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Sometimes, we all feel like we don’t quite measure up. It’s a common feeling that we can relate to in many areas of life – our jobs, our skills, or even how we look. 

But there’s one area that’s particularly tricky for many men: the idea of being “manly”. 

In our society, there are a lot of expectations and pressures on what it means to be a man, and falling short of these can make some men feel like they’re not manly enough. 

But what does it really mean to be manly?

What It Means to Be Manly

Being manly traditionally revolved around characteristics like physical strength, stoicism, and independence. 

The stereotypical “man’s man” was often depicted as assertive, in control, stoic and emotionally reserved. 

However, these notions are increasingly seen as outdated, restrictive, and not reflective of every man’s experience.

In the modern context, being manly has taken on a more holistic definition. It is less about adhering to rigid stereotypes and more about embracing a set of core values and being true to oneself. 

Today, being manly encompasses traits such as respectfulness, honesty, kindness, responsibility, emotional intelligence, and integrity. It involves demonstrating strength in character, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally. 

A manly individual is someone who is authentic, empathetic, and isn’t afraid to express emotions. So, being manly, in essence, is about being the best version of oneself.

(Related: 7 Male Personality Types (Which One Are You?)

Why Don’t Some Men Don’t Feel Manly Enough?

Why Don’t Some Men Don't Feel Manly Enough?

1. Social Conditioning and Stereotypes

From an early age, boys are fed an unhealthy dose of what being a “man” should entail. 

Strong, stoic, and capable — these are just a few of the attributes commonly associated with traditional masculinity. 

You’ve likely heard phrases like, “men don’t cry” or “real men don’t show emotion”. Unfortunately, these well-worn clichés do a lot more harm than good.

Not every man fits neatly into this macho mould, and that’s perfectly okay. Many men have sensitive and nurturing sides, which don’t diminish their manliness one bit. 

However, the persistent stereotypes can cause them to question their masculinity. They may feel less “manly” simply because they aren’t ticking all the boxes of what society traditionally expects from a male.

Moreover, some men are more introverted and quiet. They prefer books to barbells and peace to power. Society often misunderstands these men, labeling them as “less manly”. 

These societal pressures and misconceptions can lead to feelings of inadequacy and diminished self-esteem.

2. Unrealistic Media Portrayals

Men are constantly bombarded with images of ripped bodies, suave personalities, and extreme levels of confidence on television and social media. 

These unrealistic portrayals can create a warped standard that most men find hard to live up to.

Think about it. The muscular superhero, the sharp-suited businessman, the rugged outdoorsman – all these media portrayals set a precedent that’s just not achievable for the average Joe. 

Sure, some men may fit these portrayals, but let’s remember that these characters are often fictional or represent a tiny percentage of the male population.

The impact of these unrealistic standards can lead to body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and even mental health issues. 

Men may feel like they’re constantly falling short, and over time, these feelings can chip away at their sense of manliness.

Understand that the images and narratives we see in the media are often carefully curated or outright fantastical. We should strive to promote healthier, more diverse representations of what it means to be a man.

[Also read: 15 Sure Signs of a Gamma Male]

3. Peer Pressure and Bullying

What It Means to Be Manly

In some cases, men are pushed by their peers to conform to certain behaviors or engage in specific activities deemed “manly”.

Those who resist or fail to conform may face ridicule, bullying, or even ostracism.

These experiences can be extremely damaging, particularly during formative years. Men who have faced such negative interactions may find their self-confidence eroded. 

They may question their worth and masculinity, grappling with feelings of inadequacy or “not being manly enough”.

It’s worth noting that everyone’s journey is unique. People mature at different rates, both physically and emotionally. 

Just because a man doesn’t meet his peer’s expectations at a certain point in time doesn’t make him less of a man.

Men need to be aware that peer approval isn’t the be-all and end-all. Authenticity and self-acceptance are far more important than fitting into some arbitrary mold of what constitutes “manliness”.

4. Lack of Positive Male Role Models

A role model doesn’t necessarily have to be a celebrity or a high-profile person. They could be a father, a teacher, a coach, or anyone else who embodies the qualities of kindness, strength, and integrity.

When men lack such figures in their lives, they may struggle to form a solid sense of identity. Why?

They may feel lost, unsure of how to navigate their way through the world as a man. And this is because the absence of guidance can contribute to feelings of inadequacy or doubts about their manliness.

It’s important to acknowledge that every man’s path is unique. There’s no singular blueprint for being a “good man”. However, having someone to look up to can be invaluable, helping to shape values and inspire personal growth.

[Read: 100 Qualities Of A Good Man]

5. Personal Failures or Rejections

Personal failures or rejections can also affect a man’s sense of masculinity. This is particularly true in areas that society often links with masculinity, such as career success or romantic relationships. 

Failures in these domains – like not having a girlfriend or being in a low paying job – can lead some men to question their worthiness or masculinity. 

