Fragile Masculinity Symptoms and Examples

At the core of every man lies this gnawing fragile masculinity born out of the feeling that he is not a real man. The man that society wants.

“By far the worst thing we do to males – by making them feel they have to be hard – is that we leave them with very fragile egos.” 

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, award-winning author

This feeling of failure to be seen as a ‘real man‘ makes him to have a fragile ego that is easily bruised.

This is however common in young men in their 20s battling with testosterone and all the energy there is in a young man.

The real man has control and is worshipped according to what society believes. A bruised ego and overblown masculinity is a potential danger because it can fight hard to rescue itself from the rut.

This is why masculinity is overlooked by this huge shadow of fragility that haunts it every step that it takes, every word that it says, and every relationship that it makes.

It has not been long since masculinity became a thing both in literature and a widely discussed topic among men. Though it dominates every area of life, it has not been given the attention it deserves.

Fragile masculinity meaning

Fragile masculinity is to be insecure to perform the manly roles

The suggested meaning of masculinity and its expression have been varying among cultures, religions, and societies but the concept is always almost the same.

Masculinity is governed by a set of codes that encourage men to take pride in certain behaviours which are tagged manly. These behaviours are expected to make him powerful and respected in society.

RELATED: What Is Healthy Masculinity? Traits, And How To Develop It

However, every man expresses masculinity in their own way depending on many factors like time, cultural context, or groups to which they belong to.

Credit: Ana Psychology

At a tender age, boys are encouraged to behave like small men. They are exposed to what is believed to be masculine, including colours, toys, and games.

They are taught that pink colour is exclusively feminine, and barbies are for girls.

In adulthood, boys become so attached to the idea of masculine traits like developing deep voices, beards, and muscles and are sensitive about being close to the opposite sex.

Failure to possess these traits evokes anxiety that is harmful to the man and his space. Read everything about masculinity.

Boys are not complying with the norms of man-made masculinity if they show signs of weakness or act like girls.

Upon adulthood, if boys are not attracted to girls and do not engage in a show of strength, they are not regarded as man enough even in their own circle.

This failure in performing the manly expectations stabs a big dagger in the heart of their ego which manifests in so many ways that describe fragile masculinity.

Fragile masculinity definition

Fragile masculinity is defined as the anxiety and insecurity experienced by men who feel they have fallen short of the societal expectation of masculinity.

Though weak manliness is not regarded as a kind of mental illness, it has the capacity to affect a man’s well-being and his behaviour towards both genders.

It lays bare, the delicateness of man’s self-identity and ego occasioned by not meeting up with manliness.

This elicits overblown aggression as a response and it is not healthy for anyone, including the man himself.

ALSO READ: How To Not Be The Nice Guy

For instance, a man’s ego is bruised and his masculine fragility exposed when he is under the orders of a woman.

When he is told what to do by his wife, a man with fragile manhood might respond with such sentences as “who are you to tell me what to do?” “You can’t order me around.”

His masculinity is so breakable that he constantly guides it to dictate any threat and acts accordingly to protect, even if it means hurting others and embarrassing himself.

Fragile manliness, too strong to remain strong

Behind a weak man is a bruised ego

The traditional masculine strength is far too one-sided to be healthy for the man and the people around him. This explains why its strength is in its fragility.

It is a forced strength and so not balanced. This is why it is bound to be fragile and break when threatened.

Shutting down or suppressing your femininity and its energy can only spiral into undesirable outcomes like violence and aggression.

No man is infinitely crack-proofed, and trying to build one would turn to build only weapons for defense and attack.

Weak masculinity is in constant defense of self that they attack when they can’t defend anymore.

It gets vulnerable quickly and is always in a position to attack anything that looks like a threat.

Striking a balance between fragility and infrangibleness

Almost every man has some level of masculine fragility which can be activated at varied thresholds.

Though weak masculinity tends toward disaster, it can be handled properly if one is in the company of people who understands it.

Mature men understand their fellow men who express fragile masculinity and insecurity. It is mostly outgrown by mixing and experience.

The feeling of inadequacy and not being able to be manly enough is enough to cause disaffection with self and is extended to people around.

A confident man would not be threatened by especially the rise of women in authority or the rejection by a woman after feeling qualified to attract any woman of his choice.

The absence of respect and power or the lack of respect from where the power is expected to emanate is what gives rise to fragile masculinity.

Though fragility in men portrays weakness and negative traits, its opposite, however, is not what you could expected.

Being infrangible or unbreakable is not what is expected while avoiding fragility. It is rather, the quality that emerges from a superior balance between robustness and fragility.

