Historically, men are socialized to believe that expressing their emotions and being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. But this oppressive notion of masculinity is a harmful myth. Being self-aware and emotionally intelligent is essential — not only for fostering healthy, authentic masculinity, but also for building healthy relationships and connections with the people around us.
At A Call to Men, we believe that self-awareness is the foundation for healthy masculinity. “We’re all on a journey of authenticity,” says A Call to Men CEO Tony Porter. “The more we embrace authenticity, the less desire we have to distance ourselves from the experiences of women and girls in our definition of what it means to be a man. Authenticity allows us to connect over the human experience rather than defining ourselves within narrow gender roles.”
When, as men, we can embody self-awareness, we are better equipped to recognize our own socialization and behaviors, and how they impact those around us. This awareness allows us to take responsibility for our actions, to be more empathetic towards others, and, ultimately, to build more meaningful and fulfilling relationships.
The journey of authenticity and awareness is an ongoing one—ebbing and flowing with obstacles and accomplishments throughout our lives—but to aim for a North Star of “to thine own self be true” is a powerful force for good across all areas of our lives. Embracing awareness translates to less denial, a better understanding of ourselves, and an opportunity to respect the people around us for who they are.
The benefits of self-awareness extend far beyond personal growth, and can also have a significant impact on our relationships — romantic or otherwise. When we are self-aware, we are better able to communicate our thoughts and feelings with our partners, and are more open to receiving feedback from them. We are less likely to jump straight to defensiveness and more likely to listen to our partners. This level of communication helps to foster trust and intimacy, which are crucial components of a healthy relationship.
So, how can we exercise that self-awareness muscle?
- The first step toward self-awareness starts with deepening your understanding of where you’re at right now. Ask yourself: do you feel obligated to act or be a certain way (in and out of relationships)? What are the expectations you are striving to meet in your life? Do those expectations feel aligned with who you are at heart, or are they more about external pressure? This exercise can help you get to the heart of what feels honest and authentic for you, which sets the stage for a more aware and authentic life.
- Another effective way to deepen self awareness is to reflect on your past relationships and experiences, and identify areas for growth and improvement. It’s important to take ownership of our actions and behaviors, and to recognize how they may have contributed to negative outcomes in our past relationships.
We recently partnered with Plenty of Fish on a study* that found that, 61% of men who had a date that didn’t go well assumed they were the reason it ended poorly, and 75% of those men said they knew exactly what they did to botch the date. This shows that many men are already practicing self-reflection and introspection — and how important it is for us to take that next step into self-improvement and accountability.
After your next date, take ten minutes to jot down some thoughts — reflecting on what went well and what didn’t go so well. Were there any patterns or recurring issues that you noticed? Any areas you could improve on that could help foster closeness, comfort, and authenticity on your next date?
- Finally, it’s important to create space in your life to build off of that self-awareness by prioritizing your own self-improvement. Over three-quarters (77%) of singles believe that the benefits of self-improvement can extend across multiple areas of life, including dating. This is good news for singles, as 66% of men and 55% of women are taking steps to better themselves. But what does that process of betterment look like?
Within the confines of the Man Box (the “rules” of masculinity we’re socialized to follow) men are told not to ask for, offer, or accept help. To resist this isolating notion of masculinity, consider going to therapy, taking care of your body (through exercise, healthy choices, and preventative care), nurturing your network of friends and confidantes, and prioritizing self-care. Investing in healthy habits like these can help you become a better version of yourself — and you can absolutely bring that positive energy into your dating life, too.
Self-awareness is a key component of our own happiness and our ability to show up for the special people in our lives, and it’s never too late to start that journey toward authenticity. By reflecting on past experiences, prioritizing self-improvement, and focusing on key areas like communication and compromise, we can all become healthier versions of ourselves and build stronger relationships at any age or stage of life.
*2,000 single or casually dating Gen Z and Millennial Americans were polled in January 2023 by OnePoll, in a study commissioned by Plenty of Fish in partnership with A Call to Men