As a therapist who specializes in working with men, and as a man who has been most of these types of guys on my road to 40, I’d like to offer some observations and solutions on common mistakes young men make.
Being a young man can be a time of freedom, excitement, discovering who we are and generally just doing a bunch of stupid sh*t on our way toward adulthood.
While it’s true that we all need to make our own mistakes, there are some mistakes that we shouldn’t make any longer than necessary. That’s where advice from someone like me might be helpful.
1) The Blowhard or The Mansplainer.
Problem: You know this guy. He has an opinion on everything. And he’s not particularly interested in your opinion, except as something to rebut. The irony is that he’s actually pretty smart, he’s just insecure, as he believes that he should know the answers to everything.
Solution: If you recognize this in yourself, try just listening to the people around you for a day. Notice your desire to jump in and interject come up again and again. Resist that desire. Take a few moments of mindful breathing, and just notice that impulse. I’ve heard it said that if your mouth is open you’re not learning anything. Zip it, and learn something new, for real.
2) The Lone Ranger.
Problem: This guy hides his perceived flaws, and doesn’t know how awesome vulnerability is. He feels that if he lets people know he’s not perfect they will like him less, respect him less, sex him less. Paradoxically, and perhaps predictably, he never gets the friendship, respect or sex he desires.
Solution: Start opening up to a trusted friend, lover, mentor or therapist. Share your fears, insecurities and frustrations. It’s a long-term project with no quick fixes. It’s hard—and incredibly rewarding. Watch Brene Brown’s hugely popular Ted Talk, and check out her book, Daring Greatly.
3) The Smooth Operator.
Problem: This guy confuses sex with love. He genuinely wants connection, but only knows how to do it with his groin. When he finds great sex, he thinks this is love. But great sex can only get him so far; once he realizes he doesn’t share a real connection, he’s off looking for the next escapade.
Solution: Take a few months off of dating, sex, and even flirting. Journal daily about your relationship to these things. Check your values—what is it you really want?
4) Mr. Nice Guy.
Problem: This guy is nice, but feels hollow—who is he, really? Too many guys get caught being nice and never being authentic. Guess what? Nice guys might not finish last, but they’re probably miserable with their middling life.
Solution: Figure out what your true needs and desires are. Learn how to express them in healthy, respectful ways. Check out Robert Glover’s fantastic No More Mr. Nice Guy book.
5) The Rebel.
Problem: He thinks he needs to do it differently than everyone else. In some ways, this guy is the opposite of Mr. Nice Guy. He’s pushing boundaries; no one can tell him what to do. He is always fighting back against something—anything. But at the end of the day, he is defined by the thing he’s rebelling against. He only knows how to fight, and not how to build something resilient.
Solution: Channel all that rebel energy into something constructive—play music, learn a martial art, volunteer for a cause you believe in. Additionally, consider seeking out an older male mentor. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; some people have wisdom to share. Let it in.
Truthfully, I’ve made most of the mistakes above. And I’m certainly going to make many more before I leave this earth—you can’t learn if you don’t make mistakes. I’m probably making some as I write this article! Perhaps I’m now “The Guy Who Thinks He Knows The Mistakes Other Men Make.”
But if you’re making any—or all—of the five mistakes above, it probably means you’re just as confused as the rest of us men. And that means you have an incredible opportunity to forge something new and brave. You can learn and grow.
Through this, you may just become a kind of human the world has rarely seen: a truly mature man.
You could be the kind of man who has the wisdom the Blowhard wants to tell everyone about, the emotional availability denied The Lone Ranger, the deeply connected sex the Smooth Operator can’t even fathom, the fierceness Mr. Nice Guy suppresses, and the focused creativity The Rebel secretly envies.
I’d like to meet more of these mature men. All the women I know are waiting for them to emerge. People all over the world are waiting for men to step up, grow through these young man mistakes, and show what a mature masculine really looks like.
If that’s not incentive enough, it’s really just a hell of a lot more fun to feel strong, loving and deeply alive.
Which one of these mistakes is familiar to you? What other mistakes have you made? Let me know in the comments below.
Author: Alexander Warnow
Editor: Toby Israel