In order to move beyond the problematic alpha male and masculinity stereotype, men need a new orientation. This is why vulnerability is key for alpha males and masculinity to thrive without a fragile ego.
It is important to promote a more nuanced understanding of masculinity that values vulnerability and emotional expression alongside strength and dominance.
The concept of the alpha male and traditional masculinity norms are deeply ingrained in many cultures and societies, defining what it means to be a “real man“.
The alpha male is often associated with traits such as physical strength, dominance, and emotional stoicism, while vulnerability and emotional expression are often discouraged.
However, this ideal of masculinity can be harmful to men’s mental health and relationships, perpetuating gender inequalities and reinforcing toxic masculinity.
Therefore, it’s important to unpack the paradox of the alpha male and explore ways to balance strength and vulnerability in a more nuanced understanding of masculinity.
In this post, I will assume you already know what the human alpha male is, or, you can read about the concept.
Why the alpha male concept gained acceptance
In humans, the alpha status is a subset of toxic masculinity and is exclusively reserved for men.
This is one of the reasons why the alpha male concept gained acceptance as it is a perfect path for the concept to sail.
It threatens the male psyche with the stereotype of the alpha male which is bent on brainwashing young men to be abrasive and unruly rather than composed and kind to exert their masculinity.
Since the alpha term became an important word for modern man, it has assumed the meaning of leadership, strength, and dominance.
When emotional and social intelligence takes center stage, physical strength becomes obscure because the strength of character and kindly disposition always win.
I describe the alpha as a boy who is loud, mechanical, and full of himself. He thinks that with a muscular body and dominance, he can win over women.
He has so convinced himself his antisocial behaviours would mesmerize the women who would respond with wonder and excitement just as he learns from the PUA community.
The alpha boy learns his lessons very much later in life well into his 30s and beyond.
And that is why you hardly see older men brag about alpha status because they know it’s almost a teen’s obsession.
It is in good taste to mention that the imposing silhouette of old-fashioned masculinity will always be outranked by agreeable social skills driven by emotional and social intelligence.
The paradox of the alpha male
The paradox of the alpha male refers to the conflicting expectations placed on men to embody both strength and vulnerability.
On the one hand, the traditional alpha male stereotype glorifies traits like physical dominance, aggression, and emotional stoicism, and men are often pressured to conform to these norms in order to prove their masculinity.
On the other hand, research has shown that suppressing vulnerability and emotions can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety, as well as strained relationships with partners and family members.
Thus, there is a paradox in that men are expected to be both strong and unemotional, while also being vulnerable and emotionally expressive.
Balancing these expectations can be a challenge for many men, and requires a more nuanced understanding of masculinity that values vulnerability and emotional expression alongside strength and dominance.
Consequences of alpha male concept and traditional masculinity on men
The alpha male stereotype can be problematic for a number of reasons depending on a variety of factors such as cultural context, personal experiences, and individual beliefs.
1. Toxic masculinity
The alpha male stereotype can contribute to harmful masculinity, a cultural pattern that glorifies traits like aggression, violence, and sexual conquest while devaluing traits like empathy, vulnerability, and emotional expression.
This almost always has negative impacts on men’s relationships with others, as well as their ability to form healthy connections and communicate effectively.
The potential effects could include:
2. Pressure to conform
Men who are exposed to messages about alpha males and masculinity may feel pressure to conform to these ideals or risk being seen as weak or less manly.
This can lead to a sense of internal conflict or a desire to hide certain aspects of themselves that are not considered traditionally masculine.
3. Negative attitudes towards women
The alpha male concept often involves the domination or control of others, particularly women.
Men who internalize these beliefs may be more likely to engage in sexist or misogynistic behavior, or they may struggle to form healthy relationships with women.
4. Increased risk of physical and emotional harm
Men who are seen as alpha males or who aspire to be may be more likely to engage in risky or aggressive behavior, which can lead to physical harm to themselves or others.