There is a need for a balance to maintain healthy masculinity that puts everyone at ease.

The fine line between fragility and antifragility can be described by hardship making us resilient which is a positive thing, but it can also break us.

Just as the right proportion of bacterium is good for humans, excess of it can become harmful and cause problems.

Men should be aware of when they are being unduly self-protective of their egos and when this is harming them or others. There is no standard or road map to advise men on the specific balance and how to attain it.

In order to satisfy one’s needs without feeling threatened by what others represent, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and confidence are required.

For men who have ignored and fought vulnerability, self-awareness, acceptance, and embracing of feelings; cultivating emotional intelligence would help them reach a balance.

Men often find it difficult to modify their minds on things that affect their ego. The only thing you sometimes need to do to experience a positive shift is to step outside of your comfort zone.

Leaning into the discomfort, you sometimes embrace new options that might render your previous options obsolete.

The masculine-ego equilibrium

When you strike a balance between your masculinity and ego, the equilibrium makes you:

  • Take punches and digest them without the instinctive impulse of fighting back
  • Improve from difficulty and hardship
  • Have a deep connection to your emotions and feelings
  • Acceptance of difficulty and weakness
  • Express the need for help without being embarrassed

Overcoming fragility starts with a positive self-acceptance and self-improvement movement.

You won’t reach balance if your exclusive attention is on promoting your masculinity rather than accepting who you are as you are.

The greatest strategy is to learn from both your strengths and your weaknesses so that you may express yourself more, open up more, and trust more.

The best approach is to take lessons from both your talents and your faults so that you may express yourself more freely, be more vulnerable, and have greater faith in others.

You might think vulnerability is bad, it’s not. It shows you are human. Unfortunately, toxic masculinity fights fiercely against this.

To be in a position of total genuine emotional and mental harmony is to exhibit vulnerability when necessary. It creates balance.

Here is a video about the male ego and toxicity Figuring It Out:

The curious case of the male ego | S2 EP17

Even though it’s dynamic, the extremes of both divides being poisonous or too fragile depend on how you choose to respond to that dynamic.

The dynamism of masculinity makes it so delicate that being toxic or fragile is imminent, depending on how you choose to respond to the dynamics.

Both femininity and masculinity are characteristics of humans and are present in both genders.

Just that the society has made each obtrude too much in each gender that the other seems absolutely absent.

This implies that accepting femininity and how it sprang from masculinity is a key component of being a real true man.

People are more interested in how you treat people and control your ego than they are in your biceps and financial standing.

Achieving this equilibrium would require accepting feminine energy and viewing women less as competitors and usurpers and more as allies.

This is because their feminine energy is a neutralizer of the highly potent masculine energy that freely crosses the line to toxicity.

Healthy masculinity requires a certain amount of infrangibility and a certain amount of fragility for balance.

Fragile manliness boxes men into a corner

The phrases:

  • “Be a man”
  • “Grow a pair”
  • “Don’t’ be a pussy”
  • “Man up”

… are frequently used for encouragement. But are they really effective? What they mean on the other hand is, ‘be less of a woman’.

According to Horrocks,

“I had to kill my most vulnerable side, my sensitivity, my femininity, my inventiveness, and I had to appear to be both more strong and less powerful than I felt, in order to become the man I was meant to be.”


Men are forced to let go of some characteristics of what makes humans human in order to live up to society’s norms of masculinity.

Men should not be forced to squelch their natural empathy and vulnerability toward specific persons and circumstances since doing so actually cripple them.

Men are advised to suppress their emotions and refrain from displaying any evidence of melancholy, fear, or sensitivity.

Fragile masculinity ego

Pride comes from the ego, which is also where males get their esteem and sense of worth from women, especially.

The easiest method to either humble or unleash the beast in a man is through his ego. Anything that puts a man’s ego at danger is definitely playing with the most vulnerable aspect of a man.

This vulnerability is a strength used by fragile masculinity to inspire either aggressiveness or humility for ego preservation.

A guy who is ruled by his ego lacks confidence and is vulnerable to failure while attempting to defend it.

This is why many men resort to aggressive behaviours towards others who insult their ego.

Here’s a video on understanding the male ego by The Conversation:

Understanding the male ego – Credit: The Conversation

Fragile masculinity in relationships

Fragile masculinity is very much visible in relationships. In fact, relationships are where men’s fragility becomes observable.

A man with fragile ego does not have a clear purpose in his relationships and he let out reasonable void for the woman to fill.

And we all know women are bad managers of spaces that are not meant for them. She would of course misuse the power.

