“Finding Yourself” Is a Crock

by Brett & Kate McKay on April 17, 2008 · 112 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Cameron Ming. Check out his last guest post on Grilling the Perfect Steak.

I was watching a program on Caligula the other night. Most should remember Caligula as one of the most inhumane, blood-thirsty, and psychotic of all Roman emperors. On the program they pointed to a turning point in his reign where he sort of just cracked. He had started out fine but about six months in he turned wacko. Some of the more notable acts of lunacy included ordering the deaths of tons of people (including his cousin), proclaiming himself a god, and wanting to make his horse a consul. As most of these programs do, there were various experts and professors that gave their commentary on Caligula’s life. One gave her opinion as to why Caligula lost his marbles. She said – and this is the kicker – he never had a chance to “find himself.”

That’s right folks, the ensuing bloodbath was all because little Caligula never had a chance to really find out who he was. Whatever. I’m not an expert on Ancient Roman History and I’m no psychiatrist, but I think that’s absolutely the lamest excuse ever.

It’s nice to know that one of the stupidest tools of justification has made its way into the big leagues. Most of the time that I’ve heard, “Oh, I really think I just need to find myself,” it involves a 20-something kid that still can’t decide what they want to do with their life. It’s typically used as a cop-out to wriggle out of committing to a woman or as a cover to continue putting off any kind of real responsibility. It’s what man-boys tell themselves while they continue to play video games 7 hours a day, get smashed every weekend, and sleep with anyone that’s willing.

Human beings have the longest childhood and adolescence of any animal in the world. You spent 22 years finding yourself. You know what you like and what you don’t like. If you are still “finding yourself” after college, it’s because you’re afraid of commitment.

Now, I’m definitely not against really understanding one’s self and truly knowing who you are (the essence of “finding yourself”) – that’s all just fine. I think that’s the key to being happy. What I do think is that anyone who consciously states he is “finding himself” is a tool. I don’t think it’s something you sit down and decide. It just happens.

The irony is that the only way to actually find yourself is by embracing commitment. I learned way more about who I really am after suffering through hardcore adversity and taking on massive responsibility than I ever have by taking some “me” time. I think that’s what real men do. You find out what you are made of and who you really are when the fight starts. Not by playing video games and sleeping around. That type of “finding yourself” is a largely selfish prospect and is ultimately detrimental to developing acceptable social skills. No real growth can come from it.

So to say that Caligula lost his marbles and banished his wife and killed his father-in-law because he never had a chance to find himself is a pretty weak argument. I’d just say he wasn’t a man and couldn’t handle the pressure.

Here are some legitimate ways a man can truly find himself:

1) Commit to a Relationship: I don’t care if it’s a puppy or a plant (but better if it’s a human), being in a relationship where someone depends on you requires you to sacrifice and make time – both things that will help you to prioritize your life and learn respect for others.

2) Get a Job and Keep it: If you’re over 22 and daddy is still paying your rent and bills, something is wrong. Get a job and make your own way. And don’t quit if it gets hard. Stick it out and be respectful to your boss and coworkers. I’ve learned a ton about myself by how I handle tense moments at work, not during a sweet 8 on 8 halo battle with my buddies. My sick Halo skills haven’t been responsible for any increase in my salary…yet.

3) Do Service for Someone that Really Needs it: Giving of yourself and your time is always nice, but to do it for someone that really needs it makes you feel all nice inside. And try this – see how long you can go without telling anyone about it. I was watching a show the other night where this millionaire kept bragging about how many poor families he fed last year. He didn’t even try to be discrete about it. Made me question his motives. If you keep it quiet then it’s truly for you and the other person. No one else needs to know.

4) Get Married: I truly believe that personal progression plateaus at a certain point. You can only do so much on your own. When you feel reasonably comfortable with yourself – it’s time to get married. No matter how awesome you thought you were when you were single, if approached properly, marriage will make you a better man. Nothing in this world has made me grow more than the honest and complete commitment I made, and continue to make, to my wife.

5) Start a Family: If you thought marriage was a test – kids will blow your mind. Not only have I learned patience, understanding, and how to handle complete frustration when dealing with my son, I have never been more aware of my virtues and flaws than when I see myself in his little actions. I have become keenly aware of my own personality as I see him reflect the behavior that he was either born with or has learned because of me. Talk about finding myself – there’s a little version of me running around my house.

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{ 112 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin April 17, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I was really enjoying this site – perhaps maybe only for the workout advice, which I agreed with, but this post is silly.

I think it really depends on your life goals as to things you should do after 22. I mean no offense to the author, but some people just don’t want a career, a marriage or a family, but would rather want something slightly alternative than having all these things, living in the ‘burbs’ and just, well, in my opinion, start to die.

I think the undertone of this article is to basically deal with reality and settle. And I can’t really swallow with that advice. Right now? Me? I think I’ll take 2 months off from everything and go traveling. I’m turning 27 on Saturday. After that, I’ll continue to live – single and work on art. That’s sounds nice to me.

2 GL April 17, 2008 at 9:54 pm

I think you nailed it. :) That’s pretty much what’s wrong with our society – even though, trust me, the States don’t have it as bad as some other countries (like Italy). Thanks to the comforts of civilization, we don’t have to fight for our food, water and shelter – we can just kick back, relax and spend all the time “soul-searching.” There are multiple causes, actually, but the result is what we see today, and that includes various feel-good “experts and professors” like the one you cited. (Two words: Dr.Phil hahaha)

I disagree with you when it comes to ” legitimate ways a man can truly find himself.” There are far more than just 5 ways. The two that I can offer right off the top of my head are 1) traveling and getting out of your comfort zone, i.e. getting a different perspective and thus getting a stronger sense of self, and 2) thinking. Laborious, monotonous, honest thinking – which very few people do…

3 Matt B. April 17, 2008 at 10:10 pm

This is a refreshing post. These days the media sells this ideal of staying forever young, living like the people on the “Real World” or “Friends.” Men are running around like little Peter Pans and flattering themselves that their refusal to grow up makes them introspective and free-spirited.

Having a family and a real job is not “death.” It’s the only way to make real progress and growth instead of wallowing in shallow mediocrity.

4 Chad April 17, 2008 at 10:14 pm

Why do I have to get married to find myself?

5 Edbury April 17, 2008 at 10:36 pm

I’m leaving for graduate school in a few months (MA). After that, I’ll reapply for a PhD program. Do I know where it’s going to end up? No. Am I scared? Yes. Will I be earning an honest living with my hands or settling down in the next decade? Probably not. Am I going to make an attempt to “get out in the real world” or something similar anytime soon? How am I not already?

“What I do think is that anyone who consciously states he is ‘finding himself’ is a tool. I don’t think it’s something you sit down and decide. It just happens.”

This was the peak of the post, and after here you started to lose me a bit.

Setting up settling down and having a family as “the real world” is simply narrow minded. Making commitments alone isn’t enough if you’re settling or staying in a rut. Where I do follow you; however, is in this: we should be taking risks and pursuing opportunities in earnest.

6 Brett April 17, 2008 at 11:07 pm

@Edbury
I don’t think Cameron is addressing “the real world” vs. “the non-real world.” He’s simply talking about the idea of finding yourself. The two concepts are related, but not the same thing. You are clearly living in the real world. You don’t have to have a family to be a grounded person. But men shouldn’t put off commitment with the idea that they still have to find themselves. Embracing commitment can be a pathway to finding yourself. Cameron’s not putting a time limit on when one has to settle down, (pursuing your Ph.D is obviously a worthy pursuit for example) he’s just saying that men shouldn’t use “I’m still finding myself” as an excuse for not doing so.

7 Zardoz April 18, 2008 at 4:02 am

you have simply espoused an “establishment” method of conforming, not of building self reliance and manliness. Frankly all this talk of “commitment” is laughable. Is manliness merely commiting to the nearest stereotype in your own culture. Married, kids, job = man. So do it quick pussy boy, no need to think about it, we got everything right here.

When I was a know nothing 20 year old I went backpacking around Asia for a long while, while out there I slept with a good few women of various ethnicities and that was fun. I took drugs and I pondered where I had come from and what it all meant. I strummed a guitar and hit a bongo.

I learned that I could rely on myself and my plans, I learned what is expected of a decent person, I learned about first impressions, I met fascinating people of various ages and unusual proffesions, I learned about consequences of actions, I learned how my own social background compared to others.

When I returned a lot of people said words to the effect of “wow, you have really turned into a man”

But then perhaps I would have been better off “committing” to the first woman I saw and having some children and a mortgage. Yes, I can see it all now. How marvelous for the drones. Don’t explore, that’s weak – be like us, conform!

