Dangers of the Alpha Male Mentality
Today, more than ever, relations between men and women are under a huge amount of pressure. While it’s essential (and long overdue) for women to have more platforms to speak from and ways to support each other, there’s a risk that some men — those with zero desire to control or diminish women — are being ostracized and losing their sense of who they really are.
Disconnected and confused, a lot of guys assume they only have two choices in how they can be: there’s the Sensitive New Age Guy (I call him the SNAG), who’s so dismayed by the men abusing their power that he instead casts himself in the role of supporting actor in his own life (putting everyone else first and cutting parts of himself off in the process); or there’s the Alpha who battles his way to the top of any hierarchy, social situation or relationship — usually by dominating and oppressing everyone else.
In these tumultuous times we’re seeing more and more guys choosing the alpha male mentality because they believe the alternative puts them in a place of weakness: they think that in choosing to be a sensitive, caring guy, they’ll also have to carry the burden of Being Wrong on behalf of all men.
This is tricky territory, and it also happens to be an area I’m particularly passionate about. I work all over the world and get to be in the company of some awesome guys who have seen beyond these two stereotypes — and I also meet some really confused and disenfranchised men too.
This sense that men can only be masculine OR feminine, powerful OR emotional, strong OR kind, is totally holding us back. This is why we really need to have this conversation and then go beyond it to consider what else is possible.
Let’s start by addressing the dangers and limitations of what we often find at the extreme end of the alpha mentality, then we’ll look at what else is possible beyond this — and any — stereotype.
Limitation #1: Playing a role keeps you from your true greatness
Think about the characteristics associated with the traditional alpha. What’s he into? How does he treat women, and how does he view other guys? What I’m working towards is the idea that being an alpha involves living from a set list of traits, behaviors, and values. And whose values are they, anyway?
When we choose to adopt a role — any role — from a place of This is how I should be, we’re prioritizing what others expect from us over what we want for ourselves. Even though the alpha might appear to be in control and powerful, he’s actually making himself small by living his life to order.
Limitation #2: Being an alpha is rooted in judgment
If you choose to be an alpha, you have to value the things that alphas value — regardless of whether they’re true for you or not. You then seek external validation to prove what a man you are: and for the alpha, masculinity is usually measured by how many women he can sleep with, how many kilograms he can bench press, and the money he makes.
If you’re always comparing yourself to others, you live in a state of constant judgment: period. You judge yourself and everyone around you: Am I good enough, fit enough, funny enough? Is she hot enough, is this car cool enough, is that guy a threat? It’s exhausting. And when you believe you don’t measure up, you experience a sense of inadequacy, which you have to mask, of course — usually by pitting yourself against the other men in your life. Which leads to…
Limitation #3: Competition and conflict
On the surface, alphas can seem like they’ve got a big, solid friendship group. They’ll hang out together, laughing outrageously, demonstrating their fun side, but it’s often accompanied by an undercurrent of competitiveness, which at its most extreme can get very caveman-esque and aggressive.
I’ve definitely sensed this from other guys, both in groups and one-to-one, and it can get uncomfortable if you don’t know what to do with that energy. Too often alpha ‘fun’ spills over into conflict, and once they’re in that zone it’s really hard to do anything other than gorilla-type posturing.
What really gets to me about all of this is: Men are capable of so much more.
A new possibility: Being a modern gentleman
For all the guys reading this: before I go any further, please know I’m not about to prescribe another role for you to play or construct a box for you to climb into.
The key to be a modern gentleman lies in discovering what’s true for you — and then being it. It looks different for every guy. There is no either / or in the world of a gentleman. He can be kind and potent, commanding and nurturing, vulnerable and sexy — because he chooses for himself, moment by moment.
How do you get there? It’s a journey I embarked on almost twenty years ago, though I didn’t have the language to attach to it back then. For me, my nature as a true gentleman was ignited when I stopped cutting parts of myself off to please others. As a side-note, I wasn’t an alpha, I was very much the opposite — but I was just as boxed in and limited.
If this is speaking to you at all, read on for some ways you can start to let go of old, outdated roles — whether you’ve been more alpha or more SNAG — and step into your true greatness.
When you stop playing a role it can be scary. Trust that you have an instinct — an awareness — about what is right for you and about you.
Have gratitude for you
In short: stop judging yourself and let go of everyone else’s ideas about who you are. What do you love doing? Who are you when you’re at your happiest? Make a commitment to do and be more of that. And do it with no shame, and no apology.
Cease judging others
In particular, stop judging other men! Let go of rivalry. You might still sense it from other guys but recognize you don’t need to prove yourself. When guys stop seeing each other as a threat, a whole new space opens up where they can enjoy each other’s company and have each other’s back. It’s awesome.
Get curious — about others and yourself
Be interested in people, ask questions, and look at how you can contribute to their life. Also, ask yourself questions, in particular, how do I want to show up in the world?
In essence, a gentleman is a leader in his own life. He knows he always has a smorgasbord of choices in front of him, and he can be who he wants moment by moment. He’s strong when necessary, and sensitive when it’s required. He chooses to be the greatest version of himself and has no interest in diminishing the greatness of others. He looks to the future, and asks: What life do I want to create?
Is it time for you to ask yourself that question?