I did not have heroes growing up. Many little boys look up to their father or older brothers; that wasn’t me. Other boys in my class looked up to athletes or celebrities or even superheroes. I might have liked some of those guys, but they weren’t heroes to me.

I didn’t have a clear definition of what a hero should be — I just knew I didn’t have one.

It went deeper than that, though. I believe every boy needs a male hero. He needs a guy he can look up to, a guy he sees as the epitome of a man. It helps him understand what he should be as he grows older. It gives definition to what his own role in life.

Without any such guidance, I had to define masculinity on my own. I had to learn masculinity from what I heard others say about it — and what I heard wasn’t great.

Real men were athletic. They were super strong physically and emotionally. They did not cry or show weakness. Real men picked on other men who were weaker to help them be better. And if you couldn’t take it, then you were never going to cut it as a real man.

I learned that I was not and never would be a real man.

I began working through this mindset as an adult. Finding healing from old thought-processes and buried hurts took time but proved profitable. Then, about a year and a half ago, something odd happened.

I found some heroes.

With the rise of social media and celebrities staying in touch with their fans, actors like Stephen Amell (Arrow), Jared Padalecki (Supernatural), and Jensen Ackles (Supernatural) popped up on my radar and my newsfeed. Out of sheer love for their shows, I began following them on every social media site I could.

I initially expected the same typical “masculine” posts. These guys were real men after all: athletic, good looking, successful men in their 30s. I figured their posts would be consumed with hunting, playing sports, working out, showing off their money, and otherwise self-glorifying their lives.

I was shocked to find the opposite.

Each man posted constantly about his family. Stephen Amell posted anniversary pics from his vow renewal with his wife and did live video chats while hanging out with his daughter.

Jared Padalecki shared photos of roughhousing with his two boys and gave honest confessionals about missing his wife and kids while filming.

Jensen Ackles disappeared completely from the Internet while at home with his wife and daughter, not wanting to sacrifice any of his time with them for the sake of social media.

As I watched this incredible procession of loving husbands and fathers, something occurred to me.

These men, these very manly men, found their masculinity not in their own physicality but in their character. The better husbands and fathers they were, the more masculine they felt.

As a husband and father myself, I’ve found joy in this! My whole life has been spent apologizing for not being manly. My whole life has been spent looking for ways to identify as a real man without having any of culture’s definition for it.

My search for masculinity has finally found an answer. By being a loving husband and caring father, I can truly call myself a real man. I can be a real man simply by being a man of character.

I didn’t need to know everything about football. I didn’t need to be able to lift 300 pounds. I didn’t need to never cry.

I simply needed to be a man of upstanding character.

Now I have heroes. And you know what? I want to be just like them when I grow up.

Growing up, did you have any masculine heroes to model your life after? Do you have any such heroes today?

* Photo courtesy yogendra174, Creative Commons.

  • Love this post! I totally agree with you when you say that every boy needs a male hero. Someone they can learn from. Someone they can look up to. I have an older brother and a father, who are both great guys, but are stereotypically male, you know, into football and all that stuff. Which made it harder for me to essentially look up to them and wanna be like them, because I wasn’t interested in what they were interested in. I’ve had to learn for myself what true masculinity is. And only very recently have I found that.
    In short, I define masculinity as being like Jesus. Jesus was truly the greatest MAN to walk this earth. I strive now everyday to be more and more like Him. I guess you could say that Jesus is my hero.
    On the flip side however, to always look up to God is easier said than done. I long to have a Jesus-like hero in my life that I can look up to. Someone that can teach me to be more like Him. My prayer is that God brings this person into my life.
    Bless you Dean. You are loved.

  • I get what you mean, but I searched for my heroes as a kid. Joan of Ark, Harriett Tubman, Rosa Parks, and what not. I just never seemed to fit in for a long time with what in my mind was “typically” female. I wasnt boy crazy (for reasons I was unaware of at the time haha) I wasn’t prone to make up and I hated pop music and boy bands. And for a long time I almost felt bad about it until I really read Proverbs 31 and paid attention – that woman did it all. She took care of her family, she farmed, she did business, and she was even muscular.
    I am a “tough” seeming person, with a soft heart. God looks at the heart.

