Developing Men: Mask Consciousness, Unmasking, & Becoming Toward Authentic Masculinity

I love helping leaders and organizations make transformational change for leadership, learning, and equity. Recently, I’ve been able to lead workshops focused on developing men through their learning and unlearning. These workshops are based on my book Unmasking and my nearly 20 years of research and leading workshops similar to this. Recently, I had the opportunity to engage a group of 150 college men who are student-athletes on this in a 90-minute workshop.

External Expectations

First, I framed the conversation and invited them to share what messages they had gotten about how men are expected to think, feel, and behave or not think, feel, and behave. I organized this through an activity I learned from Paul Kivel called Act Like a Man Box. You can read about how I do this activity and watch a version based on the research here. Once they had shared, we discussed how misogyny, homophobia, and other forms of oppression serve to police the boundaries of these external expectations of men. Here is what they came up with:

Mask Consciousness

I then shared that my research revealed that the participants knew these expectations, assumed this came naturally to other men, didn’t feel like they measured up, and would fake it or put on a performance or put on a mask. They wore these masks to cover-up aspects of themselves that they didn’t feel were manly enough and to portray an image to others that would be seen as manly. Then we had them draw simple masks and invited them to share on one side what they showed the world and on the other side what they kept hidden. This is an activity I learned from Ashanti Branch from the film The Mask You Live In. You can learn more about Branch’s Million Mask Movement here.

Some common themes emerged from what participants courageously shared in the room and what they shared later in the workshop assessment.

Front of the MaskBehind the Mask
•Confident, competent, successful
•Unbothered, unconcerned, always OK
•Strong, in control, tough
•Self-doubt, confused, unsure
•Lonely & lost
•Anxious, nervous, afraid

Becoming: Toward Authentic Masculinity

We went on to talk about toxic masculinity, healthy masculinity, and authentic masculinity. I shared the process of becoming – a conversation between their quests for identity and integrity.


Here are some of the lessons from the men from the workshop.

  • “I am not alone in the insecurities I face.”
  • “How I put on a mask and am not being as authentic as I can be.”
  • “It’s okay if you feel lonely, as many men have similar, masked feelings.”
  • “Toxic, healthy, and authentic masculinity.”


Here are some of the commitments the participants in the workshop made as we concluded.

  • “I will make a bigger effort to more connected and open.”
  • “I will be a light to others.”
  • “I will be more involved in the communities around me.”
  • “I will be selfless.”
  • “I will be a kinder, less judgmental person. Both to myself, and to others.”


If you would like to learn more about workshops like this to develop men’s mask consciousness, unmasking, and becoming toward authentic masculinity, let’s connect. You can use this contact form to send me an email and we can find some time to talk about a virtual or in-person workshop like this.

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Leaders and organizations turn to Keith as an authentic educator, trusted leader, and unconventional scholar helping them advance leadership, learning, and equity.

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