How to Be a Man: Building a Life of Purpose and Meaning

Meet Gregory, a writer and the brains behind Face Dragons. He's the go-to guy for getting things done. Gregory's been living the digital nomad life in Asia for as long as anyone can remember, helping clients smash their goals. He writes on topics like software, personal knowledge management (PKM), and personal development. When he's not writing, you'll catch him at the local MMA gym, nose buried in a book, or just chilling with the family.

Understanding manliness, especially for young men, has never been trickier than it is in 2023. With conflicting advice from “real men” online, it can be difficult to know who to trust. So rather than adding another voice to the mix, this resource is full of expert advice backed by time-tested ideas and research. If you want to know how to be a man in 2023, this guide is for you.

Being a Man in the 2020s

GQ Polled 1005 people in 2019, and 97% said that expectations for male behavior have changed in the last decade. Many men and women report that the ideas of being masculine or being a gentleman are changing.

Despite the shift in the perception of masculine energy, manliness doesn’t simply evolve because society says it should. Some feminists might be trying to convince society that masculinity is a bad thing and have taken steps to reduce what they see as a threat to females.

But men and women are meant to work together, our differences are meant to make us stronger, and of course, no one should be forced into living a lifestyle they don’t want. But the extreme feminists have helped us define what male traits make manly men.

So just as others want to affirm their own gender identity, masculine identity is also something definable. Core male characteristics include:

  • Strength
  • Leadership
  • Logic
  • Action

Timeless qualities rather than current ideas should be your goal to best develop yourself as a man. There will always be new ideas and opinions on what a real man is. In the 90s there was a heavy push that “real man can cry,” and that women wanted sensitive men.

The reality is though, women want the type of men they are biologically programmed to want, so in becoming a man you should focus on timeless qualities that won’t change when society does. You don’t have to become a sigma male to do so, just focus on the points below.

  • Health and Fitness
  • Confidence
  • Success
  • Respectful (in the GQ survey, 73% of men wanted to be described as respectful by their friends.)
  • Reliability

The socio-sexual hierarchy describes the types of men and how they differ.

9 Ways to Be a Real Man

1. Respect Yourself

You will never build a life you love if you don’t love or respect yourself.

You can’t just decide to start respecting yourself; however, it takes time and cultivation. It begins with understanding who you are, your skills, strengths, and weaknesses. You can’t have genuine self-respect if you lie to yourself about who you are.

If you do things you believe to be unethical but still think, “I’m a good person,” you’re not seeing the real you. You’re lying to yourself.

Regardless of who you are, what you do, and your skills, you must see your value and self-worth. We all have the potential to be more than we are, and that is worth respecting.

So respect the part of you that wants to improve, if you struggle with self-respect, take a period of monk mode to develop the side of yourself you can respect. Then, use the ideas below to become the man you want to be.

2. Dress Well and Look Good.

Nothing will make you go from boy to man faster than learning to dress; fathers shouldn’t dress like their sons.

Getting dressed up and wearing nice clothes might seem superficial, but it makes a massive difference to how people perceive you and how you feel.

You only get to make one first impression, and when someone doesn’t know who you are, all they have to go on is what you’re wearing and how well you are groomed. So you will always make a good first impression by continuously making an effort in your physical appearance.

You feel good when you look good, and presenting your best self gives you self-confidence. Putting on a suit when you usually wear t-shirts, you will immediately feel how much power good clothes bring with them. You don’t have to wear a suit to get this confidence boost, though, build a wardrobe that suits you and avoid buying clothes that make you look and feel like a loser.

When someone visits royalty in England, they wear “white tie” – the highest dress code. Why? To show appropriate respect to the member of the royal family. It would be ridiculous to wear white or black tie when meeting friends, but if you turn up unwashed, wearing raggy clothes, it implies that you don’t think much of them. Or you don’t think enough to put effort into your appearance.

3. Speak the Truth

In the survey, 71% of men wanted to be described as honest by their friends.

Telling the truth and not lying is so simple that we can even teach it to children, but it’s so difficult that few adults can ever do it.

When you’re late, do you ever blame traffic when there was none? Unfortunately, little white lies like these have been accepted by society as not “real lies,” so we think it’s OK to tell them.

The argument is that these little white lies don’t hurt anyone, so what’s the problem? Why shouldn’t we lie?

