Tough Guys Versus Real Men

There's this concept I've been struggling with lately; the concept of the Tough Guy. Not internally, mind you -- I long ago let go of the notion of being a Tough Guy. I mean, I'd consider myself tough, and I am pretty sure I'm a guy. But as far as the Tough Guy brand, I think the moment I started writing about my feelings on the internet, I cashed that check and moved on.

The Tough Guy is the guy who can't admit weakness. He can't tell his friends when he hurts. He can't cry. He can't admit that he doesn't know something. He must challenge everything as if it's an attack against him. He can't let go of the notion that there's a pecking order. He can't live his own life. He can't allow himself to appreciate beauty, art or grace, because that'd make him a faggot.

This syndrome is killing men everywhere. It's driving them insane. It's the major cause behind breakdowns and midlife crises. It's an obsession with the external view of their lives. By living outside of themselves at all times and trying to control the perception the world has on him, the Tough Guy loses touch with the most basic element of life: awareness of self. His awareness becomes with the self he invents to keep up the Tough Guy act.

And this doesn't extend solely to guys who drive big trucks and wear Affliction shirts and act like they can kick everyone's ass. This isn't a machismo issue. This is engrained in the male social dogma. This is what fathers who were raised from the 20's through the 50's instill in their children from day one. It doesn't simply manifest itself in hanging nuts off the trailer hitch of a truck. It's men behaving like men. Not acting like men, mind you... Just behaving like them.

You must stand tall. You must be strong. You cannot show weakness. You must be stone tough. These things are absolutely the hallmark of a Real Man. But the Real Man knows when to turn this on and off. He realizes that in times of hardship, he must lead those who need to follow to a place of comfort, and to do that, he must instill confidence and steer the ship through the storm.

But that doesn't mean he cannot be afraid. Avoiding fear is not the same as pushing through it. In fact, if you're going to actually handle fear, the best thing you can do is internalize it and accept it's there. At least then it cannot sneak up on you and affect you in ways you don't expect, because now you own it.

It does not mean he cannot admit weakness. Seeking help when weak and needing comfort is a human trait, and like it or not, men are -- by the very nature of existence -- human. The human psyche can only handle so much load. If you don't offload the weight periodically and reduce the stress and strain on the shelf which stores our emotions, it will eventually snap -- and when it does, there WILL be a mess.

It does not mean he cannot admit failure. In fact, admitting failure is the key to success. It shows you've learned a lesson. Even if you don't admit it publicly (which, if you don't, is just stupid, for the world at large is not dumb. They know when you fail, and not admitting it just makes you look like a dick... Or worse, exposes the fact that you don't belong in a place to succeed in the first place), he must admit it to himself. It's only when we learn the basics of math that higher functions can be learned and used, and failure to accomplish a thing is just the basis of learning how to proceed with that task or goal in a new way. It's learning.

Real Men learn.

Real Men cry.

Real Men do not inflict themselves on others.

Real Men stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves.

They do not admonish the weak, they protect them. They do not abuse the meek, they lift the load and get them where they need to go.

Tough Guys break. Their stone exterior is just a shell covering the softness inside. Once the shell is cracked, the insides spill out.

Real Men are carved from wood. Not made of; carved from. They are shaped and molded and formed from the lessons of life.  They have flex and can weather the storm. They provide shelter and support. They hold up the structure. They are not impenetrable, but they are solid to the core.

Tough Guys act tough. Real Men are strong. Strength is not always being correct; it's always striving to be right. Even when it means admitting you're wrong, or that you're afraid, or that you can't accomplish something.

Tough Guys fit a mold. Real Men grow. There is no mold for a Real Man, for nothing holds him in place. He's too busy expanding himself to be held to rules.

I'm sure there's likely to be Tough Guys who read this and think I'm full of shit, or that I'm a pussy or a faggot or whatever. That's fine by me, because my goal is not to convince a Tough Guy to stop being a Tough Guy. The world needs Tough Guys to highlight the differences between them, and what a Real Man is. And my goal is to get to young men and guide them towards being a Real Man before the Tough Guys can get there and waste yet another life.