What Is Male Masculinity and Do You Need One?

Self-awareness
07 Jun 2024
7 min read
How to Be Masculine: Your Guide on Becoming a Real Man

The “man box.” Exactly what is it? The traditional set of masculine traits raises in your mind, the one that has probably been around since early civilizations and survived the centuries. Over those centuries, though, things have been modified and/or added to that box of manly traits, as civilization itself has changed. And in the end, the answer on how to be masculine has changed too.

Let’s see who musculine men are and how to become one of them.

A Masculine Man Is Not the First One in Competition

“Nice guys finish last.” So, in the mind of someone who is fixated on how to be more masculine, being a nice guy doesn’t cut it. They have to compete, and they have to do whatever it takes to win.

So let’s take a look at the trait of competition. A masculine man has had this trait from the beginning of humans walking on the earth. The competition may be over a woman, territory (why we have wars), or anything else. The alpha male must win. Originally, killing an opponent was the “rule”, not the exception.

Over time, manly men began to engage in competition differently. They had sword fights and eventually duels. The competition always ended with one competitor dead.

Related reading: 11 Traits You Should Have to Attract an Alpha Male

Today, we have laws impacting the boundaries of competitions. Killing someone is obviously against the law, but real men relish the challenges that competition brings. So, they “battle” it out in other ways, often on sports fields or courts, in marathons, weightlifting, etc. and boost their self-esteem if they win.

Less pleasant forms of competition occur in bars and at parties – drinking game competitions, sometimes resulting in fights. Too many guys think they are manly men if they come out winners in such situations, but here’s a news flash – most women in the dating world are not impressed by a sloppy drunk with bruised knuckles and a black eye.

So, being masculine today is NOT about being the first one in the dating game.

It’s probably a good idea to spend time looking at what a manly man looks like today, taking each more contemporary masculine trait in detail.

4 Physical Traits Masculine Men Share

Thanks to testosterone, a physically strong masculine man develops certain things – facial hair, a dose of aggression, sex drive, voice depth, muscle strength and size, and bone growth. The higher the testosterone levels, the more prominent these features.

But physical masculinity is not just about the hormones. Society has an image of just what physically masculine men look like. And if that’s what you are going for, take a look at our list

1. Fitness

First, get your diet in order. Eating healthy will impact your skin, hair, muscle and fat proportions, and your energy.

Second, get thee into a physical fitness program. Go to the gym and lift weights, jog, swim, or whatever suits you to get into a routine of fitness. Lifting weights for competition may not be your thing, but there are plenty of other avenues for becoming physically fit and “tight.”

2. Grooming and Hygiene

While the “unkempt” look is fine for Keanu Reeves in his movie roles, it’s not really a good look for manly men who want to approach women or “fit in” in a work casual environment or at a social event. Modern men who want to look manly, normally avoid lots of color and opt for neutral tones, even in their footwear. Jeans, khakis, t-shirts, and collared polos are more their style. Baggy pants and shirts don’t fit the role you are trying to achieve.

Speaking of hygiene: Shower daily, keep your facial hair somewhat trimmed and neat, and groom your nails. If you are suffering from hair loss, there are many options to fix that., although plenty of very masculine men opt for bald.

3. Posture, Walk, and Voice

You want an air of self-confidence. So, how do you project confidence? Several ways.

You don’t have to develop a swagger but walk with purpose, picking up your feet as you do. Shuffling along is not masculine.

Exhibit good posture, both sitting and standing. A straight back with your head held high ready to meet the direct gaze of anyone gives you a masculine edge.

Speak slowly. Men who rush their words give off a more feminine mystique. Men who are deliberate with a slower speed project a calm sense of self-assurance.

4. Do Manly Things

Get together with your male friends for manly activities. Whether it’s a guys’ night out clubbing or regularly scheduled basketball pick-up games, as you hang out with the guys, you naturally become more masculine yourself.

Learn how to repair things. This gives you a masculine edge with more women, as well as builds your confidence and self-reliance. And real men relish challenges such as these.

How to be masculine: Unlock your genuine self

Intellectual Masculinity

The start of the human race came with very basic ideas of what masculine means. Even then, though, there were glimmers of intelligence among the men of those times. They used their minds to improve hunting skills and tools; they learned that fire could cook food; they invented the wheel.

Still, masculinity then completely simply revolved around physical activity. And any mentally demanding skill was still pretty rudimentary.