8 Eric Nelson April 18, 2008 at 4:17 am

Finding oneself is a process, I don’t think it has any real end or any kind of beginning. I’d say that it is something we should always pay attention to, look deeper at our roles as men in the world and what that means to us at the time. No man should take on a serious committed relationship unless that is exactly the place he wants to be at and can devote the energy it takes to thrive. Commitment to a fundamentally wrong theory, group or individual can cause great amounts of harm. I’d rather be single and happy than married to my ex and trapped in a failed, hateful and contemptuous relationship. I see commitment as important, but equally important is finding the right thing to commit to and treating the decision with the utmost gravity. The gist of this post seems well intentioned, but misguided. Pushing young men to commit to something and “get real” worries me. If I had to make these decisions at 20, I’d be a very unhappy person right now. I’m glad I waited, I know what’s going on with me and I can commit with full knowledge that I can follow through and be content for the rest of my life pursuing music.

9 mr.w April 18, 2008 at 4:56 am

I think this is a good article with a true message but that many of the detractors will be concerning themselves with the unimaginative guidelines for manning yourself up. I do, in fact, agree that all those things that were listed will improve you and I can definitely see how they’d help you find yourself through the rigors that define them but they aren’t for everybody. IMO, what is being said is to not do it backwards. Don’t sit on your ass and think about who or what you are so that you can commit to something that reflects that; It won’t work. You’ll sit there with your thumb up your butt until your folks die and the bank kicks you out of their house. Instead, get your ass out there and start genuinely committing to things so that those experiences can define you.

Hell, even playing video games SERIOUSLY can get you somewhere today when you don’t treat them as a means of avoidance from real commitment. You want to backpack across the world? It takes commitment to throw yourself outside your comfort zone like. All in all, great article. The tone just came off as a little aggressive but hey, I get that way when exposed to jackasses that are a waste of space too.

10 Robbie April 18, 2008 at 5:14 am

Great post. I’m enjoying all of these boy-men who are commenting before me making excuses as to why your list is “bogus” or “silly”.

These guys don’t realize it, but they support your thesis, rather than refute it.

OH, and numbers 1, 2, and 3 can all be knocked out in one fell swoop — the single greatest thing you can do to “find yourself” and move towards becoming a man: join the US Army or the Marine Corps.

11 Thetruth April 18, 2008 at 5:44 am

Fear of commitment to things you commit to easily is a sign you just met someone smarter than you, this article is a sign you didn’t recognize that.

12 cory huff April 18, 2008 at 5:46 am

@Robbie – I was with you right up until joining the military. Being in the military doesn’t necessarily make you a real man.

There is nothing more manly than supporting a wife and children. Protecting, nurturing, and caring for a family will do more for your self esteem, more for your ego, and more for your humility, than any other experience.

There are lots of things you can do to grow in life – backpacking across a continent, joining the Peace Corps, myriad other worthy activities – but any man who says that having a family (and taking care of that family) is merely conformity is still a little boy in his mind.

That’s just a fact.

The family is the fundamental building block of society. If you don’t see the family as the most important part of society, then you are contributing to the problem, not helping eradicate it.

13 James April 18, 2008 at 5:47 am

I don’t think getting married and having kids is the beginning of death at all. If anything, the minute I ask my wife to marry me, I grew up alot more than I had in the week before. She has motivated me to stop being a selfish prick and I am almost done with my bachelors and will start law school in a year or so. I have also had friends go “backpacking” across europe and asia, and if anything they are the biggest jackasses I have ever met. 2 of them did it to escape failing grades in school, and one did it because he wasn’t a man enough to deal with the fact he was a pot head. So all the mid 20′s guys who sit around and smoke or go to nepal and “find themselves” are nothing but over grown children.

14 Jonathan Thomas April 18, 2008 at 6:24 am

I think a lot of the guys poo-pooing on this article are missing the point. It’s not advocating living a dull suburban existence, with the wife, kids and a mortgage. If you find the right woman, you’ll have someone to experience all the shit you want to do with. There are women that will want to play Halo 8 hours a day with you. You’ll have someone to backpack across Europe with. One day, when you have kids, you can all climb a mountain together. Not all women want to live in the burbs. Having children doesn’t mean the death of your dreams and neither does getting married. They both augment your dreams and motivate you to focus on what really matters.

For those dissing being a slave to the job, that’s not what he meant. Look at it this way, a real man applies himself in everything he does to do the best. It’s about commitment to something, anything. You don’t have to do it in a job setting, you can run your own business or pursue what you really want to do, as long as you apply yourself. Marriage, kids are not the death of opportunity, they are motivation to really pursue what you want out of life. I wouldn’t want to backpack across Europe without anyone but my wife. You don’t need to travel the world by yourself, fuck tons of ethnicities and ignore responsibility to ‘find yourself.’ You can find yourself by just freaking sitting your ass down and thinking. Or you can find yourself by looking in the eyes of the woman you love. Or you can find yourself through your kid’s smiles. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time (to quote fight club), why waste it alone feeling unfulfilled or constantly searching for fulfillment?

15 Cameron Schaefer April 18, 2008 at 6:40 am

Being as I’ve done steps 1-5, many in the past couple years I can say that I agree with this one. While, I’m a huge advocate of spending time in solitude and silence (read my last post, haha) I understand what you are getting at and I like it. Using the “finding yourself” excuse to shirk responsibility is weak.

I think your wisdom must be because of your name.

- Cameron

16 Oz April 18, 2008 at 7:10 am

Seems strange to me that an expert could know so intimately Caligula’s personal circumstances. It’s not like she’s had a one-to-one with him. But then again, she’s an expert, and being an expert naturally gives a person tunnel vision. Unless Caligula kept a personal diary with an entry along the lines of “I don’t know myself”, I feel she’s just trying to fill in a gap for her area of study.

As far as finding yourself, I feel it’s different for everyone. If by “finding yourself” you mean a rigorous philosophical self-examination in relation to the world, then trying to find yourself is perfectly in tune with the goals of this website. In fact, that’s exactly what it sounds like you’re trying to do in this post, sans the very specific suggestions for manliness. “Finding yourself” shouldn’t be a lazy cop-out from actually finding yourself.

While it may not be for everyone, philosophy is a favorite approach of mine. A philosophical approach, in the same sense of Plato, the Stoics, or Buddhist monastics, could make anyone, not just a man, a better person. The word virtue, in the sense that Plato spoke of and Benjamin Franklin found and practiced himself, itself has an etymological origin of vir, meaning male. Plato advocated “know thyself”, not the limp “finding yourself” that was used as an excuse for Caligula’s madness.

17 Chris April 18, 2008 at 7:13 am

Well said all.

Nothing more to add.

chris

18 malingerer April 18, 2008 at 7:21 am

Commitment is important, but the various means outlined in the article are not applicable to everyone AND the commitments you make in life do change, as life changes. Whether that’s change in career(s), marriage(s), or finding oneself.

19 Bret April 18, 2008 at 7:47 am

I agree somewhat, except for one point. In your 20s, commitment is a great thing – to your job, to your friends, to your family. But committing to another person in an intimate relationship is another matter altogether.

Follow through with your other commitments first. Doing this, you’ll get where you want to be financially, and develop life-long bonds with family and friends, and will give you the stability you want when you’re ready to take the leap to a relationship commitment. Then and only then should you commit to a long-term relationship or marry. Be absolutely sure you’re ready – there is another person’s well-being on the line here.

20 Brett McKay April 18, 2008 at 8:40 am

@Zardoz-Perhaps a couple of decades ago having a family and a job was “Establishment.” But now there is nothing more “Establishment” than putting off settling down, backpacking through Asia or Europe, and bedding multiple ladies. That’s what conformists do these days. Men who really wish to be “counterculture” ought to to man up and take on responsibility.

@Jonathan Thomas-You nailed it. Well done.

21 iamsofaking April 18, 2008 at 8:44 am

I think that a lot of people are missing the point here. There is nothing wrong with going on adventures and trying new things. The point is that spending a year with Asian hookers and foreign pot on someone else’s bill won’t help you find yourself. And if it does, you are probably better staying lost.
The author provides some examples of ‘real’ challenges and commitments that are far too often maligned in our society as several means to really better yourself. I don’t think that the author was trying to suggest that these things are the right fit for everyone, or that you should run to marriage as soon as you are done with school. The problem that I have with ‘artists’ is that everyone that I come into contact with who claims to be pursuing a career in the arts can’t seem to bother themselves to actually create much, or hone their skills with training, or much of anything else constructive. Ernest Hemingway wrote at least 20 pages per day when he was working on a novel, but every wannabe novelist I know can’t must more than one. What the author is saying is that real work and real commitment and real sacrifice is path to finding yourself. Not leading a selfish and lazy waste of a life.