  • For me, my heros were the characters on the Band of Brothers mini series. They were all young guys fighting in a violent war and were tough, yet they were also all close friends with each other, had brotherly bonds, and could be caring and affectionate with each other. And whenever a main gets killed, it really feels like a major loss. I wish so badly I could make brothers in real life who are like the Band of Brothers characters.

  • It’s so nice to hear your voice, Dean. Of all the authors, I feel like I connect most with your stories.
    Like you, when I was a child, I struggled with this concept of ‘hero’. All the classmates and guys my age had heros: role models, public figures they were obsessed with, things they wanted to be growing up.
    But I never had those things.
    I think in part, it’s because when I was a boy, I felt alone. Distant parents, and a brother I didn’t understand, made by feel very lonely.
    I came to a place where I despised all guys- as distant, immature, or stupid. Some of this was because of my immaturity, however most of it was because of my experience with my dad and brother.
    I felt like I wasn’t worthy, like I didn’t matter, to my dad.
    When my dad was home, he spent most of his time working, doing things mom couldn’t do. Any other free time was spent with my brother- my dad was trying to be there for him- his friends all had dads that could throw the ball around, and do all the typical father son things. He wanted to do that for my bro, too.
    Sometimes I was invited to join- but, I felt like an outsider. They always played sports. I was frustrated by sports, felt embarrassed by my body, and felt like I couldn’t do them. Eventually they just stopped inviting me.
    I felt like, between the two of us, my brother mattered to dad, and I didn’t. And, I grew to resent my brother. They were supposed to be the people that understand, and accept me.
    My mother tried to help me, but she was emotionally unstable, and often distant. I soon learned to take care of her, and in a way, take the emotional role of my father for her. Ultimately, my needs weren’t met by her either.
    And, most of my childhood, I was severely depressed. My mom noticed, but couldn’t do anything to help.
    So, I felt incredibly alone. How could I have a role model when I felt so burdened by my mom? Who would I look up to- since I felt rejected by men- and didn’t understand or connect with them?
    Honestly, I just felt too emotionally burdened to have things like hobbies or interests, or even role models. In many ways, I was just trying to survive- live through the chrushing emotional weight, and bear with the pain from rejection and isolation I felt. I was just trying to make it to the next day.
    Honestly, it’s a miracle that I made it to adulthood. You know, I’ve always tried to ‘fix myself’- rewrite my mind- change how I feel- turn off my emotions. But there are a lot of things I just couldn’t fix. So, I repressed.
    This stuff with role models- how hurt I was by my dad- is one of them.
    I’m trying to reconnect with these old places. Learn how to cry, again. Learn how to feel. God can’t fix these things unless I let them go. Unless I let them come to the surface. It’s scary- but needed.
    Thanks again, Dean.

  • The thing about being a husband and father — a good one, that is — is that you learn from experience that it’s one of the hardest things in the world. It’s not for pansies. It’s for men who are strong, committed, determined, persistent, who don’t view medicating or running away as options. Any guy who can stand up under the pressures of being a husband and father and nail the job year after year is a real man in my book. I’m proud of you, Dean. 🙂

  • Great post Dean. It’s so freeing to realize this kind of stuff. It takes so much more of a man to be of good character, than it does to appear strong.
    Good stuff.

  • Growing up without a father left me extremely limited on male role models. My uncles were they closest thing I had and they showed me porn at thirteen because they were uncomfortable talking about sex. I had to learn on my own what a man was, and it was very skewed until I became a father. A man worships God first and foremost. A man loves his wife even though he is SSA. A man pays his bills. A man guides and corrects his children. A man is not afraid to do housework. A man cooks. A man takes care of his home (even if he is overcompensating for his SSA). A man does not get all the girls. A man drives a minivan and not a Lamborgini. A man does not sleep around. A man is faithful to God first, his wife second, his family third. A man admits when he is wrong. A man stands up to what is wrong.

