Your typical man does, in fact, know he is not perfect (if not, watch out), but he’s not going to lead with this. Spilling our insecurities isn’t exactly perceived as manly—and, honestly, it’s kind of uncomfortable.
Consequently, many men have gone to great lengths to hide their weaknesses, and plenty of us have gotten very good at it. The result is that many women can easily forget that their guy has soft spots, and thus may be oblivious to all the fear and anxiety that goes along with them, too.
Sadly, this common dynamic doesn't foster intimacy, nor the kind of vulnerability a couple needs to get close and build a real relationship. But, perhaps if men (and women) were to see men as a bit more, shall we say, human, we wouldn't be so surprised to find out about their insecurities. Which, in turn, might even lead us to a new understanding of—and appreciation for—what it means to be manly.
So in order to promote awareness of the inner workings of men in general, I asked more than thirty men* about their insecurities and how this affects their lives—and relationships. Here is what they said and my own take on what I think it all means.
*Names have been changed.
01. We’re insecure about where our career is heading.
“I have a solid job, try to save money monthly and not spend too lavishly, but am always wondering how I ‘stack up’ to where I should be if I want to save money to buy a house, support my future kids in college, retire at a reasonable age, etc.” —Edward, 28, married
“I feel insecure about not being able to support a family.” —Jake, 23, single
“I'm afraid of my inability to adequately provide for my family, [which is triggered by]: poor performance at work, comparing my work to the success of others, worries about money, doubt of my own abilities. I focus too much on them, and let myself wallow in self-pity.”” —Dakota, 34, married
“[I frequently wonder]: Am I making enough money to satisfy her expectations of a lifestyle together?” —Mike, 40, married
“As a man I think that the greatest insecurities we face are less about who we are or how we look, and are more about what we are doing. Am I making enough money? Does what I'm doing matter?” —Manuel, 26, dating
Isaac Huss: As I read some of these responses, I had to do a double take. As in, I would have written the exact same thing about my own insecurities regarding career and earnings. One man put it this way: He wonders if he has his “life together”—and that’s what we feel is really at stake here. For many men, the ultimate way we judge ourselves is how we perceive to be using our talents and how we are (or aren’t) rewarded for it.
02. We worry that we’re never going to be enough.
“I wonder if I'm really that intelligent or talented...I think about what others think about me way too much (especially people who are ‘better’ than me), and too often depend upon external affirmation for self-worth. I'm way too self-focused, and my mood can really be impacted by what I perceive others to be thinking about me.” —Yosef, 27, single
“[I think] I’m inadequate because I'm not progressing in my career the way I wanted to.” —Dean, 28, married
“I'm insecure about my confidence or self-esteem level. These things make you doubt yourself, not trust yourself. Keep you from living, living it up, letting go, reaching out, meeting new people or girls, etc.” —Tom, 26, single
“I worry I'm not good enough at work or at home—that I'm a fraud. That I won't be able to provide for my family. [I think] if people really knew me, they wouldn't love me.” —Adam, 32, married
“I fear that I am somehow not sufficient enough nor do I have the fortitude to do what needs to be done.” —Jake, 23, single
"Lack of Master's degrees and professional credentials . . . and my fear of technical subjects makes me afraid to study challenging subjects in order to advance my career." —George, 30, single
IH: I knew this one was coming. In fact, I polled men about their greatest relationship insecurities back in February, and all the results came pointing back to this (I wrote about it here). What’s particularly noteworthy now, however, is that the worry about being good enough extends beyond relationships. Many men are hardwired to be results-oriented, from sports to career to relationships. We want to win (the game, the sale, the heart of the princess), and when we don’t, it sometimes feels like the world is going to end.
03. Yep—we’ve got body issues, too.
“I’m often insecure at the beach or pool or during pick-up basketball ‘shirts vs skins.’ I’m pale, have a lot of chest hair, and could lose a few pounds of belly fat...[and this is triggered by the] physical appearance of others, what I see in pop culture or read in magazines like Men’s Health or Runner’s World, social pressures of our generation to ‘have it all.’” —Edward, 28, married
"[In the media] you rarely see bigger guys in good roles or positions, they're always for humor, or even if they're leads, they're goofballs and inept. [As a bigger guy] I'm insecure about how I look when out, what I look like in general, when dancing, playing sports . . ." —Matt, 33, dating
“For as much guff as guys get for wanting a gorgeous woman, I don't think ladies appreciate how difficult it is as a man to be x height or as muscular as nearly every man on TV or advertisement is depicted—and this is coming from a guy whom most of his friends (male and female) call buff.” —Adam, 32, married
“Honestly, I am short, and I am not into football or have the physique to dominate other men. It triggers me a ton because I often grade my own attractiveness and masculinity against [those things] and feel like I am eternally coming from behind. . . . These are things that I know are stupid intellectually, but they are definitely present under the surface when I am dating. . . . I definitely have had several women in the online dating world simply ask that [how tall I am] point-blank and then stop talking to me if I answer directly.” —Bryan, 30, single
IH: I’ve already put in my two cents on the height thing, and it sounds like I’m not alone in that regard. But yeah, I’ll admit I was surprised by the number of guys we surveyed who were very straightforward about being insecure about their body—especially hearing it from men who are already concerned about the weightier things in life, like their own wife or family.
After reflecting on my own insecurities, it’s clear to me now that while I know (and I’m sure others know) I’m not perfect, I’d prefer people not know exactly how imperfect I am. But I also feel a bit encouraged and edified knowing I’m not the only guy who deals with this stuff—and I hope, as a woman, you feel the same way, too.