22 wayne April 18, 2008 at 9:01 am

It’s amazing that by reading the responses you can tell the age of the person that posted it. I’m 40 (Gen X to the core baby), I rebelled against everything. So when I agree with this post, don’t tell me I’m spewing establishment mentality. I fought the establishment far harder than any 20 something punk who still gets the downpayment for his(her) status symbols from someplace other than his (her) job. And getting a PhD is not the real world. Academia is not the real world. My macroeconomics professor believes inflation is a good thing. On paper it is, but when you are trying to feed a family, not so much.

23 marcus April 18, 2008 at 10:14 am

@Oz-I agree with your philosophical approach. “Know thyself” is a major statement, and, as addressed in this post, is a significant part of being a man.

At the same time, I don’t think that anyone who says he is finding himself is a “tool.” That’s a generalization. I think that every person at every age should strive to find himself. I agree with the author, many people, especially people in my age group (22) use “finding themselves” as an excuse, when it should really be a motivating factor in life. Truly finding yourself, in my opinion, is a making a continual, conscious effort to change for the better.

24 Naveen April 18, 2008 at 10:30 am

I agree with what you say. Marriage makes you a complete man and having kids opens up a completely new outlook on our thinking. The experience of unconditional love you get from your children when they are young and innocent is simply out of this world.
I have two sons one 5 years young and the other is just 8 days young. Raising kids is a constant learning that also improves your character.

25 Brett McKay April 18, 2008 at 10:32 am

@iamsofaking-

Excellent points. Ben Stein once wrote an article about how he had a young friend that really wanted to be a professional freelance writer and asked for Stein’s advice. Stein told him he needed to write a piece everyday. The young man said, “No, I just want to write when I feel like it, when I feel inspired to.” Stein basically told him, “I can’t help you. You’re never going to make it as a writer.”

I think the same can be applied to people these days who say they are “spiritual” but not religious. Okay, fine. But if you ask them what they are doing to nurture their spirituality, the answer is usually “nothing.”

26 Andy April 18, 2008 at 11:26 am

I really appreciate your post here. Its time men in our country stand up and be men, we haven’t been men for a few generations and its only getting worse. A good ministry that you or some of your readers may be interested in is Spirit of Elijah Ministries (http://www.spiritofelijah.com/). They are a men/family focused ministry.

27 Cameron April 18, 2008 at 11:44 am

the 5 things that I listed were certainly not exhaustive. i think that every individual will approach life differently, but these were things that I marked as major steps in my life experience. I have traveled through asia, europe, and south america. I lived and worked with the people and although i had life changing experiences – none of them compared to being married or having kids as a means of helping me understand myself.

getting married, by no means, has to be labeled “conforming”. i believe that it is what you do within that marriage that matters. as Edbury earlier said, staying in a rut is no good. marriage should be a means to progression for both involved.

@Jonathon Thomas: i completely agree.

@Oz: i think knowing thyself is the goal of this life. i also believe that it is, or should be, a continual process

@Zardoz: i never said traveling was bad. i only said that marriage and the other things were good. i had plenty of experiences while traveling that contributed to understanding who i am – i wouldn’t trade them for anything. but if getting married and having a family only furthered that progression, how can you knock that?

28 sissy man April 18, 2008 at 11:48 am

So if I’m not interested in marriage in children is that somehow a problem? There are plenty of needy children in the world and I’d rather adopt than bring another one into the world. Marriage means nothing nowadays and while I might be “manly” and have the proper gumption there is no way that I can enforce the same commitment from a woman (if that makes sense). I really liked this site but this post puts it on shaky ground.

29 Zardoz April 18, 2008 at 1:39 pm

A few points:
one poster points out that backpacking across Asia is very conformist behavior, and I would certainly agree, as I said I was a “know nothing 20 year old” at the time. My point was that I did it and I did not found it valid experience – it was interesting and educational, beneficial even.

The reason I posted here was because the main article states that these actions are NOT valid, while to my mind that is perfectly valid behaviour for a 20 year old and can benefit the individual.

Many people seem confused, because I said was the article was pushing conformity . I did not say that having a child was conformity. The article lists 5 points and states: “The irony is that the ONLY way to actually find yourself is by embracing commitment” .

My point is that seeking commitment blindly at 20 years old is most likely much more disastrous for all concerned that sewing some wild oats. 20 years old is precisely the right time for that activity, it is enjoyable and educational. It was for me and I don’t regret a day of it.

Commitment is the outcome of a process of growing older, not a method to be blindly saught. I am really glad I did not commit my life to any of the women I knew when I was in my 20′s, because I only met my girlfriend (of 10 years) when I was 30.

The Author has described himself and his life, defined this as ‘adult’ and anyone else as ‘child’, so any choices other than those he made are invalid. I made choices other than those listed and I do not find them to be invalid. Hence my post stating that his prescriptions are not absolutes, they merely apply to his life. Some of you agree with them,that’s fine but it still doesn’t make them absolutes.

I still do not want children, neither does my partner. But apparently I CANNOT be an adult without desiring to rear children. Apparently my choice is invalid, apparently I am undermining society .

Lastly; I find it very amusing that my explanation of something that happened 20 years ago was somehow used as a stick to beat me. The commenters attacking my youthful choices in life really illustrate the ‘conformist’ attitude which I alluded to. They have taken a story which happened 20 years ago and constructed an imaginary diletante 40 year old man playing video games, whoring and smoking pot. They advise me to settle down, join the military or have a child, or be a man and commit to a woman, based on nothing but an old, old story about a carefree boy.

20 year old men/boys need to cut loose, so don’t try to make them into old guys before their time. They will get there eventually no matter what you do.
It takes time to learn the lessons of life.

30 Brett McKay April 18, 2008 at 2:03 pm

@Zardoz-

Where does it say that you should seek commitment blindly at 20 years old? Where does it say to seek commitment blindly at all? It’s nowhere to be found in the post. Cameron sets no limit for when commitment needs to occur, just that it eventually does if you want to progress and grow as a man. You don’t necessarily have to settle down right after college, or age 22, or whatever, but you also shouldn’t pretend like a man that age doesn’t know himself enough.

Where does the author use “child” and “adult” as you have? Cameron is talking about finding yourself, not being an adult. You can be an adult without having kids or a wife. But those things will help you get to know who you are.

No one is saying that traveling and being free is not educational, interesting, and possibly beneficial. They’re just not particularly fruitful avenues to finding yourself. What can men learn from having random sex and sitting on the beach with bongos that they couldn’t have learned otherwise?

31 zardoz April 18, 2008 at 2:38 pm

@Brett

On seeking commitment ( at age 22)
“Human beings have the longest childhood and adolescence of any animal in the world. You spent 22 years finding yourself. You know what you like and what you don’t like. If you are still “finding yourself” after college, it’s because you’re afraid of commitment.”

Where does it say to seek commitment blindly ?
“the only way to actually find yourself is by embracing commitment”
“Here are some legitimate ways a man can truly find himself:
1) Commit to a Relationship”

there are no caveats in that section either such as wait until you are ready and then find commitment, or if you find someone who is right then you should commit. So I say it does promote blind commitment.

where does it use child or adult in those terms?
The point of the article is to separate the “boy-men” from the real men, the methods of legitimising oneself are: 4 Get Married and 5: have a family.
Not doing so is a sure sign of lack of moral fibre.
As a non-father I am more than used to the implication that choosing not to have children is merely to extend my own childhood.

What can men learn from having random sex and playing bongos?
I have no idea about random sex, that’s your phrase not mine. Relationships with really interesting women from other cultures certainly taught me a thing or two and not in a carnal way – I mean about life. Could I have got the same information any other way? I doubt it, I met some really interesting people who were “looking for something” at the same time as me, as trite and invalid as many people seem to think that is.
One of them was dying, one of them was an IRA member on the run, one of them had cycled on her own through China and Pakistan, and plenty of others. All, fascinating people that I did not find in my hometown. I was educated by them.

But, lets look at your last phrase again:
“What can men learn from having random sex and sitting on the beach with bongos that they couldn’t have learned otherwise?”
I have posted here 3 times now, stating that I DID find the experience edifying. Now, it may go against your prejudice that it was edifying for me, but it was. I’m not saying “everyone must go and do this”, but I am still saying that it is valid.

32 Brett McKay April 18, 2008 at 2:59 pm

Again, its not saying that at age 22 you must settle down, but that at age 22, you should stop using the excuse of “finding yourself” to avoid settling down. Because at that point its not legitimate. If a man uses another excuse-ie., I am going to join the Peace Corps or go to graduate school, well, I don’t personally agree with those excuses, but I understand them. But the excuse that a man hasn’t found himself is lame. It’s a cop-out. The idea that you have to flit around and sow your wild oats during your 20′s a crock. It wasn’t the case for most of world history and was basically invented in the 1960s by narcissistic hippies. It’s an entirely self-centered pursuit. The reason that family and kids are essential to manning up is that you helps you think of others more than yourself. Even if a man isn’t ready to settle down after college, he should spend some time in Americorps or the Peace Corps. Not backpacking around the world for his own jollies. You only find yourself by thinking of others more. That’s the great paradox.