On the other hand, a man with fragile masculinity constantly misinterprets his woman’s behaviours and this makes him want to be unwittingly possessive.

Because he’s insecure, most of his woman’s moves are seen as either attacks, disrespect, or other unhealthy notions manufactured in his head.

Women seldom put things aright with such men. In fact, when a woman finds out his man is so insecure, the situation usually becomes worse because she would be irritated.

And the man on the other hand would constantly demand respect and will never be satiated.

Here are two ways fragile masculinity affects relationships

1. Fragility ruins a man’s sex life

According to a study, women may change their conduct to preserve their partners’ perception of their masculinity.

Because of this, the level of sexual satisfaction for women who think their partners are weak about their masculinity will be lower. They are more prone to fake orgasms and experiencing sex-life dissatisfaction.

This means that as a guy, having fragile masculinity will directly affect both the quality of your relationships and your sexual life.

2. Fragile masculinity makes the partner apprehensive

Fragile masculinity won’t just disrupt your sex life; it will also arouse make it difficult for you to be honest with your spouse.

This breeds relationship anxiety in her which is not good for a happy and healthy relationship.

Men who struggle with their masculinity frequently suppress information about themselves that would improve their relationships, which makes communication very challenging for them.

The foundation of resentment is dishonest communication, and resentment breeds rage and, in the worst situations, abusive and violent behavior.

Fragile masculinity symptoms and signs

Fragility in men presents itself in many ways that are identifiable. Men who are the real victims of toxic masculinity are the men who battle with fragile masculinity.

This is because some measure of the toxicity is directly and indirectly targeted at them wittingly or unwittingly as society dictates social norms that they find unnatural to comply with.  

A fragile man talking to a lady in an awkward manner

Here are signs to look out for:

1. Constant anxiety and insecurity

Fragile manhood is insecure as a result of not meeting up with masculine expectations.

Fragile men show extreme anxiety in most situations that reminds them of masculinity.

For instance, fragile men show anxiety when they see men who are muscular. It reminds them they should look the same too because that is one of the traits of a real man.

Also, men in power are a threat and source of fragility for the fragile man because that position is occupied by real men according to societal expectations.

Fragile masculine men are insecure that their existence is run by their own distortions of cognition.

2. Weak masculinity makes men resentful

Fragile masculinity induces a variety of emotions, ranging from anger to sadness and shame.

Over time, these emotions culminate into depression which if not tackled can result in serious mental situations where the victim thinks the world is against him. Sure, it is.

He resents everything, and everyone and keeps to himself. This saps energy and makes him weak.

What the video on the relationship between fragile male ego and toxic masculinity by The HeauxBag. 

Fragile male ego vs toxic masculinity – Credit: HeauxBag

3. It avoids conflict

You face the danger of failing every time you deal with a problem, a partner, a different person, or even simply your own challenges. You run the chance of losing.

All of us face confrontation at some point in our lives, but those with weaker constitutions find it difficult to manage defeat to the point where they avoid all forms of conflict altogether.

Fragile men view avoiding conflict as a means of preserving their egos. People that are weak want to feel comfortable, and conflict can be harmful.

4. Fragile men constantly compare themselves to others

Fragile masculinity compares itself with others. However, it only sees people who are better than it according to society’s standard.

It never sees people who it is better than. It causes it to judge and convict itself into the fragility rut.

Social media can be a toxic place for the young man who is honing his masculinity. He sees made-up posts of men who seem to be living their best lives of masculinity and he thinks he has failed.

If you are on this table being described, it may cause you to judge your manhood in relation to other guys.

The internet has effectively produced weak masculinity, but for many guys, the behavior doesn’t stop when they put down their phones.

It continues and becomes a part of their daily lives and triggers dangerous reactions in an attempt to hone the masculinity that pleases society.

5. Fragile manliness helps toxic masculinity to perpetrate its toxicity

Being a social chameleon is one of the most obvious symptoms of broken masculinity.

In essence, this indicates that individuals cease to think for themselves and become “followers.” They permit the poisonous males in their immediate vicinity to spread their harmful ideologies.

They don’t speak out against abusive and toxically aggressive males in their relationships.

Because toxic men in our world would not be able to function without fragile men, fragile men are more dangerous than toxic men.

6. Fragile men lead desperate lives

“The majority of men live silent lives of despair.”

Thoreau, Henry David

The most telling symptom of a man grappling with fragile masculinity is extreme fear and one essential characteristic that all of the indications of fragile masculinity I’ve identified have is worry.

Men who are insecure and anxious allow fear to rule their lives.

They allow the prescriptive views of the world around them to hold them back, torment them, and subjugate them because they are slaves to these beliefs.