For one, it perpetuates the idea that masculinity is synonymous with dominance, aggression, and emotional stoicism.
This can lead to difficulty in forming connections with others or expressing oneself fully.
5. Limited emotional expression
Traditional views of masculinity often discourage men from expressing emotions or vulnerability, instead promoting an ideal of stoicism and emotional self-control.
6. Alienation from other men
The emphasis on competition and dominance within the alpha male concept can lead to a sense of isolation or alienation from other men.
Men may feel pressure to prove themselves or vie for dominance over others, rather than forming connections based on shared values or interests.
7. Gender inequality
Also, the alpha male stereotype can perpetuate gender inequalities by reinforcing traditional gender roles and expectations.
8. Power imbalance
It can create a power imbalance in relationships, with men expected to be the dominant and assertive partners, which is ideal if done properly in healthy masculinity and as well strain their relationships with partners and family members.
9. Relationship problems
Women are expected to be submissive and nurturing. This can lead to relationship problems and even violence in some cases if it’s done in toxicity where emotional intelligence is not applied.
It’s worth noting that not all men are affected by the alpha male concept in the same way, and some may reject or resist these ideals. However, for those who do feel the pressure to conform, the consequences can be significant and long-lasting.
The alpha male in the PUA community
Pick-up Artists (PUA) are dating coaches in the seduction community peopled by men (or women) who appear very bitter and express so toward the opposite gender.
PUA movement’s goal has always been seduction and conquering the opposite gender.
The community has its activities on blogs and newsletters and they also offer one-on-one coaching.
I love the question and answer on Quora by some people about alpha males and the PUA community. Shots below:
There have been workshops, and books, especially how-to books on how to get the women you desire in bed.
The PUA community of recent has usurped animals in their alpha male position. They worship the alpha male and berate the beta who is perceived as weak, a nice guy, and the alpha’s subordinate.
This is how deep the alpha male concept has eaten deep into society causing distrust between femininity and masculinity.
The alpha male concept: a wrong way to exert masculinity
Masculinity is simply the social expectations of a man in society. Social expectations are the roles and behaviours that are considered by society as appropriate for boys and men.
Many movements, societies, groups, and even gangs have cropped up on the wings of masculinity to perpetrate evil, sometimes with the baptismal name, ‘alpha male’.
What makes this concept and the term itself unfit for humans is that everything about it is wrong. Men are different from animals in many ways.
The reason why the term was used in animals is absent in humans, and if we humans must adopt the alpha title, then we must also have the qualities that define it.
Humans do not fight for food, sex, or whatever makes the animals fight for the top spot.
Instead, they scheme and employ creative ways to beat their opponents instead of violence for the sake of food and sex.
It is also important to note that the animals in which the study was conducted had only one group and one alpha.
They don’t belong to other social groups where they may assume another different status.
Humans belong to many groups where they hold different positions. A man might be a cleaner in his workplace but the head at home, and a secretary at a neighbourhood organization.
Even if there were to be an alpha in human affairs, he would not be an alpha across all boards.
The crusaders of the term were too quick to run off with the term without knowing its true origin and implications and have been trying ever since to paint and repaint the idea of the alpha to be more appealing to intellectuals who see the movement as unintelligent and lack a good strong base.
However alpha males are viewed, they are all wrong from the human point of view. The first mistake was bringing it into human affairs in the first place.
This is because whatever it represents in the definitions from different players has already been in existence in human social behaviours.
From the alpha being successful and having everything figured out, to being a woman impregnator and abandonment, to the bullies and misogynists, or even to the CEO and successful man in society.
All these were well described in human nature and didn’t need any other description or complication.
Insecurity: The vulnerable underbelly of masculinity and alpha male
What we can deduce is that the human alpha male crusaders see the alpha male concept as a vehicle to convey and vent their hurt, anger, or whatever unhealthy notion they have against women and society.
They look like insecure people who gain validation by riding on the baseless alpha male concept.