There are no caveats about embracing commitment because we would hope that our readers are pretty intelligent and understand that you wouldn’t simply commit to something to find yourself. It’s such a ridiculous idea that it doesn’t need caveats. Of course you shouldn’t commit to something you don’t love and aren’t ready to commit to it. Again, its not about the whens and whys of commitment, its simply about not using “finding yourself” as an excuse.

Nowhere I have denied that you have found your experiences edifying. I am sure it was. But lots of things are edifying without helping someone find himself. If you are so secure in your life choices, why is it you seem so defensive about them?

33 zardoz April 18, 2008 at 3:52 pm

If I am secure in my life choices why am I defensive about them ?
I didn’t “settle down” until I was 30, that was the right time for me, and I will not be having children. That is my decision to make, but tell me, is that OK by you?
Apparently “family and kids are essential to manning up “. Most people feel it is OK to tell me what to do on this issue, in the strongest terms possible.

The recommendations here represent a world view which is specific to a subset of people only, but it is presented as an global absolute.

I believe that doing something individual for yourself can build a sense of self belief and understanding, and for some individuals that will not be found by other means. Joining an organisation is not the route for everyone, neither is an early “commitment” or “marriage” or “children”. And the article does state that those are what the 22 year old needs to be doing.

I believe that the period in a persons life where they are “finding themself” is not just an excuse to avoid “commitment”, but what exactly it purports to be – some people individually bumbling through their lives in search of a better life. The idea that this could be definitively solved by the one-size-fits-all 5 point plan does not seem likely to me.

The other reason I may seem to you to be defensive is because many commenters directly addressed my view with straw man arguments, like this :

“I’m enjoying all of these boy-men who are commenting before me making excuses… join the US Army or the Marine Corps.”
“If you don’t see the family as the most important part of society, then you are contributing to the problem, not helping eradicate it.”
“all the mid 20’s guys who sit around and smoke or go to nepal and “find themselves” are nothing but over grown children.”
“The point is that spending a year with Asian hookers and foreign pot on someone else’s bill won’t help you find yourself. And if it does, you are probably better staying lost.”

I think its perfectly justified to restate my points when I am faced with responses like that.

34 Cameron April 18, 2008 at 4:25 pm

under the marriage point, I said “When you feel reasonably comfortable with yourself – it’s time to get married.” I was trying to convey that I don’t think any of us are completely “ready” to get married or settle down. But you do need to be reasonably ready. No one is ever perfectly ready, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great thing to do. The lessons learned from marriage cannot be obtained any other way.

I don’t think anyone is advocating blind commitment. That won’t work for anything. No one ever said marry the first person you see or that you shouldn’t love the person.

I don’t think “conformity” is correct either. Most people these days lean toward the single life. As was stated before, I think marriage, in this day, is going in the opposite direction of what society is preaching.

as i said, these 5 things are what helped me understand who i am. i didn’t list traveling around the world because i didn’t learn nearly as much from that as i did from the other stuff. it is extremely important to understand the world that is going on outside of our own individual bubbles. but what good is that knowledge if it isn’t applied to anything.

none of these were presented as absolutes. they were “some legitimate ways a man can truly find himself”.

35 zardoz April 18, 2008 at 5:17 pm

That seems fair enough,
I think you have been much more even handed in the comments section than in the article itself. Some sections of the article do read as absolutes, EG:
“the only way to actually find yourself is by embracing commitment” for example prefaces your 5 points. “Only ” is quite an absolute, and it does then link in with the points which follow .

In the comments you present these points as a personal experience – which is much more appropriate. My 5 points would be quite different and equally valid, I would hope.

36 Rodney Hampton April 18, 2008 at 6:01 pm

Well, having just finished a couple of beers (and my last law school final for the term), I read the article and thought: wow, that nails it. After reading the comments I’m not so sure. I think that our society definitely infantilizes people. I would recommend that people read John Taylor Gatto’s Underground History of American Education, or Ben Franklin’s autobiography, or even the Horatio Hornblower books by C.S. Forester to get a feel for just how we’ve dumbed down and warehoused our young. Definitely go explore other countries, go rock climbing, join the military, do all of the wild and crazy things you want to. Don’t be hemmed in by the typical society. Lead an extraordinary life.

But understand that there are other ways to realize an extraordinary life that don’t involve such adventures. These lives are concerned with building things, whether they are a n-tier corporate computing architecture, a skyscraper, a hedge fund, a factory or a family. Those paths require specialization and commitment over time.

There are many paths to being a man. Do I long for some of the paths I haven’t traveled? Yes. Do I regret some of the paths I’ve taken? Yes. Do I want to chuck it all and start over? No. I’ll make the best of the path I’m on.

I’m the only guy I’ve got to look in the face at the end of the day. I only my achievement against what I know is possible for me. I don’t sell myself short, and I don’t try to compare myself to others (too much).

37 Frank April 18, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Go back and read the article and ALL the comments again, zardoz. You are right in your comments so far as they go, but you miss one very important point in your focus on world views, global absolutes, and others telling you what to do. And that is that this is not some humanistic debate about how to be a good person.

This is about how to be a MAN. A male human being can be a fine ‘n dandy individual indeed, living in peace and harmony with all and making the world a better place for his having been there, and still not be a man.

The difference is that when society tells a man what to do, he DOES IT. Joseph Conrad said it best: “If a man is not a worker, he is nothing.”

A man does whatever is asked of him. No matter the hardship or inconvenience to himself, or what he thinks about its rightness or wrongness, he does not allow himself the luxury of an opinion on anything without first hand experience. He bears the burden placed on him, and only after this does he consider his feelings and beliefs.

You, out of all the people who posted before me, are probably the best off staying lost.

And if you HAVE by chance found yourself – PLEASE, for the love of God, GET lost.

38 Rod April 18, 2008 at 6:44 pm

Wow…what a cookiecutter plan! You should write a book!!!

get a job, get a wife, have kids. the rest takes care of itself, right?

I guess 1/2 the guys who get married aren’t real men then given the divorce rate in this country. I volunteer with abused kids every day and I hope that their parents were able to find themselves before they ended up with my agency.

I’m sorry but the author of this post needs to take a look at his life and realize that there are many paths out there. Many of them are valid and don’t involve wedding bells or a visit by the stork.

Getting married doesn’t make you a man.

Having children doesn’t make you a man.

Choosing other paths doesn’t mean you are commitment-phobic. But criticizing every man who chooses not to follow your 3 easy steps is pathetically short-sighted.

39 Frank April 18, 2008 at 6:51 pm

You’re missing the point too, Rod. What makes a man is commitment. It doesn’t matter to what. But if you follow the society you live in, you at least will not do that society much harm. How you feel or what you believe is unimportant.

40 Frank April 18, 2008 at 6:54 pm

And another thing: most “child abuse” is a false construct created by liberal social theorists who enshrine the individual. Childhood is too early to be an individual for any human being; for most, it is always too early. We have too many individuals. What we need is men.

41 Rodney Hampton April 18, 2008 at 8:14 pm

Frank,

I’ll just refer you to my reply on the issue of commitment here: http://artofmanliness.com/2008/03/20/so-you-want-to-become-a-man/

Been there, said that too! Except I phrased it a little differently.

:-)

42 Logick Bomb April 18, 2008 at 11:18 pm

First off, all I see in this article is people who play video games are not real men. That’s why the army put out a video game to recruit us gamers, right? Because we’re sissy little girly-men who don’t understand dedication, determination, and will. What this post missed is simple: Real men know how to have fun, when not being responsible. A lack of a valid stress relief turns any man into a shell of himself.

Get married? Have a family? I did both. Gave my all, and it fell apart, as most relationships do. I have a beautiful son I’d give my life for, but I don’t think that’s made me any more of a man. I might have found bits of the man I am through my son, and I appreciate my son more than anything, but in the end the hassle set me back, and I would have been better off pursuing my life goals unfettered by those bonds.

Real men validate their own existences, and don’t need other people around to show them what they are.

Your message is simple and trite. Get a job, buy a house, get married, have a family, then you’re a man. Men can’t have sex without commitment, and understand that they can be unique independent creatures, happy to live their lives without the validation of a steady woman. Those who say anyone who opposed this missed the purpose of the statement? Well….

