The Mask of Masculinity by Lewis Howes

2020, book 4: “Let us revere the one who loves others deeply, loves himself deeply, and has a dream that he is inspired to live with and by and through — he is a man.” — Lewis Howes

Finished on January 14, 2020

I’ve been following Lewis Howes for a while and have always respected him. I knew of his book The School of Greatness but have not yet purchased that for myself. This was one that I didn’t know he even released but wanted to acquire. He’s a man that I greatly admire and respect and I thought that I could learn a lot from his perspectives and experiences in life. I was right, this book was incredible and definitely expanded my horizons on what it means to be a man.

Here are the 9 masks of masculinity that men wear and that the book focuses on:

The 9 masks that men wear:

1. The stoic mask
2. The athlete mask
3. The material mask
4. The sexual mask
5. The aggressive mask
6. The joker mask
7. The invincible mask
8. The know it all mask
9. The alpha mask

If there is any mask that I connected to and felt guilty of wearing more than another, it was the stoic mask. I have a tendency to show emotion to only a few select people and be more monotonous and flat to other people. I have more control that way and often prefer it. But, it definitely prevents a great deal of potential vulnerability and even some authenticity.

The Stoic Mask:

Removing the stoic mask:

1. Make a list of the 5 most painful moments in your life. Note what happened and how you felt in each moment.

2. Once you journal about these painful moments, read them out loud to yourself and give yourself permission to feel emotions.

3. Find someone you trust who you can share your emotions with.

4. Look into hiring a coach or specialist that can help you understand your emotions and accept them.

Women, be patient with your man and take initiative to help them, they most likely won’t do it by themselves (otherwise they already would have).

I see this one often. This seems particularly prevalent with former high school athletes. The ratio of positive to negative interactions during a disagreement was fascinating to me. It shouldn’t be at all surprising though, it makes sense.

The Athlete Mask:

The Gottman Institute in Seattle has found that the frequency and intensity of negative interactions, arguments, and fights is one of the strongest predictors of divorce.

In happy couples, the ratio of positive to negative interactions during a disagreement was 5:1. In a relationship headed towards a divorce or breakup, the ratio was 0.8:1.

The author believes that Dale Carnegie and Steve Cook would say that a big part of the source of this is the insistent and competitive desire to win arguments.

Lewis included a fantastic insight from Tai Lopez here. It’s all about the motives, why do we do what we do?

The Material Mask:

Tai Lopez said it’s not the money one has that matters but how one spends it. He shares there is conspicuous consumption and inconspicuous consumption. Conspicuous is buying something you’ve never really cared about just to gain status or prestige, like buying a Rolex even if you’ve never cared about or liked watches.

I remember someone telling me that if I graduated high school without sleeping with more than 8 girls, “You didn’t do it right in high school.” Really? That’s the standard we want to hold ourselves to? I hope not.

The Sexual Mask:

Someone with the sexual mask is stuck in constantly trying to find something and someone better. The key to removing this mask is forgiving yourself and loving yourself. We need to be comfortable with ourselves before adding anyone else.

I love the last part of this mask, it’s not about the individuals themselves but is rather about the way that we are raising them. In general, people have a tendency to associate testosterone with aggression. But, we can raise children to act in ways that influence them to be less aggressive or more aggressive based upon the way that we raise them. Ultimately, we have much more control than some of us may realize in this area.

The Aggressive Mask:

There is no association between testosterone and aggressive behavior. A study at the Bronx Children’s Psychiatric Center of New York measured the testosterone levels of the center’s most violent young boys. Their testosterone blood levels were shown to be within the normal range and comparable to other boys of the same age and range. We must question how we are raising boys.

This is a question that I must continue to ask myself. Especially with the way that I was brought up, both my grandfathers and my dad did a lot of “comic relief” in tense situations. However, there were certainly occasions that I can look back on and see where they may have overstepped — I can see times I have overstepped also. It’s certainly a learning process so I will strive to realize that when people make light of things, they may not even realize that they are doing so.

The Joker Mask:

Ask yourself before making a joke in a social situation or serious conversation, is this the right situation for a laugh? What am I trying to avoid? Truth? The past? Pain? Fear?

My sister had me read the book Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. That book retold the story of a wonderful life. I enjoyed the book and learned a lot; but the main character… he thought he was invincible — it’s how he lived. I see myself doing things to push the limits. Now, that’s not always a bad thing but I’m learning more and more that there are various times where I need to be aware of the true consequences, there could be ripple effects that I initially overlook or do not anticipate.

I made a note that Lewis Howes emphasized that men are NOT machines… I strive to be one on many occasions. Whether it’s my relentless work ethic or my gym regimen, I strive to make myself into a machine. Yet, the fact of the matter is that we are not machines, we are people — and we all have vulnerabilities and weaknesses — even if I don’t want to admit that sometimes.

The Invincible Mask:

“People forget that I’m a human being just because I play a sport that everybody loves. We’re human, we’re not invincible. We share the same feelings and emotions that people on the outside feel. I don’t think people truly understand that. The same is true for people on the Forbes list of billionaires or the musicians you see on stage.” — Terrell Owens

Invincibility that should cause the most worry is the overworking, the invulnerability, the stuff that leads to panic attacks. When you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, beware. That weight can be crushing. The author emphasizes that we are men — not machines.

I saw something great on Twitter recently (linked here). Chris Johnson, one of the entrepreneurs I enjoy learning from, emphasized the importance of contradicting ourselves. There are many things we do know but there are so many things that we simply don’t know. To me, removing this mask is all about swallowing our pride — which is undoubtedly a tough task, especially for men.

The Know-It-All Mask:

Beware of experts. Beware of the idea that one size fits all. Beware of people who think they know about something but actually have very little experience. In the beginner’s mind, there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind, there are very few.

This is the toughest one for me. I often find that I like to control the room and manage the various things that are going on. With this, though, there are certainly times where alphas may believe they need to maintain the control or the decision-making capability and this simply is not so. There are numerous occasions where that power should not be held or maintained and it’s important that the alpha mask is frequently inactive — especially in relationships.

The Alpha Mask:

The alpha mask is rooted in insecurity and fear. There are sometimes dividends in this mask, especially from society. The reality is, the more well-rounded you are, the more attractive you are too.

Lewis says his mindset shifted and changed from how can I gain the most for myself to how can I serve the most for other people. The author also emphasized that this was a slow and gradual process and always a work in progress.

In closing, this is how Lewis described a true man. I loved the description and believe that it is certainly the type of person that we should all strive to become. There are always going to be things that we could improve upon and make better. Yet, we can be confident in knowing that we are doing our best and are aware of where changes need to be made AND willing to make those changes. Awareness alone means nothing — we must have supporting action.

Let us revere the one who loves others deeply, loves himself deeply, and has a dream that he is inspired to live with and by and through — he is a man. He does not stand unmoved or untouched in the face of truly moving experiences. Sometimes he does not need to fight at all, he does not take risks for risk’s sake, and he is not afraid to admit when he knows nothing. Perhaps most important of all, he doesn’t walk around and think that he’s the man, the strives to understand what his destiny is and what is needed to pursue it. He doesn’t break down or hurt anyone else in this pursuit. He is not at war with other people. He is the one joining forces. He is the one searching for the win win. He is the one lifting others up.

I gave this book a 4/5

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