It is quite a kind of a shame to be in conflict or competition with the opposite gender because of whatever reasons. It shows weakness, lack of emotional smartness, and overactive instincts.
These implications are not healthy for society, and if the alpha male crusade festers, a lot is going to change about how the man approaches society.
A confident man would not throw tantrums about how women want to usurp their position, or how he would have the choicest woman to himself, neither would he see a fellow man as weak, who prefers a life different from his.
It is only a man who is emotionally fragile that would use those as criteria to measure superiority and masculinity.
Also, it’s only an insecure man that is threatened by women gaining high positions in society. Healthy masculinity encourages a level playing ground for all to express their competencies.
The ideal of masculine dominance vs. the need for vulnerability and emotional expression
The ideal of masculine dominance and the need for vulnerability and emotional expression boxes the man in a corner where he has to choose to be a man to fan his ego or be vulnerable and feel defeated.
Men are expected to be leaders and to take charge in various aspects of their lives, from work to relationships.
On the other hand, research has shown that suppressing emotions and vulnerability can lead to mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Men who are unable to express their emotions in healthy ways may struggle to form meaningful connections with others and may feel isolated and disconnected from the world around them.
Thus, there is a tension between the desire to be dominant and in control, and the need to express vulnerability and emotions.
Balancing these competing expectations can be a challenge, but it’s important for men to recognize that vulnerability and emotional expression are not signs of weakness, but rather signs of strength.
By embracing vulnerability and emotional expression, men can cultivate deeper connections with others, improve their mental health and well-being, and challenge traditional masculinity norms that perpetuate harmful stereotypes and perpetuate gender inequalities.
Misconceptions about vulnerability and how it can actually be a sign of strength
One of the most common misconceptions about vulnerability is that it is a sign of weakness.
This misconception can be particularly harmful to men, who are often socialized to believe that they must be emotionally strong and stoic in order to be considered “real men.”
However, the truth is that vulnerability can actually be a sign of strength and courage.
Here are a few common misconceptions about vulnerability, and why they are not necessarily accurate:
- Vulnerability is a sign of weakness: In reality, vulnerability takes courage. It requires us to acknowledge our own limitations, fears, and insecurities, and to share them with others. Being vulnerable can be uncomfortable and scary, but it can also lead to deeper connections with others and a greater sense of self-awareness.
- Vulnerability is the same as helplessness: Vulnerability does not mean that we are helpless or unable to take care of ourselves. Rather, it is a willingness to acknowledge that we may need help or support from others at times and that this is a normal and healthy part of being human.
- Vulnerability is unprofessional: In some workplaces, there is a belief that showing vulnerability is unprofessional and can undermine one’s authority or credibility. However, research has shown that leaders who are willing to be vulnerable and share their own struggles and challenges can actually be more effective and inspiring to their teams.
Examples of successful men who embraced vulnerability
Being vulnerable accordingly is not a weakness. I mean, man is not made of iron he is unbreakable. There are always benefits in finding strength in vulnerability.
These men below are classic examples of people who displayed unbeatable strength in vulnerability:
- Barack Obama: The former President of the United States has often spoken publicly about his struggles with his identity and emotions, and has been open about seeking therapy and counseling throughout his life. In his memoir “A Promised Land,” he writes about the challenges he faced in his personal and professional life, including the pressure to conform to traditional masculinity norms. He has also spoken publicly about his love for his wife and daughters, and the importance of being a present and engaged father.
- Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: The actor and former professional wrestler has been open about his struggles with depression and anxiety, and has spoken publicly about the importance of mental health. In a 2018 interview with The Express, he said, “We all kind of go through it. I was fortunate enough to have people around me to help me out of it.” He has also talked about the importance of vulnerability and emotional expression in his personal relationships and has shared photos and stories of himself with his children on social media.
These examples show that it’s possible to be successful and accomplished while also embracing vulnerability and emotional expression.
By challenging traditional masculinity norms, these men are setting an example for others and helping to promote a more positive and inclusive understanding of masculinity.