  • Growing up I never really had any men as heros. I wanted my dad to be a hero but him and I don’t see eye to eye on things and my step dad was probably the only one who taught me a lot about the world but was not really my ideal hero. My brother and I are very distant and complete opposite and most of life was filled with peer bullying by guys. I guess my only and recent hero that I have is Jesus. He’s the only hero who I want to follow

  • Hi, this is my first time commenting on any of the posts on YOB but I have been quietly enjoying reading them for the past year or two. I’m an 18 year old Australian and really appreciate all the hard work that goes into this site, it really helped me come to grips with my sexuality.
    I really resonate with this post. I grew up in a large conservative Romanian Australian family, bring one of six kids as well as being homeschooled. I was in the middle having an older brother and sister, a twin (he’s OSA), and a younger brother and sister.
    I never looked up to my older brother. In fact I never really looked up to anyone really, except my older sister. She was my favourite sibling as she was the nicest haha, and she has always had a strong faith, whereas I was more scared of my older brother when I was little. This, in my belief, has contributed significantly to my SSA as when I was little I had a stronger identification with femininity than masculinity because masculinity was something to fear in my older brother, and feminity something to admire in my sister.
    Now things have changed between me and my siblings and we get on fine but I really believe that my relationship with my older brother in the first few years of my life has contributed somewhat to my SSA.
    Only recently, as I see the value in having someone to look up to as a heroe, have I began to seek male role models and I’m beggining to see what I missed in my childhood.
    (Im not gonna lie, André Georgescu is not my real name haha)

    • Glad you’re here, brother! Thanks for taking this step in commenting. You’re not alone in using an alias either. All good! It’s illuminating when we can start to piece together experiences from our past that may have at least, in part, contributed to our current circumstances. Helps make the struggle more understandable, at least. What an interesting dynamic: having an OSA twin. Would love to learn more about that dynamic in your life. In any case, I hope you continue commenting in these parts. Much love, AndrĂ©!

    • Thank you for commenting, Andre- it’s great to have you in the community!
      I’m glad you were able to resonate with this post. I understand looking up to an older sister than an older brother- my two older sisters practically raised me, so I of course wanted to model them. For me, this had a major impact on my gender identity, more so than my sexuality.
      Having male role models now has helped me see some things I missed growing up. However, know that a role model of any kind- male or female- is a good thing. Some kids don’t even have those. I’m thankful you had your sister growing up and that now you are able to gain some new male role models. Praying you find victory in your continued journey. And welcome to YOB!

  • Hi, this is my first time commenting on any of the posts on YOB but I have been quietly enjoying reading them for the past year or two. I’m an 18 year old Australian and really appreciate all the hard work that goes into this site, it really helped me come to grips with my sexuality.
    I really resonate with this post. I grew up in a large conservative Romanian Australian family, there are six kids. I was in the middle having an older brother and sister, a twin (he’s OSA), and a younger brother and sister.
    I never looked up to my older brother. In fact I never really looked up to anyone really, except my older sister. She was my favourite sibling as she was the nicest haha, and she has always had a strong faith, whereas I was more scared of my older brother when I was little. This, in my belief, has contributed significantly to my SSA as when I was little I had a stronger identification with femininity than masculinity because masculinity was something to fear in my older brother, and feminity something to admire in my sister.
    Now things have changed between me and my siblings and we get on fine but I really believe that my relationship with my older brother in the first few years of my life has contributed somewhat to my SSA.
    Only recently, as I see the value in having someone to look up to as a heroe, have I began to have male role models and I’m beggining to see what I missed in my childhood.

  • Dean

    I write under this pseudonym account and do my best to pursue Jesus Christ every day. I fail often, yet I get back up each time. I am married to an incredible woman I call Lisa – she is far better than I deserve. My daughter is one of the greatest joys of my life. And in my spare time, I watch my favorite TV shows and movies, play RPG video games, and hang out with my friends. Yes, I am a nerd and I am proud of it.

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