They do nothing because they are afraid and unsure of what to do. Inaction is a clear indicator of fragility.

Fragile masculinity disappears when desperation becomes purposeful and applies emotional and social intelligence.

Women also influence men to adopt these poisonous personalities, pushing them to conform to social norms.

If females have inferiority toward men who do not uphold traditional notions of masculinity, they are probably toxic feminists and defenders of fragile masculinity.

Other symptoms of fragile masculinity

  • Ego-fragile males frequently display animosity, wrath, and disdain for women.
  • It diminishes sexual pleasure and interferes with honest communication.
  • Aggressive behavior is more frequent in men with fragile egos.
  • In order to assert control over women, fragile men engage in risky behavior like reckless driving, drug usage, and other similar behaviors.
  • It seldom supports healthy feminist concepts like anti-female circumcision campaigns, forced wife inheritance customs, couples sharing housework, and more; take note that you frequently behave in this manner with females
  • It worries that women are receiving all the attention and men are being forgotten as there are more initiatives promoting women’s empowerment
  • You treat women violently and verbally because you believe you are entitled to sex, subordination, and affection from the feminine gender. In other situations, you feel like you must prevail in a discussion with a lady
  • It doesn’t show emotion in public; whenever it makes a mistake, it immediately dismisses it by saying, “It’s a man thing,” rather than apologizing. Stifling emotion is viewed as real manliness because it is considered to be a feminine trait. Males are chastised from an early age to live up to the stereotype that expressing emotion is weak and feminine
  • Because masculinity feels it must protect and provide for the women in its life, it discourages it from taking care of itself. So, despite its financial struggles, it overprotects them and spends money on them excessively
  • It despises the LGBTQ+ community by a typical masculine stereotype. Fragile masculinity attacks the LGBTQ+ community rather than politely expressing your viewpoint
  • It does not perform chores or provide care for others. Again, caring for the home and raising children are viewed as feminine traits. Therefore, being asked to perform a duty that is seen to be feminine, such as housekeeping, or even worse, having a woman criticize a guy for not cleaning properly, is frequently perceived as an emasculating assault and results in a macho overcompensation reaction
  • You believe that you are independent and self-sufficient enough to live a happy life on your own, to the point where you feel sorry for others who are married or in a relationship
  • You adhere to toxic masculinity ideals and are more likely to harass women, believe rape myths, and make sexual remarks or sexist jokes about them
  • Additionally, you act as though you have a right to women’s bodies
  • Constant anxiety and insecurity
  • It makes men resentful
  • It avoids conflict
  • It constantly compares itself to others
  • It helps toxic masculinity to perpetrate its toxicity
  • Fragile men lead desperate lives

Examples of fragile masculinity

A guy relies his sense of masculinity on extremely certain, frequently rigidly established features, and anything that deviates from this frequently causes him considerable emotional distress.

These men tend to be extremely insecure and cannot stand anyone who does not fit their definition of masculinity. Here are a few illustrations of fragile masculinity:

  • A man wears a pink t-shirt because he enjoys it and feels good about himself. This would offend a man who has a weak sense of masculinity because he would assume that the man in pink is gay, frail, feminine, and not a true man.
  • A guy chooses to defy gender stereotypes by caring for his children while his wife is at work. The weak-willed guy would be repulsed and think of him as emasculated, whipped, pitiful, feminine, and most likely a simp.
  • A man doesn’t enjoy buzz cuts, sports, drinking, or fighting. Instead, this man is a nurse who enjoys painting, ballet, and dancing. He is also straight and has kids. He would be quickly labeled by the guy with fragile masculinity as a gay, emasculated woman who was probably mistreated and doesn’t know how to be a “true” man.
  • A transgender guy (a woman who changes her gender from female to male) goes about his daily business quietly. The transgender man, regardless of how masculine he is, somehow threatens the fragile man’s sense of masculinity, which causes the fragile man to become enraged and feel the need to abuse the transgender man by calling him a woman, demanding a fight, bringing up biology, flaming him, and attempting to essentially tread him into the ground. He is unable to comprehend the differences between sex and gender and is unwilling to make the effort to learn anything new; instead, he wants to get rid of it as soon as possible. These males are more prone to use violence against homosexuals and transgender persons.
  • A really attractive woman is in a pub when a weak man offers to buy her a drink. No, the woman replies. Because a woman, of all people, dared to reject him, the guy feels extremely upset and incensed. After all, he is a desirable, macho man who understands how to treat a woman and how she should be. No way should HE be turned down. He could harbor deplorable thoughts about the lady, wish her ill, slur her, or, in the worst circumstances, actually injure her.
  • A delicate guy and a lady both work for the same scientific firm. The woman is not acting in the manner of a gentile who is compassionate, submissive, and cares for children. In this significant scientific firm, she is at a higher level. Because he doesn’t think he should be taught what to do by a woman, the frail guy would become extremely sexist, insulting, and misogynistic against this lady. He is threatened by her position, knowledge, and authority, therefore he always tries to minimize her.
  • A fragile guy typically has issues with males who identify as homosexual or bisexual. Why don’t they just change into women, he wonders, with disdain and rage? If they want to be with other guys, how could they possibly be men? Why are those simps so frail? He would view them negatively and as unequal members of society.
  • A man battling fragile masculinity is not flexible in his beliefs and can’t comprehend masculinity as a spectrum. He does not also understand that being a man entails identifying with it, respecting all people while treating them equally, and being yourself without the fear that your masculinity is in doubt because you did something outside the expectations of masculinity.