A real man does what he has to to forge his way through the world, and damn the consequences if he feels his actions are just. I’m a mixed martial arts instructor, a bounty hunter/bail enforcement agent, a professional bodyguard, actor, stunt man, and a very proud father. I’ve been on my own since 18, forcefully. I found my way through being a man by accepting my responsibilities, finding my place, and pursuing it to the best of my abilities. The only mistake I ever made was EVERY PIECE OF ADVICE THIS ARTICLE GIVES.

If you want to be a true man, and honestly find yourself, stop listening to other people telling you what a man is. Most of the real columns on this blog I follow and share with fervor. This guest is a fool, and gave a good first bit of advice (don’t find yourself and you’ll probably see who you are) followed by a repetition of societal constructs. The perfect man is not the man who conforms to molds.

The cowboys forged new frontiers and faced harsh environments that most people never tread upon, and they are our example. You need to find your own frontier, and conquer it, and damn anyone who tells you that you need to follow set guidelines. Examples like living as ben franklin are great suggestions, and good guides. Don’t be a douche with your cellphone. To tell anyone that you have to have kids and a wife to be a man?

FYI? I’m still finding myself. It doesn’t mean I have to shirk my responsibilities in the meantime. We forge our own paths.

43 James April 18, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Without doubt, the worst article I’ve read on the site. Had this been the first article I’d seen of the site, I would have steered clear rather than become a regular reader like I have. The intention was grand, to support the maturity and growth required to become a gentleman, and for that I applaud you. Unfortunately the tone of the article and the methods given to resolve the issue overwhelm what could have been a good guide for maturing.

Like many above me it seems, I found the wording to be far too agressive on most areas. An assertive supporting for something, maybe even a slight lean towards agressive tone at limited times, can and is great to give force behind words. I just found that in this case it was far too strong, and unfortunately gave the impression of someone recently-wronged by the hated demographic and trying to preserve some self-image, rather than someone with a strong opinion and wanting to share it with readers.

The methods given, while good for some, are definitely not the be-all and end-all for moving forward, particularly the points about getting married and starting a family. If you’re ready for these steps, they will indeed be positive. If you’re not and simply using them to better yourself, they can be life-destroying. We have a far longer lifespan than other organisms, and have very little threat to our survival, and so can take longer to mature, and to make the decision to reproduce – there’s no way we can be reasonably compared to animals (and I say that as a working ecologist).

There’s also a heavy undercurrent of hate towards gamers, interesting, and also mislead. Many a gentleman can reach all his goals and still love to game in his spare time.

I find the comments above interesting, particularly the more right wing readership that I haven’t seen as well represented in other posts. The “army is the best way to grow” readers for example – armed forces can cause some to make decisions and move forward. For others, it’s a complete cop-out, avoiding choice and instead just blindly following orders rather than choosing your own path. My own personal opinion is to say that moving forward is important – but there is no way that will be right for everyone.

Tthe great thinkers of our times “finding themselves” has actually been a positive influence on society, and true philosophy, self-reflection and vision is actually a highly beneficial step for all to take in their own growth. But it must be done properly. Don’t mistake this actual step forward, reviewing the forks in the road ahead, with the excuse for not doing anything to better oneself.

As for Caligula’s downfall, I’d personally go with absolute power corrupting absolutely, but maybe that’s just me.

44 Zardoz April 19, 2008 at 3:13 am

Frank, society says shoot yourself in the face.

45 Chris Cree April 19, 2008 at 4:51 am

I think part of the challenge is that we live in a culture that says we should look inward to find out who we really are. Unfortunately we are really defined by how we interact with our world. It’s more external than our culture wants to believe.

When we focus inwardly to the exclusion of our external relationships we become selfish and narcissistic. As a result we weaken our relationships and cause harm to others, even if it’s just through neglect.

Extreme self-centeredness (aka selfishness) is something we expect of children. It is unbecoming for adults and downright unmanly. Too bad that selfishness so often gets confused with self-awareness.

The author correctly points out that one good way we can figure out who we are is to take a look around our lives and see what commitments we have that are others focused. He then offers up some examples, not as a formula, but rather to help drive his point home.

Of course it flies in the face of the conventional wisdom in our culture today so it’s no wonder some protest how they are doing just fine with their seeming selfish inward focus.

Kinda reinforces the point of the original post though, doesn’t it?

46 Robert April 19, 2008 at 5:35 am

Do we use these comments just to justify the choices we’ve made in our own lives?

47 Brett McKay April 19, 2008 at 7:09 am

While I encourage dissent and discussion on this blog, I don’t understand why some commenters, when they disagree with a post, find it necessary to call into question the entire legitimacy of the blog. When you read a magazine or newspaper, if you disagree with an editorial, do you say, “This whole magazine is terrible!” And at least with a magazine they have an army of writers. Here it is just me and my wife who write, and occasional guest posts. Why do people think they will always agree with me, or with the guest authors? Do you have a friend or know anyone with whom who agree on every issue? It would be quite unnatural if that was the case. The site is not designed to legitimize every man’s lifestyle. Everyone has their own conception of manliness. The content of this site will obviously be filtered through my own conception. But it is also designed to be a place where various view points of manliness are discussed and debated. You don’t have to agree with everything we post to be a regular reader and appreciate the site.

48 T. Page April 19, 2008 at 10:20 am

Lots of discussion here. My two cents: I’m torn, agree with some points but disagree with the main idea.

49 Matt April 19, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Advice is a funny thing.

Nearly everyone thinks that the path they are on in life is the one “right” path and all others should follow their path if they want to achieve happiness. This line of thought is clearly seen in the original post and by some of the commenters.

Giving out advice in this manner does not benefit anyone. The advisor only justifies his life and choices to himself and declares how he is superior to others who choose not to follow the same path as him.

50 Rod April 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

@Frank: 12 year-old girl, pregnant with her father’s child. 10 year-old boy, with broken eye orbit and 2nd degree burns over most of his arms, back and chest. Those are my worst 2 cases this year so far. Do you really think that these kids’ problems are “liberal social constructs”? But given that “how you feel or what you believe is unimportant” I guess those kids should just shut up and go back to the parents who did this.

@James: spot on. I don’t paint the entire blog as bad for one weak article and a lot of ridiculous comments but if this had been my first exposure, I would have never come back.

@anyone who is seeing this blog for the first time: read the archive. It’s not a bad blog.

51 pixel April 20, 2008 at 11:02 pm

I thought I’d add my voice to those who disliked the article.

@Matt: I also got that idea about the author.

I’m reminded of my ex class mates who got their girlfriends pregnant by mistake, they may look happy with their kids but are they better men than me for having made that mistake?

I’m 23, btw, it sounds illogical being advised to cuff myself to those commitments, especially since I have experienced so few things in life because I still must learn about leaving my comfort zone.

52 SonofShiba April 21, 2008 at 12:26 am

Brett, I think your next article should be entitled, “The Art of Reading Comprehension,” because it seem like a lot of the above posters missed the point of the article completely and instead decided to ramble on about how they didn’t want kids, have a family or heaven forbid, “conform” to society. The author (who was kind of enough to post here in case all of you didn’t notice) was stating that a real man puts forth effort into what he commits to, no matter what it is (His examples where just that: EXAMPLES, particularly from his own experiences), in order to find himself; not half-ass through life leeching off others to avoid taking responsibility for himself.

This was not an end-all-be-all list of how to find oneself, but an article simply stating that if men give it their all in whatever they decide to do, they’ll come out better from the experience, and thus better understand who they are. If you backpack through Europe and learn about different cultures, acquire new skills you could never find anywhere else, and ultimately come back a more refined person with experience that will help you later in life, great! You where able to do that because you COMMITTED to something, and not sleep around and get high in Amsterdam to avoid your problems.

You find yourself through commitment and perseverance in the things you do, not by saying ”I need to find myself” and act like a asshole; that was the point of the piece, but obviously too many of you are hell-bent on making it about some scorned conservative attempting to perserve social norms.

Well, at least you guys are committed…

53 Wrathbone April 21, 2008 at 2:36 am

I think the idea of “finding yourself” becomes a crock the moment those words escape your mouth.

First of all, the term in itself is New-Age bs designed to assign blame to anyone or anything other than the person at fault. It’s a common excuse for foolish irresponsibility. So and so got wasted last night and made a complete jackass of himself…oh, he’s just “finding himself.” I mean, pretty much the only thing I am ever 100% sure of in my life has always been exactly where I am at the time. Maybe not geographically, I got lost in a few foreign cities during my military days, but that’s beside the point.

Anyone who claims that they are “trying to find themselves” is really saying “life passed me by and I’m too lazy to catch up, so I’m waiting for life to backtrack and try to find me.” And I’m glad someone mentioned “Fight Club,” because that movie does speak to a certain aspect of our male culture. It’s a consumer-driven impulse to find oneself in meaningless pursuits while you should be out trying to better yourself. All you need is Tyler Durden to hold a gun to your head and tell you if haven’t “found yourself” in six weeks, you will be dead. Now run on home…

54 Timo April 21, 2008 at 3:35 am

‘Finding yourself’

Hmm, if ‘Yourself’ was rotten and evil down to the core, and you have found him, what will you do? What if ‘Yourself’ is the one with the deepest, darkest sin that you have ever met?

