For so long, we’ve been sold on the idea that masculinity is related to factors such as physical strength, how much we earn, the car we drive, how many beers we can drink, how many women we’ve slept with…Basically, how much of an alpha we can be — as if that’s what validates us as men.
And if we reject that version of masculinity, we risk being left in no-man’s land – where we’re so determined not to be an alpha that we become the opposite – a doormat. Or worse yet, a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy).
I believe there’s a new way for us to be: the way of the modern gentleman. I call it the Return of The Gentleman.
Being a gentleman is about something far beyond opening car doors and having great manners. It’s about being who you are with no shame and no apology. It’s about making amazing connections with others — men and women alike.
It’s about knowing you always have a wealth of choices available to you, and it’s about having the confidence to make those choices based on what’s interesting to you, and more importantly, what actually works for you.
Essentially, being a gentleman puts you firmly in the driver’s seat of your life. Here’s how you do it.
1. Drop the act
As guys, we have this tendency to present ourselves to the world as an image, rather than living as who we actually are. We construct this image based on qualities we think we should have — usually to meet the expectations of others: our families, friends, girlfriends, co-workers, employers… the list goes on. We’re so busy trying to please everyone else, we lose ourselves in the process.
Is it possible you could be playing a role? Or two, or three? Funny guy at work. Dependable friend. Wild guy at parties. The list goes on and on…
My advice is to become really aware of how often the word ‘should’ influences your decision making. “I should go to this work thing because if I don’t, I’ll let the team down.” Or, “I should stay out late, or the guys will think I’m boring.”
When you live your life obligated to others, you become a paler version of yourself, and you constantly have to modify your behavior. In essence, you end up squashed into a box which is way too small for you.
Let ‘should’ be your red flag: a warning for when you’re doing something out of obligation, and not out of choice. As a gentleman, you always have choice.
2. Know that vulnerability is strength
Rather than being about weakness, vulnerability is very much about strength. Why? Because lowering your barriers and letting people see the real you, including your flaws, fears and doubts, takes guts.
It’s the avoidance of vulnerability — avoidance of being our real selves — that keeps us weak.
One of the most empowering choices you can make as a man is to take off your mask and say, “Hello world. Here I am. If you’re with me, awesome. If you’re not — still awesome.”
There is something so fearless and so confident about that.
3. Stop the self-criticism
As a society, we’re addicted to judgment. Most of the time we’re not even aware we’re doing it. It’s as if we’re programmed to constantly assess our performance: how we look, how we sound, how funny we’re being… and when we don’t meet whatever standard we set for ourselves, we beat ourselves up.
Judgment is such a destructive mindset, and it’s so limiting. The only way to stop doing it… is to stop doing it! This is where YOUR choice comes in.
Next time you look in a mirror, notice what thoughts come up — and if they’re in the arena of judgment, simply say to yourself: STOP. Choose a different thought. Focus on something you like about yourself instead. Or make a funny ugly face, roar and kill the judgement with…laughter!
The point is: notice how often you judge yourself and make a conscious effort to reduce that. This is your gateway to liking yourself: the trademark of a gentleman.
4. Let go of the past
Do you ever play that old videotape in your mind? You know the one — it’s labeled, “Every Bad Decision I Ever Made!” (In Technicolor).
We can get fixated on dredging up the past, wondering why we did that, wore that, said that, didn’t say that… and it’s so draining! And it serves no purpose at all, except to get us to keep judging us as men.
Recognize this: you can only ever do your best with the tools you have at any time. Really make the commitment to stop judging yourself — past, present and future. See mistakes as lessons learned. Chalk them up as experience, be grateful for the awareness it gave you, and move on.
5. Don’t view other guys as competition
Some men have an intense need to prove themselves around each other, especially if there are females in the vicinity. Why? You could chalk it up to survival of the fittest, or the Darwinian model that the strongest man is the one that gets to procreate. Really, it’s because we’ve been taught that a huge chunk of our self-worth as a man comes from being seen as the top of the food chain, so to speak.
As a gentleman, you can choose to not participate in that. You can choose to let go of rivalry. And if you sense it coming from another guy — stay neutral. Stay YOU. You don’t have to lower yourself to it. You have nothing to prove.