How to deal with fragility in men

A man thinking how to overcome confident

Increased stress levels might result in anxiety when a guy feels fragile and finds it difficult to relate to his feelings.

Talking to a close friend can help you feel more masculine. One should think about getting treatment to discover the cause of their fragility if they don’t have this pal.

When discussing their mental difficulties with masculinity in therapy, guys are free to be honest and vulnerable.

Men can learn coping mechanisms for anxiety in therapy.

The following are a few of the preventative strategies they learn in therapy:

  • Open up to the idea of diverse masculinities
  • Learning how to set boundaries
  • How to avoid homophobic/transphobic jokes and comments
  • How to talk about ‘unmanly’ feelings openly and without fear of judgment

Men can learn how to seek professional help, how to talk about unmanly feelings openly and without judgment, and how to participate in groups for men that have a wider spectrum of masculinity, among other healing techniques, in therapy.

Fragile masculinity vs toxic masculinity

Difference between fragile and toxic masculinity
Fragile masculinity vs toxic masculinity

Fragile and toxic masculinity are destructive even as they are tragic.

Weak masculinity is more than just insecurity. However, feeling self-conscious about your manhood is one of the obvious signs of fragile masculinity.

It is a function of toxic masculinity which was mostly acquired during upbringing.

A man’s toxic upbringing is usually heralded by anger, violence and dominance.

He has been moulded to fit in a world where his toughness, strength, and masculinity are continuously put under scrutiny.

He’s never felt safe, therefore he perceives himself as weak and defenceless in the world.

In a best-case scenario, fragile masculinity can identify toxic masculinity and create a set of healthy masculinity rules for itself. Sadly, it doesn’t happen as regularly as it ought to.

Men may also develop toxic masculinity and support the ideals that led them to act violently and angrily as youngsters. This promotes an undesirable culture.

A man may ultimately fail in his fight against toxic masculinity. He may give in to toxic masculinity, which would make him weak and insecure.

Despite his appearance of stoicism and strength, this man is actually quite weak. He is frightened and anxious.

Fragile masculinity has the following traits:

  • Constant anxiety and insecurity
  • Makes men resentful
  • Avoids conflict
  • Constantly compares itself to others
  • Helps toxic masculinity to perpetrate its toxicity
  • Lead desperate lives

Toxic masculinity shows the following traits:

  • They are misogynists
  • Toxic men are bitter people who are not satisfied with their masculinity
  • They constantly are flexing muscles and showing off strength
  • They are proud
  • They undertake risky activities
  • They almost always have had near-death experiences
  • They are bullies
  • They are always on the wrong side of the law


Fragile masculinity may break men inside and make them act in ways that show they are defeated.

In the quest to protect their ego which also represents their self-worth, they become toxic and aggressive, plunging them into more crises.

Men can however be free from this gnawing insecurity if they are confident and can develop emotional and social intelligence to build their self-worth that does not depend on validations from people.

Masculinity is a good thing. Even the bible highlighted many times being man enough and providing for the family.

The man is meant to be strong, resilient, persevere and use all that and more to sustain himself and the people around him.

He is also a human who has limits, vulnerabilities and weaknesses and should not feel defeated when he does not meet up with all of the unreasonable burdens of being a real man.

But when he uses his strength and other traits to harm dominate, devalue or other negative behaviours, it becomes negative and toxic.

Fragile and toxic masculinities are closely related in that both are negative representations of a man’s reaction to being a real man.


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A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.

Every content published on The Conducts Of Life is well-reviewed by experienced professionals in the field. Contents are fact-checked for accuracy, relevance, and timeliness and we include links to sources at the bottom of every article for more insights.

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