The inner monster that you cannot control, no matter how much you try. The alcoholics, the drug addicts, murderers, compulsive gamblers, serial womanizers, and all the other people who are bound by the bondages and vices of man, will ‘finding themselves’ help them?

It takes other men who are compassionate enough to stand alongside them and get them back on their feet, because we know that in their weakness, no amount of ‘soul searching’ will do them any good. If they find their true self to be truly dark, won’t they spiral further downwards?

This article really hits the spot on how things are nowadays tailored for people to shirk responsibilities, with all the whacked up philosophies and teachings, probably cooked up just to sell a whole lifestyle to those who want to hear what they want to hear (think of how big the ‘find yourself’ cash machine is). At the same time, the scope of this article, I feel, is too narrow.

I understand being a good family man should be the core value of society, as the core of society is family. At the same time the bigger picture needs to be looked at as well. Think of people like Mother Theresa, who did not have to ‘find herself’ to serve her fellow man, and in so doing probably became more a ‘man’ than any of us can. Or other great people like Martin Luther King Jr. Did any of these people have to ‘find themselves’? I believe they arrived where they were by going through trials and hardships, making a committment to what they believed in, like what the author briefly mentioned.

However, at the same time, there are some things that can be beyond the control of any man. This is where other men come in to help each other out. ‘A cord of three strands makes the rope stronger.’

55 IZM April 21, 2008 at 6:27 am

Wow, when did this site become about being weak? I mean essentially this article is saying you should conform to one lifestyle that has been dictated to you and find someone to keep you going because you can’t do it alone. This is pathetic and makes me think twice about visiting this site twice. I agree with a few points in this article, but it takes lame extremes and uses them to make a man into a wimp who needs to conform to a suburban stereotype.

56 Brett April 21, 2008 at 6:35 am

@IZM- Then please don’t come back. If you think marriage and starting a family is some lame suburban stereotype, then this site isn’t for you.

57 Granata April 21, 2008 at 7:02 am

@SonofShiba – You nailed it.

I believe one of the qualities of a real gentleman is not giving in to knee jerk reactions. It seems to me that a lot of commenters saw the word gamer, or marriage, or whatever and reacted by taking it personally, removing it from context and defending their own lifestyles (which did not fit the examples mentioned) at the expense of this blog or the author of the article.

I think a real man can feel secure in the choices he has made without dismissing the decisions of others.

58 Ed April 21, 2008 at 11:28 am

I think some of the agitated commenters should re-read this line:

“Here are some legitimate ways a man can truly find himself:”

There were no steps, mandates, or prerequisites for manhood. The bottom line was that “finding yourself” is a lame excuse or crutch for the immature, indecisive or reactive/passive people who just wait for things to happen for them.

Personally, I follow Stonewall Jackson’s mantra, “You may be whatever you resolve to be”. I decide who I am going to be and try to make it happen. I am myself and through introspection and improvement of my weaknesses and capitalization of my strengths I try to achieve my goals.

Also, a few folks have found fault with one post and globalized it to the entire blog. Most men I have admired have an incredible ability to work with people who disagree with them without taking it personally or getting worked up about it. I am trying to get better at this and think some other readers could benefit by learning to disagree gracefully as well.

59 Max April 21, 2008 at 8:43 pm

Hmm… Good post. Seems to be making some people feel real uncomfortable, obviously hitting a little too close to home. A real man takes responsibility not just for his own welfare but for others who need it. He faces his fears and does what has to be done because people rely on him.

And responsibility to others is not just wife & kids, it can also be employees, parents, siblings, team mates etc.

60 Tom C. April 22, 2008 at 12:05 am

I thought this was a great article. I am a twenty-year old college student and I actually agree with the point. Taking on responsibility and commitment how to become a man. I think that by putting off “manhood” by traveling, bouncing from job to job, living at home, etc. is simply a way for people to avoid the inevitable, growing up.

If any of you are up for a good read that this article pretty much summarizes check out “Generation Me” by Jean M. Twenge. I read it for a class and I thought it was a pretty good read. Made me do some thinking about myself and the society I live in.

Also, does Cameron Ming have a blog/website? I would like to read more of his work.

-Tom

61 Rico April 22, 2008 at 7:44 pm

I disagree that graduate school or higher education is an excuse or a cop-out. I thinik furthering one’s education and seeking higher knowledge is manning up and bettering yourself and possibly humanity through your research. Most people just want to get their B.S./B.A. and start making money. I plan on entering graduate school and beginning research in engineering, in the hopes that I can help humanity with my work. Seeking knowledge that isn’t required shows maturity and growth beyond the college/young mentality.

Manning up shouldn’t be such a cookie-cutter path. Take a path that will allow you to grow into the man you want to be. Grow up, but don’t think you have to take the path that others have taken.

Just my $0.02 (after taxes, of course)

62 Cameron April 22, 2008 at 8:54 pm

i agree about furthering one’s education. i think it is the motivation and reasoning behind the education that matters. i know a lot of people that go to graduate school because they just don’t have any other idea of what to do. i think some of them might subconsciously be scared of going out into the real world.

my father went back to school to get his masters and doctorate because his teacher’s salary wasn’t making ends meet for our family. he made the decision to better his position for his family. i think that is a very respectable thing to do.

but just like many other things, education can become an excuse or blanket to hide under. like i said, i think the reasoning behind it is the key.

63 stevos April 23, 2008 at 7:59 am

All the great spiritual masters, have taught that the first step to human growth and maturity is “know thyself.” The way one discovers oneself is paradoxically not through grasping at all the experiences one can, but in the giving of ones self. Fullness of life comes to those who give their life for others, to bring life to others. The journey of the young man is often the time to discover this, to go from self-centredness to real altruism. Commitment becomes a natural end when one is sufficiently aware of himself and what is worthy to give himself too (society does not always tell us what is really worthy). The paths that are life giving can very well be marriage and children ( a truly wonderful vocation), but can as well be other paths, so long as that path continues to be one where he can grow and and bring light and life around him. There have been many a doctor or teacher, scientist or person dedicated to a good cause who chose not to get married to bring life and light in our world, some of them are Religious brothers, priests or missionaries. The real path then to maturity of manliness is the integrity he achieves by his faithfulness to his well discerned commitments even in the face of trials.

64 vincent April 26, 2008 at 5:01 pm

I agree the part of embracing you commitment. And I also agree that building a relationship is a good way to embrace your commitment.

Sometimes I sit down and spent several hours to figure out who am I. Woo, I will say, stand up and do something, you will find yourself by doing things and you also will achieve happiness by doing things.

65 Billy April 29, 2008 at 7:28 am

Normally I really like this site, but this article just shows your complete lack of understanding on the subject and your typical “manly” reaction to anything that in any way resembles touchy-feely. Go read some Bruce Lee books. Bruce’s entire set of theories revolved around self knowledge and that all knowledge eventually leads to self knowledge. Now please tell me Bruce wasn’t “manly” because i know for a fact he’d kick yours and my ass at the same time, and probably anybody else who visits this site.

66 Brett April 29, 2008 at 8:08 am

@Billy- you completely missed the point of the post. We’re all for people being self aware and having self-knowledge. What we think is lame is when young people use “I’m finding myself” as an excuse to put off adult responsibilities and commitments. Read the post and the comments again.

67 Gabe April 29, 2008 at 10:00 am

I don’t think it’s fair to refer to these types of guys as “man-boys”, they are—infact—men. However, if “finding themselves” becomes their lifestyle, they just simply have missed out on the point of being a man.

Doesn’t make them something other than a man, just a waste of one.

68 Billy April 29, 2008 at 5:06 pm

@Brett *quote* What I do think is that anyone who consciously states he is “finding himself� is a tool.

So when someone sits back and says hey, i really don’t know what I want out of life and “consciously” tries to figure it out, regardless of his age, he’s a tool?

I think THAT is the essence of manhood. Being able to admit your mistakes, most importantly to yourself, and take active steps to fix them. Figuring out what you want in life and going after it. And that takes conscious effort.

69 Brett McKay April 29, 2008 at 5:54 pm

@Billy-No great spiritual leaders went around telling people “I’m finding myself.” You don’t say it, you just do it. It’s like people who have to explicitly say, “I’m really into indie music and movies.” If you really were, you wouldn’t have to say it. You’d be secure in that. And again the quote selected can only be understood in context. The context is that only guys who are tools explicitly say “I’m finding myself” in order to avoid commitment.

