Many educators working for change around boys and men encourage a new kind of “healthy masculinity.” Healthy masculinity might move away from traditional messages about violence, control, and unemotionality toward respect, honesty, and leadership. These are certainly better external expectations, but they are still external expectations. Although healthy masculinity is a better mask than toxic masculinity, it is still a mask.
My research in Unmasking revealed a yearning for men to find their own authentic masculinity. Authentic masculinity is individual to each man and changes through his life as he grows up, learns, and gains experience and wisdom. While both toxic and healthy masculinities are about telling men who they should be as men, authentic masculinity is about asking, “What does being a man mean to you?”
The men in my research explored their authentic masculinity through the process of becoming. This process included exploring their identity through self-awareness and aligning their integrity through self-management. By reflecting on who they were and aspired to be, as well as what they were doing and who they were being, men could discover within themselves the kind of masculinity that would be best for them, the people in their lives, and the world of which they are a part.
By helping men with their process of becoming, we can help them discover who they aspire to be and live in alignment toward their authentic masculinity.