us down and many people pretend to be something they’re not and making others uncomfortable if they don’t ‘fit in’ and comply with the norm. The truth is however, that we can be safe among all sorts of diverse human beings and we can be completely safe being who we really are.
Sometimes people come along in life who are very authentic and as a result, they’re very powerful. You’ve probably met someone like this, the new joiner to the company, who also happens to be a warm, open, emotional, kind, quiet MAN, happily married and seemingly very happy with himself. He doesn’t own a Ferrari, he doesn’t boast about his latest female conquest or his flash watch, he just seems content and in addition, his female co-workers enjoy working with him. WHAT THE HELL- how did that happen???? Often, the so-called Alpha men in the group are confused as he doesn’t fit with their received ideas of what a man ‘should’ be to be successful. They might feel unsettled and naturally dislike this new creature and make his time at work pretty difficult. I’ve seen this play out several times in my own work experience.
Now for the psychology- why do we behave like this?
When an alternative to what we’ve been told represents a blueprint for success is presented to us, it threatens the very essence of who we are- or more accurately who we have chosen to be without even realising it!
Psychologists agree that often the things that irritate us about other people highlight something we could learn about ourselves. They show us something we may be overlooking and ignoring but is actually very important to truly enjoying life. People who seem primarily focused on external values (e.g. looks, wealth, status, power) find it hard to understand people who do not subscribe to those values and so denigrate and dismiss them. In reality, people who derive their strength from inside themselves, ARE more powerful simply because they are comfortable being who they really are (e.g. no cosmetic surgery, not obsessing over money).
I am not saying you shouldn’t care about how you look or focus on earning money as both those things help you to lead a life with choices, but my point is about how much your sense of self and identity are attached to those things which might prevent you from being truly authentic and therefore innately powerful from within.
Let’s talk about the real YOU
I believe your individual sense of self plays a significant role in allowing these stereotypes to continue. The sense of who you are and your own identity can be described as your ‘sense of self’. A combination of the values, beliefs and memes you have built up over your lifetime. I am talking about the inner identity that you form for yourself (in your own head) and then project to the outer world. An identity which is heavily influenced by the way you have been taught to think and feel about life and the people you meet, and which can be far from who you really are. Sourcing your identity from the outside leads to a gap in how you’re perceived by others versus who you are at your core and this is an awkward and sometimes painful disconnect. So many people are going through life feeling lost, detached, disconnected, angry, sad, and depressed, not sure what’s wrong but knowing something isn’t right. Even if you’re making a lot of money and have external success factors such as a big house, nice car, luxury holidays you may still feel a void inside.
Take your first step to being yourself and FEEL the difference
Being inauthentic (whether knowingly or unwittingly) creates stress in your body & your mind whereas authenticity is correlated with many aspects of psychological well-being, including vitality, self-esteem, and coping skills. Breaking free from gender stereotypes that don’t really speak to you and taking steps to being your true self is empowering and brings an immense sense of freedom and happiness.
Written by Danielle Mensah, for Genderbuzz
About the author: Danielle is a senior Finance Professional in the City of London with an interest in breaking down gender stereotypes at work.
 Published by Karen Wright in Psychology Today, May 2008