70 Cameron April 30, 2008 at 9:31 am

@billy

i don’t think the article is advocating not knowing who you are. “finding yourself” has become a colloquialism of people putting on the process of really and truly finding yourself. when “finding yourself” is used in the article it is in reference to this shirking of true self evaluation.

most of the time “i’m finding myself” is consciously stated by an individual, they are just trying to put off growing up, taking on responsibility, and becoming a man.

as stated in the article. i don’t think “finding yourself” is something you sit down and decide to do. understanding who your are is a process that comes through out your entire life. just as it would be preposterous to jump and say “ah ha, i have found myself” after a few moments of reflection, it seems preposterous that a person legitimately believes that by telling people he is “finding himself” while he continues to pursue selfish activities that more than likely would prevent anyone from gaining a deeper understanding of who they are individually.

understanding who you are IS essential to manliness. no one ever said that correcting yourself, examining your life, admitting mistakes, etc. wasn’t manly. it is procrastinating these things while cloaking oneself in the idea of “finding yourself” that is the problem, and that is what the article is trying to say.

71 JustinS707 May 2, 2008 at 6:50 am

“Finding Yourself” Is A Crock.

But let me give you five ways to find yourself –

WHAT A CROCK!!!!

72 Brett McKay May 2, 2008 at 7:24 am

@Justin-You may not know this but when words have quotes around them like “Finding Yourself” does in the title, that means that they are being used in a specific manner. In this case, the “finding yourself” in the title specifically refers to its usage as an excuse for putting off commitment. As Cameron has stated MANY times, he is not opposed to the search for self-knowledge. He is simply against the idea that you have to put off responsibility in order to attain it.

73 TheDude May 2, 2008 at 7:31 am

@ Justin- Yeah buddy. Learn to pick up on nuance. Or is that too much for your pea sized brain.

74 Karl Fergins May 8, 2008 at 12:18 am

1&2 fair enough.
3. When someone does something for me, maybe then I’ll do something for someone else.
4. Congrats! Some lady now officially owns half of your stuff and money, and if she ever decides to split, you have to pay her monthly dues for her trouble.
5. If you are that self-absorbed and narcissistic that you think a small version of you running around is a great asset to the world and yourself thats nice. But, it’s really not.

75 Big Rob May 8, 2008 at 10:15 pm

I’m pretty sure caligula went mad because of syphilis

76 Daniel J May 14, 2008 at 7:26 pm

Though I disagree with the articles title, the concepts contained are fairly valid. As a man develops, he must test himself and compete. This is hardwired into all of our systems and there is really nothing we can do about it. ‘Finding yourself’ is essentially the name we give to the ultimate test and competition; survival. A person can test themselves against the current society (as expressed within the article), against other societies (i.e. traveling the world and experiencing other cultures), or against nature (going out into the wild). ‘Finding yourself’ is all about finding out how far you can push yourself as a man. It is about finding the edge of what you can be pushed to and still trying to move forward. In that sense, yes a person can indeed consciously decide to test their limits against the world. In a greater sense, however, finding yourself is the lifelong process of actually living and taking advantage of the life that is being lived. Pretty much finding out what you’re made of is always a worthy pursuit, but you don’t find that playing Halo 3. You find that by taking on the responsibility of living and then pushing straight through to the end.

77 apollonian May 14, 2008 at 9:07 pm

What’s with the knee-jerk consensus that playing video games is more counterproductive to finding oneself than any other competitive activity? Video games have rules, set goals and require effort. Leading an 8-human squad of players in a game like Halo 3 is logistically similar to being the coach or captain in a team sport game. Professional gamers must hone a skill-set over hours of disciplined practice to compete at the highest (and most well-paying) levels.

78 William Shears May 14, 2008 at 11:28 pm

Getting married and starting a family in order to find yourself is one of the most selfish things I have ever heard of.

Just because you lack the fortitude to do REAL soul searching does not mean that you need to bring other people into your problems. Finding yourself is not a crock, using that as an excuse to be a worthless slob is.

79 Bryan May 19, 2008 at 11:30 am

I’ll have to agree and disagree with this post. Caligula’s appointing of consul wasn’t insanity but brilliance. the romans were complaining about his way of ruling and wanted a consul to deter him from making any rash decision. To avoid any determent he made his horse his consul because he wouldn’t object. But yes overall he was quite insane.
Now as for “finding yourself” I do believe that many dole it out as an excuse for their lack of motivation. However I also believe that some people legitimately need and want to learn who they are. I also disagree with taking on responsibilities in the search for yourself. You might just find out you’re not the person who can live up to these commitments and responsibilities. You should be fully aware of who you are and the type of man you are before taking on the tasks mentioned above. while I respect your opinion I disagree wtih it.

80 danman May 20, 2008 at 9:53 am

There is one thing for me to note – as far as i know Calligula was doing fine until not that he cracked from pressure, but i read that he had some kind of illness ,maybe meningitis, and after he went insane. Otherwise i agree with the post

81 Urban Sasquatch May 23, 2008 at 6:36 am

This post, while making a few valid points about the sense of responsibility behind being a Man, definitely glosses over the idea of “finding oneself” a bit too quickly.

I’ll admit, per the author, that today’s society caters to perpetuating childhood and an utter lack of personal responsibility and the author’s suggestions have some merit, but are given almost as solutions rather than options.

By the time I was 22 I was just beginning to learn that *I* actually mattered in my own life. It’s cliche to blame one’s parents but that doesn’t change the fact that I was reared by two people who had NO business ever having children, two people who were both incredibly selfish. It certainly doesn’t change the fact that I grew up in a hostile, unstable environment.

Am I an exception rather than the rule? In all likelihood I am; but that also doesn’t change the fact that the “rule of thumb” in this case is rather a weak rule in modern Western society, a place where sites like this provide a bit of hope rather than being merely whimsical. Think about it: WHY would a site devoted to sharing guidelines to being a Man even be necessary? Frankly, because a couple of generations of parents have dropped the ball horribly and a couple of generations of kids have reaped the damages inherent in that failure.

As for me, it took getting out in the world, trying a few things, taking a few hard knocks, garnering a whole heap of disappointments along the way to begin waking the boy up and allowing him to finally flourish and become a man.

I won’t totally decry the original post but I can’t totally support it either, because it’s too short-sighted. While admirable to suggest otherwise, very, very few of us become MEN on our own; there were, are and always will be others to guide us along the way. Pulling oneself up entirely by one’s own bootstraps is rather more difficult and rather more RARE than some manly-men may lead us to believe.

To buy into society’s nonsensical view that we may remain perpetually immature is doltish; but to totally disdain any potential lesson that view may hold is just as silly. Or, in the words of James Thurber, “You may as well fall flat on your face as lean over too far backward.”

82 Tron May 31, 2008 at 3:31 am

I basically stopped agreeing with this post after the ‘finding yourself just happens’
the whole ‘get married, settle down, have kids = man’ (as stated by posters above me) is all well and good for some people, but not everyone wants that.
I just found this site recently and the articles are generally interesting and informative.
This one… not so much.

83 Dawid Viljoen June 5, 2008 at 8:55 pm

Hah, dont tell me you dont play video games 7 hours a day, get smashed every weekend and get laid whenever you can. Not fooling anyone.

84 Jason June 7, 2008 at 10:08 am

I’m 36, and I am FULLY COMMITTED to being single, childless, and working part time. Nothing will ever sway me. So does that make me a man now? Or since I’d rather be an uncle, have a variety of women, and spend spend less time ‘selling’ my time, does that make me a cad? Subjecting yourself to being someone else’s bitch (employee, husband, PFC) implies lack of options, not an embrace of commitment. I love my life, and I’ve never needed a reason to ‘find myself’. I’ve always known who I am, and if that’s not congruent with some arbitrary definition of ‘manhood’, then kiss my ass.

85 Wick Hammerman July 1, 2008 at 6:52 pm

I enjoyed this post. I do beleive your right about most of it. However i do not beleive that marriage and family are a good way to “find yourself”. If you are not happy alone, you will never be happy with someone else. You will end up divorced and with weekend visitation.

I think one of the biggest problems with society is people rush into family and marriage.

86 Dad July 11, 2008 at 1:01 pm

here you go kid

87 disgusted with man-boys August 8, 2008 at 11:04 pm

Ok…wow, I see why so many great, beautiful, successful woman are single. All you men do is bitch and whine about how you want to live for the moment and how commitment and societies expectations are bullshit and not for you.

GROW UP, embrace what life has to offer, it’s not waiting around for the girl that fits YOUR schedule, or working a part time job and having roommates…losers…lol. I can’t believe that most of you “boys” think that you already know yourselves..it really doesn’t work that way unless you were raised as a very aware, compassionate individual. Please stay single for our sakes, we don’t need to have a child as a partner.