Saying something you don’t believe means being someone you aren’t. Someone other than your true self is speaking. Who is that? And do you want to give them free rein inside you?

The defining feature of a man isn’t his masculine traits, like dominance over others, his beard, or how testosterone fuelled he is. It’s his desire and ability to do the things he should, even when he doesn’t want to.

4. Develop Your Physicality

You don’t have to look like a bodybuilder, but even minor improvements to your physique significantly affect how you feel and how people view you.

In this study, researchers found that it wasn’t the most attractive men that women most often chose. Instead, it was the ones that other men saw to be most dominating. In the study, men were ranked by attractiveness by women and by how physically imposing they were by men. How physically intimidating a man was a better predictor of him having many sexual partners than how attractive women found them.

Jordan Peterson has also made this point. He says that women don’t decide which mate is best. Instead, they allow the men to assort themselves a position in a dominance hierarchy and then select from the men at the top. While physicality isn’t the only factor men use to establish their position at the top of society’s hierarchy, money, intelligence, and job are also important. Being physically imposing may trump them all.

So if you’re not in shape or at least working toward it, you should be.

  • Reducing fat or Gaining muscle by lifting weights
  • Improve your posture
  • Wear clothes that highlight your good and hide your bad attributes.

5. Master Something Society Values

To become a valued member of society, you must master something society values. You can’t make the world a better place if you have nothing to contribute.

No matter how good you get at playing video games or how much time you spend watching Netflix, society will never respect you for it. So to be successful, you must figure out something that society values and then take the time to become an expert in it.

6. Develop Good Habits

Good habits and manners are about more than just knowing to open the door for others. It’s an unwritten code of behavior that society expects you to know and follow. If you don’t, no one will say anything to you, but everywhere you go, you’ll stick out, and people will (perhaps subconsciously) think less of you.

  • Remember people’s names
  • Learn correct table manners
  • How to have a discussion without turning it into an argument.
  • Learn how to take a compliment
  • Learn how to apologize
  • How to introduce yourself and others
  • Break your bad habits

7. Learn to Communicate

You could be the image of a manly man, be strong and look like a man from the cover of men’s health magazine, but if you can’t string a sentence together or sound like a rebellious teenager when you talk, it will hold you back.

Communication skills are so important to a man in his relationships, career and daily life. Starting a new relationship requires you to convince the other person that you’re worth their time, part of the way you do that is by making the conversation engaging for them.

It’s not unmanly to learn how to speak well; it’s one of the rites of passage every successful man goes through. Think of any great man from history, from Caesar to Churchill, one of their most powerful masculine characteristics was their oratory skill.

  • Better relationships
  • Progress your career
  • People will agree with you faster

Strive to improve your communication skills with these tips:

  1. Stop the umms, ahhs, likes, and other filler words.
  2. Practice active listening – listen carefully to what others say and try to understand them completely, ask questions and summarize what they said before you respond.
  3. Record yourself and assess your tone, pace, and clarity. What do you think you need to improve?
  4. Practice with someone else’s words. Find a speech or Ted talk you’d like to sound like, get the script, and practice emulating their style. Concentrate on speaking clearly and controlling the pace. Use pauses as a tool.
  5. Read as much as you can. You might not think that reading will help you communicate better, but you will lack interesting things to say without reading widely. It also helps increase your vocabulary.

8. Never Break Your Promises

Good men keep their promises. The fastest way for men to be labeled a loser is not following through with what they say they will do. For example, when I was ten years old, an uncle of mine told me at a family get-together that he’d take me fishing the next morning. But, despite waking up early and getting ready, he never came.

Years later, I would always notice his other bad habits and character flaws, as if breaking that promise had forever marred him and highlighted his problems to me. I doubt he ever even knew.

It doesn’t take many broken promises for people to form an opinion of you that might last a lifetime, so be very careful when you speak and do what you say you will.

9. Stop Complaining

Many men admit the current generation has a victim mentality, which manifests in how they speak and act. In reality, though, every generation had things to whine about. The difference is that in the past, society expected men to bottle it up and take on their responsibilities with grace (or at least in stoic silence.)

You lose your masculine power when you start to moan, it’s emasculating, and no one wants to see (or hear) that.

How to Be a Man? Don’t Do Everything at Once

There are a lot of ideas to try on this list, don’t feel like you must start them all right now. That’s a one-way road to failure. Instead, work on one thing at a time, and when you get it down, start on the next one. Good luck!