As we moved through the centuries, life became more complex, and it was time for men to begin challenging themselves mentally to solve problems and to influence others. The term “Renaissance Man” refers to people like Michelangelo – men who became masters of many skills and knowledge and used those to impact humanity. That term has carried over into modern times and still refers to men who seek knowledge and wisdom.

So, what have you done in terms of personal growth lately? Have you pursued something in which you have absolutely zero background? And just what does that have to do with masculinity? Well, pretty much.

A high-value man sets goals that will require intellectual capacity – career growth, starting their own business, making decisions about their values, and personal boundaries, and meeting their own needs. Aggressive men aggressively go after all of these things using their intellect.

Related reading: Putting Pizzazz Into Your Relationship: 13 Easy Tricks

Emotional Masculinity

“Real men don’t cry” is a saying that has a long history in our concept of masculinity. Only girly men cry has been the standard take.

Certain emotions became acceptable – positive emotions after success, giving and receiving positive feedback to each other, and aggressively acting with emotion when angry. These are all “okay.”

But life experiences can throw major curve balls. A man can descend into a dark ocean of emotional pain and grief over the death of a loved one, over a lost job, etc. During these times, he lacks the self-control that we usually associate with masculinity.

At the same time, a present man can be simultaneously inspired to go through the process of a painful life experience on his own, emerge with healed pain, and immediately feel grounded in his new comfort zone.

Develop relationship masculine traits, not competition

Relationship Masculinity

Most self-assured men are pretty direct with women, but they are also smart and respectful enough that they know how to treat women. Masculinity does not involve taking power over women and being aggressive in any way that makes them uncomfortable.

If you want to understand how to be more masculine in both casual and romantic relationships, understand this:

  • Women will respond to honest and fun flirting.
  • Setting up physical proximity and making solid eye contact is a good posture to take unless you see that she is uncomfortable. These behaviors set up a type of energy field of sexual tension.
  • Single men can become more masculine in flirting and in bed by working on confidence.
  • Inexperienced men can only become more romantically masculine through experience. They will need to get out there, start conversations, and take the lead in flirting. Ultimately, they will get better at it.
  • Experienced and/or committed men need only stay mindful of their partner’s wants and needs and seek to satisfy them.

So, here we are. Few men would deny that all of the behaviors listed above make a man look masculine. But is the “look” the same as the “being?” Here’s a twist on this entire discussion.

Related reading: Male Maturity – When Does It Kick In?

6 Performative vs. Actual Masculinity Differences

“There is a contemporary crisis in masculinity. Whereas 100 years ago, everyone seemed to take it for granted what it meant to be a man, today the topic is rife with dissension and speculation. Unfortunately, much of the advice men hear today pertains to what I call “performative masculinity”: a suite of behaviors that can be learned to communicate masculinity socially. While there is nothing wrong with this, such advice fails to cut to the heart of the matter.”

Orion Taraban, Psy.D. and licensed psychologist

If you want to understand all that he prescribes for a man to be masculine. But to whet your appetite, here is a summary of the points he makes that give a guy the ultimate masculine edge.

  1. Society encourages consuming certain learned behaviors as masculinity. And those learned behaviors are really no more than that – what men have been taught to believe makes them the manliest men.
  2. Men get an adrenaline rush when they win at anything – sports, making more money, winning arguments and/or physical fights, getting the girl, etc. (which many women find attractive because they have been taught that these behaviors are masculine too). But again,
  3. The behaviors don’t make men masculine.
  4. Essential (actual) masculinity requires to things – a spine and a pair of balls
  5. A figurative spine makes a man stand tall in the knowledge of who he is. Of course, he first has to discover who he is, what his life is about, and his values. Once he does, he is in a state of pure consciousness of self – the first step in developing masculinity.
  6. Having a figurative set of balls is the second half of developing masculinity. This means that a man is emotionally invested in who he is and is willing to proclaim that to the world – risking relationships, possibly career, and, in extreme cases, his life. And we have experienced the deaths of many who have done this.

So, What Does Being Masculine Mean to You?

If you have adopted all of the physical, intellectual, emotional, and relationship behaviors that are traditionally associated with being masculine and are fully comfortable in your own skin, you are probably living just as you wish.

If you are like some others, though, you may see masculinity as more than just a set of behaviors. And you may then be on a quest to define masculinity for yourself in somewhat different terms. Either way, what you have read here may help.

Relationships Author
Geoffrey Williams
After taking a required Intro to Psychology course as an undergrad, I have never looked back. Since my doctoral program, I have specialized in adult relationship therapy. Through my studies and clinicals, I wrote several articles for professional journals and currently in the midst of writing a book.
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