88 Paul August 10, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Brett,

Holy crapsticks, your website is generating an incredible amount of traffic and dialogue/controversy! Just goes to show you that men are hungry to figure out what being a man really is!

Keep up the good work, you will be blessed!

89 Tina August 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm

Interesting read and not only applicable to men…. I like the insight and agree with doing good for good’s sake and not for the bragging rights.

90 Dolarhide August 22, 2008 at 12:05 pm

I completely agree!!

To the first poster, and I’m sure to countless others who felt the same way as him, I want to tell you that getting married and starting a family does not necessarily include moving to the burbs or settling for less.

My spouse and I happily live in the city, and have plenty of friends with children who also live in the city and continue to stay involved with city life. We are the new urban families! We are carless by choice, and entirely plugged in to our community. We are intentionally raising our children in the city’s diverse environment so that they can be less afraid of the unknown when they are older. We travel, explore, and continue to dream– the only difference is that we do it TOGETHER, and we have to work out the inevitable differences that arise.

I completely agree that accepting commitment and embracing responsibility is the BEST way to challenge yourself to be a better person, male or female.

:-)

91 erik September 8, 2008 at 10:43 pm

wow, there are some insecure guys on here. who are you to tell someone how they should or should not live?

92 Be who you are September 27, 2008 at 1:30 am

Finding yourself is way of saying “develop” we as humans are social animals, we can not develop properly without others around us, problem is when we grow up around those who have stopped developing. It can be very easy to fall in line with the general opinion but it can be dangerous as well. Your always going to come across someone who will tell you how to live, the trick is to seperate the truth from the bunk.
Some people will tell you what makes them happy and how you can find what works for you, without telling you how to live. Others are merely seeking a way to validate their lives, or they could actually believe the words that come out of their mouth. The point is, think very hard about what you want out of life and go for it, and when you get it, achieve something else you always wanted to but for some reason never could (if reasonable) or simply just enjoy life from that point on.
Being productive in a society is always important, how else can we perpetuate the playgrounds of development? Being a man (in response to a trend I see here) is making a choice and sticking to it and not quitting until you have achieved what you set out to do (not to mention having a plan B), its standing your ground even when you face tough choices, its losing and getting back up,its defending yourself and what you believe in, its defending your honor, family, loved ones and sometimes even your enemies, its going all the way knowing your going to lose, its winning and not gloating, its loving your enemy because some part of them is you, its having passion for something..anything,its getting hurt, its getting the shit kicked out of you, its kicking the shit out of others, its regret, its pride (very much so), its sadness, its being alone, its holding back your tears, its letting our inexperienced brothers fall even though we want to help them but helping all the time wont teach but most of all being a man is being able to look in the mirror and saying that you are as good as any man anywhere if not better…

93 Jason November 13, 2008 at 2:26 pm

@Max – I noticed that too… I just found this site yesterday and have read quite a few articles and skimmed through many of the comments. This is the first article where I’ve noticed so much negative feedback. I think some people take the advice a little too literally. Many religions include some tradition of celibacy, for example, and being Catholic I personally know some manly monks and priests (and a lot who aren’t so manly, but I chalk them to the cultural problem that this site is addressing). At any rate, I believe the vast majority of us are made for and called to marriage, so I wouldn’t change the advice to suit the few exceptions. This article strikes a bit of a nerve in me, but instead of excusing myself, I’d rather man up and take the advice/warning seriously.

94 Shan February 27, 2009 at 11:05 am

I TOTALLY agree with your post. After 41 yrs. of marriage, my father-in-law decided that he needed to “find himself” thanks to an over-zealous diagnosis from a shrink. My mother-in-law has been in pieces ever since. Since leaving, my father-in-law has racked up $50K in credit card debt, told my mother-in-law that they need to sell their home in order to “get out of debt”, wants a divorce, and promises that he will eventually remarry her. What a crock!

If you need to “find yourself”, look in the mirror! Realize that you can’t live a successful life by being self-centered. Thinking of others before you make a decision is a step of the process. Otherwise, you will find yourself a very lonely person in the end.

95 RenegadeJoeCool March 30, 2009 at 8:44 pm

you hit the nail on the head…my home, my life, my love…ALL destroyed over the BS that society is calling ‘finding oneself’…money exchanging hands for ‘the best advice and help’ isn’t worth the $ spent….it destroys the things that are PRICELESS including and not limited YOURSELF. Great post, hope you bring more to light!!

96 JMorgan April 9, 2009 at 8:57 am

The first poster is looking at the issue from the wrong side. I think his views are of the all-too-prevalent persuasion of young people today to believe that life is storybook, that if something dramatic, romantic, or extraordinary doesn’t happen in their lives, then they have just settled for less. In my opinion, there’s few things more romantic than putting yourself aside to care and provide for a wife, or as extraordinary as birthing and raising a child. Travelling and working on your art doesn’t benefit anyone, least of all you.

97 Gburger April 13, 2009 at 10:45 pm

Ok i believe this poster is has the right idea. He obviously knows what it is like to be down in the dumps. AND ITS TRUE if you are 22 and still being LAZY and living with your parents then there is something clearly wrong with you. He is clearly just saying that “hey i did these things and look my life turned out to be meaningful.” He’s not saying go get married and having kids. He means look for a future and make a difference instead of sitting around all day with a part-time job or no job at all. If you think “hey i have enough money having a part-time job is good cause i’m A. already have too much money (which you can’t) or B. I’m just too lazy to work full time.” He is not forcing you. He is trying to help out his fellow men cause he knows how it feels to be down low. He is merely suggesting the values of life and how you can obtain them. And most of those ideas are good. Hey have a few kids start a family not be lonely. Or get a roommate and a full time paying job. The point is to not be some lazy asshole when clearly others would kill to have your freedoms. You can joke all you want but in the end you didn’t make a difference in the world unless you put effort yourself, your life, others around you, and your community. Small things help and only you can save yourself and others from an embarrassing, hopeless, empty life.

98 Gburger April 13, 2009 at 10:46 pm

Ok i believe this poster is has the right idea. He obviously knows what it is like to be down in the dumps. AND ITS TRUE if you are 22 and still being LAZY and living with your parents then there is something clearly wrong with you. He is clearly just saying that “hey i did these things and look my life turned out to be meaningful.” He’s not saying go get married and having kids. He means look for a future and make a difference instead of sitting around all day with a part-time job or no job at all. If you think “hey i have enough money having a part-time job is good cause i’m A. already have too much money (which you can’t) or B. I’m just too lazy to work full time.” He is not forcing you. He is trying to help out his fellow men cause he knows how it feels to be down low. He is merely suggesting the values of life and how you can obtain them. And most of those ideas are good. Hey have a few kids start a family not be lonely. Or get a roommate and a full time paying job. The point is to not be some lazy asshole when clearly others would kill to have your freedoms. You can joke all you want but in the end you didn’t make a difference in the world unless you put effort in yourself, your life, others around you, and your community. Small things help and only you can save yourself and others from an embarrassing, hopeless, empty life.

99 OLDGUY April 14, 2009 at 5:22 am

I love it! The author has broken the shackles of political correctness prevelant in todays Oprah minded psycobabble driven culture. Lets face it, finding yourself is todays acceptable way of not being willing to attack life head on. Dont confuse this, as some posters seem to be doing, with sowing your wild oats or experiencing life and adventure in a responsible way when young. I believe it is necessary to the developement of a man. In fact I believe it makes a better man to have done these things so as not to think he missed out on something when he gets older. However, way too many people are using the “I’m finding myself” excuse as a scape goat for not wanting to do the hard work associated with commitment, responsibility and honesty. Good article!

I have Spoken!

100 Genetic Determinist April 19, 2009 at 10:31 am

Yeah! I (arbitrary personal example) when I was 20 and I (arbitrary outcome completely incapable of being expanded to larger population), therefore (ad hoc conclusion involving personal and idiosyncratic definitions of “man”, “self”, and “contentment”)! Anyone who believes otherwise is (proponent of conformity/a baby/an embodiment of societal forces I dislike).

You do realize that there are no persuasive arguments anywhere in here, right? Article and comments from both sides included. You’re placing moralistic concepts on top of what is simply a biological imperative. You have no concept of how your own upbringing and culture have influenced your idea of what a “legitimate” man is or isn’t. There is no logic in these grand statements.

You are nothing more than a collection of chemical and, beneath that, atomic processes. You are no different, in the long run, than apes or birds or dogs or rats. Everything you know and love will disintegrate into nothingness and will fade forever from all memory in nothing less than a blink of the universal eye. Your life is meaningless.

That’s what you get when you “know thyself,” not whether you should get married or not. Just go outside and enjoy the day, already.

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