There is a metaphysical concept known as the Ship of Theseus that challenges the idea of identity. If, over time, a ship has its planks, its mast, and every other part of it replaced, is it still the same ship? Was it always the same ship, did it cease to be the same ship after the final piece was replaced, or was each alteration a new incarnation of the original ship? Or was there no ship at all, but rather the idea of a ship?
This metaphysical conundrum is something that each man who seriously considers the ideas discussed in this community of men must face eventually. His answer will be his alone, because only he knows the path he has walked and where he wants to progress from where he stands. But a ship is a ship, and they all sail the same seas.
The reshaping of your masculine identity is the most important part of your journey, far beyond the statistics and the evidence and the reasoning of going your own way. Any man can claim to be on his own path in life, but what does that look like? How has the path changed you?
Think back to a type of insult you may have heard in your life related to doing something or behaving in a way that a ‘real man should’. “Take it like a man, real men do XY&Z” they would say, mostly women but weak men devoid of a real identity partake in these petty insults as well. Why did this type of insult get under your skin? If it wasn’t effective, it wouldn’t be so prevalent.
Its effectiveness comes from the need for men to prove themselves. Men must prove their utility to their communities, to demonstrate their capabilities through their competitive natures, and ultimately to prove to themselves that they do indeed have worth. And that’s what makes attacks on a man’s masculinity so sinister, because it seeks to twist man’s nature against himself, to betray the essence of his existence indirectly.
This weapon of linguistic warfare has steered men from their own paths in life in to the trenches of wars where they lose their lives, in to the divorce courts where they lose their households, in to miserable jobs where they lose their souls, and in to a dead end life wishing for anything but what they already have. It would prove useful to remove the power statements meant to shame once had, and that comes in establishing yourself, ironically, as a real man.
I can’t tell you if I’m the same young man today as I was before I decided to walk my own path in life, forgoing norms and choosing to put myself first, or if these ideas were always there and were unlocked through experience and learning, or if I’m an entirely new entity. What matters is that I can tell you what I am now and always: a man made aware of the fact that the nature of a society depends on the controlling of its men.
If I let society construct the compass that would take me where I needed to go, I would never reach my destination. So a real and meaningful choice faces any aspiring man seeking to know himself: do what is expected of you, with the comfort of the approval of your peers and the protection from the unknown, but with it comes the danger of being an expendable utility, destined to be discarded at the earliest convenience. Or you could embark on that journey into the wild frontier, where you control your movements and actions, and with it comes the very real danger of becoming lost in that vast expanse of possibilities, but I would argue it’s better to become lost and to find yourself once again than it is to be stuck in the same place.
Look at what society wants from you, and look at how that has shaped the image of yourself. How much of your identity reflects the expectations of others? Having the opportunity to remake this image in to something you could be proud of, independent of what anyone else thinks, is something a lot of men would kill for. As you strip away the artificial layers of this image, you’ll find that only the simplest of qualities remain, and that these qualities don’t require you to reduce yourself to a series of material qualifications.