By embracing vulnerability, we can develop greater empathy and emotional intelligence, build stronger relationships, and become more resilient in the face of challenges.
Vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather a sign of strength and courage that can help us lead more fulfilling and meaningful lives.
Why Vulnerability is Key for Alpha Males And Masculinity
Yes! You want to see the alpha male signs in you
I know! You want to be described with the alpha male signs, to be one of the alpha guys out there.
It is not bad to desire to be the best or stand out among mediocre people and be respected in society.
That’s a healthy aspiration, but you should not go about it in a way that would hurt your ego and mess everything up for a long time.
Carrying yourself like James Bond and acting out what you have read about dominance and getting all the girls would be counterproductive and a long pain.
As a man, you already have the signs of manliness in you. All other things you need are the will, confidence, and goals to achieve and you would learn every other thing along the way.
Why striving to be an alpha male would mess you up
The concept of alpha is self-defeating because it is comparative. When you compare yourself with a lofty image you don’t know how it came about, you start acting like it and when things do not work out as you expect, you are frustrated.
While trying to be an alpha, you compare yourself with others, you are not sure you are doing enough of the alpha posturing because you are out of your natural self, trying to please a phantom castle-in-the-air image.
Also Read: Challenges Of The Multitasking Mind
This will develop a sense of obsession in you that would lead to long-term effects which include constant anxiety, disappointment, depression, and the risk of substance abuse.
Most of the physical attributes or behaviours indicative of alpha are haughtiness, pride, and disdain for other people, and these are negative impressions you are creating about yourself through this forced status.
Of course, it is not wrong to integrate new healthy behaviours into your existing ones to improve yourself, but the manner you go about it would make the difference.
Why Vulnerability is Key for Alpha Males And Masculinity
Vulnerability can help to dismantle toxic masculinity and promote healthier, more positive expressions of masculinity.
By rejecting harmful stereotypes and embracing vulnerability, alpha males can become role models for others and help to create a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Vulnerability also promotes personal growth and self-awareness, allowing alpha males to confront their own weaknesses, fears, and insecurities.
By acknowledging and addressing these vulnerabilities, individuals can develop greater resilience, empathy, and emotional intelligence, which can benefit all aspects of their lives.
Balancing Strength and Vulnerability
Balancing strength and vulnerability is a crucial aspect of personal growth and emotional well-being.
It involves acknowledging and embracing your own vulnerabilities and limitations while also maintaining a sense of strength and resilience.
Here are a few strategies for balancing strength and vulnerability:
1. Recognize the value of vulnerability
It’s important to recognize that vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather a sign of courage and emotional intelligence.
By embracing vulnerability, men can build deeper and more meaningful connections with others, develop greater self-awareness, and become more resilient in the face of challenges.
2. Practice emotional expression
Developing the ability to express emotions in a healthy and productive way can be a powerful tool for men.
This can involve finding safe spaces to express emotions, such as with a therapist or in a support group, or developing healthy communication skills with loved ones.
3. Seek out positive role models
It can be helpful to seek out positive role models who embody both strength and vulnerability.
This might include public figures, such as Barack Obama or Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, or personal mentors or friends who model healthy emotional expression.
4. Challenge cultural norms
Men can play an active role in challenging cultural norms and gender expectations that reinforce toxic masculinity and discourage emotional expression.
This might involve speaking out against harmful stereotypes, advocating for greater emotional intelligence and vulnerability in male spaces, or supporting initiatives that promote gender equality and diversity.
5. Acknowledge your feelings
Men often believe that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness. However, acknowledging your emotions and expressing them in a healthy way is a sign of strength.
It takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable, and it is a sign of confidence and maturity.
6. Practice self-care
Men often feel the need to be strong and invincible, and they tend to neglect their own well-being.
However, self-care practices such as mindfulness, exercise, therapy, and engaging in activities that bring joy can help maintain physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.
7. Find support
Men often have difficulty finding support or seeking help. However, building a support system of people who accept you and your vulnerabilities can help you feel validated and understood.