The reality, however, is that everyone experiences setbacks and rejections. They’re part of life. 

What matters most is how we deal with these challenges. Do we see them as opportunities for growth, or do we let them define us?

Men should view failures and rejections as stepping stones rather than roadblocks. They are part of the human experience, not determinants of masculinity. 

6. Mental Health Issues

Let’s face it, our society hasn’t always handled mental health very well. Many men, in particular, find it challenging to admit they are struggling. 

They may fear that expressing vulnerability or seeking help would make them less “manly”. As a result, mental health issues like depression or anxiety can lead some men to question their masculinity.

What can we do about this?

First, dismantle the damaging myth that mental health struggles equate to weakness. 

Strength isn’t about hiding pain; it’s about acknowledging it and seeking help when needed. It’s about understanding that we all have our battles and that mental health issues can affect anyone, irrespective of gender.

Remember that mental health is as important as physical health. So, it’s high time we change our outlook on mental health issues and masculinity. 

Emphasizing that seeking help is a strength, not a weakness, could be a game-changer for many men grappling with these issues.

[Interesting: 10 Manly Hobbies That Make Men More Attractive]

7. Body Image Concerns

The societal portrayal of the “ideal man” often comes with six-pack abs, a broad chest, and bulging biceps. 

This fixation on the muscular, fit physique can lead some men who don’t fit this physical mould to question their masculinity.

It’s unfortunate, but these societal expectations often overlook the fact that men, just like women, come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Every man’s body is different, and the notion that masculinity is tied to a specific body type is simply flawed. 

As much as it is important to be healthy, remember that our bodies don’t define us. Our worth and our masculinity are not determined by our physical appearances, but by who we are as individuals, by our actions, and by the way we treat others. 

8. Toxic Modern Red Pill Dating Coaches

Why men don't feel manly enough

For those unfamiliar with the term, “Red Pill” refers to a philosophy that emphasizes men’s rights and a skewed perception of male dominance in relationships. 

Some men, feeling lost or disillusioned, may turn to Red Pill dating coaches for advice on becoming more “manly” or successful with women.

Unfortunately, these coaches often promote manipulative tactics, a distorted view of gender roles, and a discouraging, unrealistic representation of relationships. This can have severe repercussions. 

Men who follow such advice might begin to see themselves as inadequate if they’re not dominant or emotionally invulnerable, as these coaches often suggest a “real man” should be. This can lead to feelings of insecurity and a perceived lack of manliness.

In reality, healthy relationships are built on respect, understanding, and equality, not dominance or manipulation. 

Being a man isn’t about asserting control over others, especially women. It’s about being kind, respectful, and treating others the way you’d like to be treated. That’s a true mark of manliness.


How do you know if you are manly?

Determining whether you are “manly” really depends on your personal definition of masculinity. 

If you’re going by traditional societal standards, being manly might be associated with physical strength, assertiveness, or independence. 

However, these are outdated notions that can be quite limiting and do not resonate with every man’s experience.

In the contemporary world, a more nuanced view of masculinity has emerged. Today, being manly is more about personal values and character traits than physical attributes or dominating behavior. 

It involves qualities like kindness, respect, integrity, responsibility, emotional intelligence, and authenticity. Therefore, if you embody these traits, irrespective of societal stereotypes, you are manly.

How can you learn to feel more manly?

How can you learn to feel more manly?

Feeling more manly starts with rejecting societal expectations and defining what manliness means to you. 

If being manly to you means being respectful, honest, kind, and responsible, then start by cultivating these qualities. 

Engage in self-reflection and personal growth, seek out positive role models, and surround yourself with individuals who uplift and inspire you.

Also, it’s essential to build self-confidence and self-esteem. This might involve embracing your body, improving your mental health, or developing new skills. It’s about understanding and accepting who you are, and growing from there. 

Remember, being manly is not about adhering to a specific stereotype, but about embodying positive values and being true to yourself.

[Related: The Top 10 Most Attractive Jobs For A Man]

What makes a man feel manly in a relationship?

What makes a man feel manly in a relationship can differ from person to person. 

However, generally, it involves being able to provide, protect, and maintain equality and respect in the relationship. 

Being a good listener, understanding, and emotionally supportive can also make a man feel manly. These are the traits of a good partner, irrespective of gender.

However, it’s essential to note that masculinity in a relationship is not about dominating or controlling your partner. It’s about being a positive, nurturing force. It’s about leadership, communication, mutual respect, and shared decision-making. 


  • All photos from freepik.com

Destiny Femi

Destiny Femi is a dating coach whose work has helped transform the love lives of countless people. With a writing style that is both insightful and relatable, Destiny has amassed a following of hundreds of thousands of readers who turn to him for advice on everything from finding the perfect partner to maintaining a healthy relationship. Through his articles he has inspired people around the world to become more confident, authentic, and successful in their dating life.

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