Today, young men in high school and college are constantly told how to be a man by magazines, television, movies, peers, the internet and in books. Having been the president of my fraternity in college, I saw young men every day be lured into thinking that being a man is what is depicted by society: new freshmen getting really into drinking, young men changing their style to fit in, a perfect relationship brought to an end so someone could “play the field.”
Fraternity men get the stereotype of being hard partiers who womanize. Men would go into fraternities one way, and leave another. I made it my goal to change how manhood was defined in my fraternity. Being president of my fraternity gave me a great window into how society tells young men to be. It's an experience that shaped my life and opened my eyes to what it really means to be a man.
Throughout my experience as a fraternity president, I learned some valuable lessons on manhood which I tried to instill in the brotherhood.
Here are 10 lessons that helped me and my brothers learn what it really means to be a “man”:
1. Learn to gain your confidence from something that makes you uniquely yourself.
This could be your sense of humor, being excellent at cooking or how you know all of Walt Whitman’s work by heart. Own your passions, for they are what you derive you inner confidence from.
2. Don’t be afraid to fall utterly and hopelessly in love.
Young men are shown that one-night stands far outweigh a relationship in the media. It cost me a two-year relationship and a year and a half of inner turmoil to realize that loving someone is manly and sleeping with a stranger is cowardly.
3. Own who you are.
If you love reading, show that. If you love working out, show that. Don’t go along with what the crowd does, do what you want to do. It is those who own who they are who become remembered in the world.
4. Always remember where you come from.
Often, young men in college can be blinded by the lights of the big city. I know when I first joined my fraternity, partying hard and one night stands seemed like ultimate success, but it wasn’t until I was president that I realized you always have to stay true to yourself. Remember where you grew up. What you use to be interested in. The dreams you once (and maybe still do) have. Remembering where you come from keeps you grounded when all else seems shaken.
5. Stop acting like a hot shot and be genuine.
As young men, we are always trying to network, meet more people, and find a new lady/guy. We often put on a mask of ourselves because we feel if we show who we really are and how we feel, we will be rejected. Take off the mask. Be authentic. Be 100% you. Yes, you will probably get rejected more but those you attract will be with you for life.
6. Trust your gut.
It's not our parents, peers, or mentors who guide us — it is ourselves. Only when you follow what is inside of you, will you ever feel 100% content with life. Major in what YOU want to major in. Join the club YOU want to join. Take the job YOU want to take. If inside you it feels right, go for it — your gut normally isn’t wrong.
7. Practice moderation.
Whether it's alcohol, homework or naps, make sure you're maintaining proportion and harmony. Balance is the key to staying centered.
8. Stand up for what you believe in, even if others around you don’t.
To believe in something is great, to stand up for that belief is true courage.
9. Learn to forgive yourself.
A man’s worst enemy is himself. We all make mistakes, becoming a man is learning from them and forgiving yourself.
10. Don’t be afraid to show emotion.
Cry, laugh, and get angry. A man knows and understands his own emotions, so don’t be afraid to let your inner self out once in a while.