This can include friends, family, or professional counselors.
8. Reframe vulnerability
Reframe vulnerability as a strength, rather than a weakness. Acknowledge that it takes courage to be vulnerable and that it is an integral part of building meaningful relationships and living a fulfilling life.
9. Be open to learning
Men may feel pressure to have all the answers and knowledge. However, being open to learning and seeking new information can be empowering and help build confidence.
Learning also allows men to see things from different perspectives and be more empathetic towards others.
10. Set boundaries
It’s important to set boundaries and protect our own emotional well-being, even when being vulnerable.
This can involve saying “no” to requests or situations that feel emotionally overwhelming or taking time to recharge and practice self-care.
11. Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness involves being present in the moment and cultivating non-judgmental awareness of our thoughts and feelings.
By practicing mindfulness, we can become more attuned to our own emotional experiences and develop greater self-awareness.
By balancing strength and vulnerability, you can become more resilient, emotionally intelligent, and fulfilled in your personal and professional lives.
It’s important to remember that vulnerability is not a weakness, but rather a crucial aspect of emotional health and personal growth.
In conclusion, the concept of the alpha male and traditional masculinity norms can be a double-edged sword for men.
While some aspects of the alpha male stereotype may be associated with confidence, assertiveness, and success, the rigid adherence to traditional masculine norms can also perpetuate toxic masculinity and harm men’s mental health and well-being.
By embracing vulnerability, practicing emotional intelligence, and seeking support when needed, men can learn to balance strength with emotional expression and develop a healthier, more well-rounded sense of masculinity.
It’s important for individuals, communities, and society as a whole to recognize the paradox of the alpha male and work towards creating a more inclusive, compassionate, and supportive culture that encourages men to embrace their vulnerabilities and promote positive masculine ideals.
Frequently Asked Questions About Alpha Male and Masculinity
Is the idea of the alpha male scientifically proven?
The concept of the alpha male has been studied in animals, particularly in primates, but there is little scientific evidence to support the idea that it applies to humans.
While some studies have found that certain traits associated with alpha males, such as confidence and assertiveness, may be attractive to others, these traits are not exclusive to men and do not necessarily indicate dominance.
Is it healthy to strive to be an alpha male?
The idea of the alpha male can be problematic, as it often reinforces traditional gender roles and can lead to toxic masculinity.
Striving to be an alpha male can also be detrimental to one’s mental health, as it may involve suppressing emotions and prioritizing dominance over a connection with others.
What is toxic masculinity?
Toxic masculinity refers to harmful attitudes and behaviors associated with traditional ideas of masculinity.
This may include aggression, emotional suppression, and a focus on dominance and control over others.
These attitudes can have negative impacts on mental health and interpersonal relationships.
Can women be alpha females?
The concept of the alpha female is similar to that of the alpha male, but it is often associated with traits like assertiveness, independence, and confidence rather than dominance.
While the idea of the alpha female is still controversial and not as widely studied as the alpha male, women can certainly exhibit these traits and be seen as leaders and role models.
How can men express their masculinity in a healthy way?
Men can express their masculinity in a healthy way by rejecting harmful stereotypes and attitudes associated with traditional ideas of masculinity, and instead focusing on positive qualities like empathy, compassion, and emotional intelligence.
Engaging in activities that promote physical and mental health, like exercise and therapy, can also be beneficial.
- The Myth of the Alpha Male – Greater Good Science Center
- Alpha Male: No One Wants These Toxic Men Anymore!
- The 6 Myths Of Masculinity: Debunking The Notion Of The Alpha Male
- How the Myth of the Alpha Male Has Hijacked Modern Masculinity
Adolescent and Adult Psychologist
Pyo Merez (PsyD) is a certified adolescent and adult psychologist who has been on the frontline of helping adolescents and adults with mental health. An expert in cognitive and developmental psychology - social relationships, cultural contexts, and individual differences. He is also a speaker and panelist on issues bordering on budding young people.