One of the most amazing aspects of being a gentleman is that it’s so much easier to have relaxed and supportive friendships with other men, free of conflict. When you no longer see each other as a threat, you get to have each other’s backs, appreciate each other, and enjoy hanging out together with zero tension.
6. Stop equating getting laid with being a real man
Of all the stereotypes that we buy into about masculinity, it’s the one that links our sexual prowess to how much of a man we are that can be the hardest to shake. It’s not our fault — we’ve been fed this stuff for decades.
It comes down to this: you don’t need external validation to prove what a man you are. The number of people you’ve slept with is not an indication of how valuable you are.
Value yourself first and others will follow. And if they don’t, does it matter?
And if you do, you’ll stop having the constant need of finding a woman to have sex with as though that’s a mark of your manhood.
7. Accept that not everyone will like you
Does that idea fill you with horror? Needing to be liked by everyone means that you will, probably on a daily basis, be bending yourself out of shape to please others, and inevitably this means you’ll be less of who you really are.
Think of it this way: what does anyone else’s opinion — or judgment — have to do with you? If someone thinks you’re an idiot, how much time, effort, and energy do you really want to give convincing them otherwise? Also, ask yourself, “Has it ever worked?” Giving yourself permission to not be liked can come as a huge relief.
The ironic thing is, a gentleman has little concern for whether or not anyone likes him — and yet he’s often the most magnetic, likeable person in the room. Not because he’s the loudest, or the most intimidating. But because he is being himself.
When you’re free of judgment, you’re more relaxing to be around. When you’re confident and open, you radiate a quality that people are drawn to. When you’re trying to prove you have value, instead of KNOWING you have value, people tend to stay away.
8. Enjoy messing up
I often ask guys this question: “What if you didn’t have to be so damn perfect all the time?” I’ve asked that question to hundreds of men, and I’ve seen their entire countenance lighten right in front of me almost every time.
So, now I’m asking you: “What if YOU didn’t have to be so damn perfect all the time?”
As men we’re seen as the providers, the responsible ones, the logical ones. That makes it really hard for us to embrace making mistakes, but embracing mistakes is where freedom lies.
What if you could mess up, then hold up your hands and say, “Okay, that didn’t go as well as I hoped. Maybe I’ll do that differently next time.” And that’s it… no beating yourself up, no self-flagellating, no hanging onto regret, no adding it to the Every Bad Decision I Ever Made videotape.
If you upset someone, go ahead and apologize — just don’t carry the burden of it around with you for the next 100 years. It doesn’t make you any less of a man when you apologize. In fact, in my point of view, it makes you more of a gentleman.
You don’t need to be perfect. You just need to enjoy your choices. And recognize that we all screw up sometimes. And it’s ok.
If you desire to repair a relationship that’s on the outs because of something you did, you could say something like: “I’m sorry, I was wrong. What can I do to make up for the damage done?” When said with sincerity, this one sentence has the capacity to repair all types of relationships and friendships and set you free from the burden of your past screw ups.
9. Notice where you’re already being a gentleman
Take a moment to think about what being a gentleman means to you. Is it about being kind? Standing up for yourself? Trying new experiences? It could be none of those things, or all of these things and a hundred more — it’s different for every guy. For me, it’s liking the guy looking back at me in the mirror.
Just choose one thing you’d like to be more of — for you, no one else — and look over your past for a time when you were that. And give yourself some credit. Recognize you have already shown up as a gentleman in the world and know you can unlock more of it if you want to.
10. Chart your own course
When you embrace this new way of framing masculinity, you let go of the definitions that have kept you limited. You get to carve your own path in life — and that’s one of the most notable aspects of being a gentleman. You recognize that life isn’t something that happens to you; rather, it’s something you craft and forge yourself. That’s your potency.
Know that you can be at the helm of your ship, while staying open to being surprised. As a gentleman, you don’t need all the answers. Ask questions. Be curious. Ride the waves. And above all, enjoy the ride — you have nothing to lose but your limitations.
Dr. Dain Heer is a bestselling author and internationally renowned speaker. He is a co-creator and leading facilitator of Access Consciousness®, a personal development modality available in more than 170 countries that has contributed to changing the lives of tens of thousands of people. For more information about "Return of the Gentleman," visit https://returnofthegentleman.com/. You can purchase your copy on Amazon.