My Journey From Toxic to Healthy Masculinity
As I was growing up, my experience with toxic masculinity was prevalent and it created a very confusing inner environment and consciousness. I was continuously being exposed to how many men treated women, like my mother, disrespectfully in relationships and just in general, which did not resonate with me at all especially when I would hear my mother crying in her room at night or talking with her girlfriends about “how horrible men were” which definitely contributed to my dislike of men and my confusion: how could I be good if I was one of them?
I was raised by my mother and her friends who nurtured the feminine qualities within me (and not necessarily always positive ones!) and I never really connected to the masculine ones, as I was without a father figure or proper male role model around to show me healthy masculine traits. I was creative and emotional, not competitive, aggressive and domineering which got me picked on, harassed and even beaten up as a boy. I was shamed and called a “wimp” or a “faggot” for showing feelings such as compassion, sadness, sympathy for others or even when I mentioned the word love.
Growing up and witnessing how men were disrespecting our sisters and even other men who didn’t match up to their standard of manhood, being bullies, very judgmental, discouraging any type of feeling or compassion and raping the earth under a patriarchal regime which I did not connect with at all made me dislike men even more. Again, adding to the conflict and confusion within myself. I experienced sexual assault not only by a trusted male adult but by my male peers while incarcerated as a young man which only strengthened my utter contempt for men and everything male which even further confused the hell out of me. I was a man but did not resonate with any of these traits that were being expressed by the men around me. I could not relate.
This confusion, isolation, and trauma led to drug abuse, excessive alcohol usage, depression, fear, anger and resentment. All throughout my young adulthood I was conflicted: how could I like myself when I was one of them – the enemy. This led to suicide attempts and more drug and alcohol abuse. I continuously found myself falling into the trap of trying to act like what was expected of me as a man (usually toxic) but then always feeling horrible afterward because it did not align with who I truly was or wanted to be which led to more drugs, alcohol, feelings of resentment towards myself and destructive behavior. A vicious cycle.
Searching for some sort of understanding, I discovered magick, witchcraft and the teachings of Eastern philosophies which began to show me the true nature of masculine and feminine qualities in all things. The discovery of these practices have led me on a life-long journey of self-discovery. I have only just begun to truly heal myself of some of my old wounds and to be able to recognize the healthy masculine traits that were buried deep down within myself under layers of emotional and protective bedrock and also see the unhealthy traits that I have been expressing myself. And through this discovery I have been able to start the healing process within myself. It has helped me to recognize the unhealthy masculine qualities in others and to appreciate that, though we do not choose to be in these unhealthy ways, we do not have to remain prisoner to them. We can embody a new way.
I am still working on aligning with my healthy masculine traits and with the help of Saidi, my beautiful and supportive wife, partner and best friend, I have been able to go deeper than I ever thought I could go and I continue to move forward on my healing journey in ways that have manifested greater balance, happiness, peace, fulfillment, confidence and transformation into the person I always knew was inside me.
This has all been my inspiration for supporting other men who might have gone through a similar journey themselves. I feel that many young men today are confused, disconnected from self and others, and just as conflicted as I was. As a man it can be very confusing, especially when young and impressionable, to hear things like: “Men shouldn’t cry.” “Don’t be a wimp.” “Stop being such a girl.” “Man up.” “Be a man.” – or to be bullied into acting a certain way that doesn’t align with their true nature or shamed for showing compassion and feelings. I feel that these unhealthy actions are part of the reason that men are so disconnected from themselves and others, from their spirituality, and from the world around them.
I truly believe that healing ourselves first and recognizing our own unhealthy traits and wounds that we carry can be the first steps towards a healthier society. Once we embark on the healing journey for ourselves, we find we naturally want to support others to find peace and harmony within themselves as well. Supporting each other, not shaming. Encouraging, not bullying. Fostering connection, not isolation and unhealthy competition. Creating a global society.
What I have learned about certain tribal cultures around the world (Samburu, Maasai, Yanomami, Dayak, Ibo, Sioux, Cherokee, Maori, Dangbon) that has inspired my own growth and personal journey, is that men in these tribes seem to be supportive of each other, encouraging their growth and transformation into a healthy manhood. Customs like rites of passage and other rituals support healthy masculinity and connection to all things – something that has been lost in our modern world of technology, in our lack of spirituality and our mindset and belief that we are all on our own and must fend for ourselves. Without guidance and wisdom from caring elders to help us understand who we are and our interconnectedness, many of us feel lost.
What I have come to understand is that healthy masculinity means being honest with oneself about one’s own feelings, needs and desires. It also means treating all others with the kindness and respect that all deserve. A man with healthy masculinity is deeply present and listens without being distracted. He doesn't judge. He creates a safe environment. He doesn't take things personally. He is a guiding force, supportive and encouraging. Healthy masculinity means not using size, strength, or power to get what one wants from others.
There are many positive qualities that have historically been defined as either masculine (leadership, strength, courage, confidence) or feminine (nurturing, compassion, caring, intuition). These traits, however, are inherent in all of us, regardless of where we fall on the spectrum: male, female, non-binary, and everything in-between. It is important for all of us to recognize these masculine and feminine traits within so that we can work to nurture the healthy qualities of these traits and heal the unhealthy ones, fostering a healthy and harmonious balance.
Societal and cultural pressures for men to act/behave in a certain way, expectations from family and partners, as well as expectations of religious organizations/groups can be burdensome to a man seeking out his masculine identity. These can create what some call “toxic masculine traits” These traits can include using or threatening violence, controlling others, homophobia, condemning anything feminine within another man, acting aggressively, shaming, suppressing emotions. These unhealthy traits can create long term effects which include depression, shorter lives, dis-ease, misogyny, shame and suicide.
An important first step to healing toxic masculinity is to talk about it. This means having open and honest conversations with ourselves and with the people in our lives, regardless of gender identity. Ask people how they think toxic masculinity affects them. Do they know anyone that displays toxic qualities? Do they themselves express toxic qualities that they are aware of? Let’s start engaging in conversations about best ways to support healthy masculine traits in our society and in our young men and women.
As a man, I needed to go deep within, get honest and ask myself:
Am I supportive, confident, strong in my character?
Do I listen to others without judgement?
Do I stand strong when I need to?
Do I create a safe place for others to express their feelings?
Do I feel a deep connection to something larger than myself?
These are important questions to reflect on. This is an ongoing process that I continue to work with and to recognize, heal, and develop every day.
For men, I see very positive transformations occurring and I, for one, want to encourage and support this evolution so that young men in the future will not be lost and confused, living unfulfilling lives, unhappy, angry, frustrated and ashamed – so that they can hold space for the other people in their lives and support them on their journeys and share with the next generation wisdom and knowledge that will continue to make a better place for all. In a time of so much change and turmoil in the world, it is important to embark on this healing journey, to recognize our own divinity, and bring forth the healthy masculine and feminine traits that are within all of us.
We still have a long way to go but the seeds are being planted. Now we must nurture and support the change that is happening if we truly want to evolve to a higher consciousness that brings all of us into alignment with ourselves, each other, the planet and the universe. I dedicate myself to supporting the empowerment of healthier men and women on this planet.
If you are curious about more ways to support healthier masculine and feminine within yourself, check out any of the sessions we offer and stay tuned for our upcoming courses on Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine. We also have great resources on our Inspirations page on our website. Keep an eye out for our upcoming drum circles that support masculine and feminine energies. Subscribe to our blog and E-mail list to stay in the loop about all upcoming courses, events and offerings.
Thank you for being part of our journey!
Best to you on yours!