We have a lot of definitions and ideas about manliness and what it means to be a “real” man, but the truth is that there is no one characteristic that defines “manliness”. Some think you need tattoos and a pickup truck to be a true man, while others prefer courage or humour as shining examples. We all look at life through a different lens and none of us are right or wrong in our feelings about it.
This past weekend, at the Dad 2.0 Summit in New Orleans, I had the incredible fortune of meeting over 200 other fathers who are each doing their part to redefine what it means to be a dad and also proving that every man is different but also equal. This conference is a place where egos are checked at the door and real emotion is not only allowed to be shared but very much encouraged.
Up until my father passed away a few years ago, I didn’t deal with my emotions very well. Even after his passing, I had trouble showing my emotions visibly and a lot of that had to do with the perception of weakness and the threat of being labeled as someone who was less of a man for it. Those days have since passed and the Dad 2.0 Summit has been a major influence on my ability to express myself without the fear of judgement. Last year, in Houston, I read one of my stories about the anxiety I went through after my father passed away. I can remember all the emotion that was rushing through my veins as I stood up in front of the 250 attendees and poured my soul out onto the stage for everyone to see. They were incredibly supportive and that single event has helped my confidence level more than I can describe.
This year, I was privileged to be in the audience when spotlight reader and brilliant writer, Lorne Jaffe, took to the stage to read his post, “Do I Really Like What I Like?“. While watching Lorne deliver his emotional story about his struggles with mental illness, I witnessed exactly what it means to be a man. Public speaking is uncomfortable enough and when you add in the topic he was discussing, I have never been more proud or inspired by someone that I had just met hours before. I’ve watched it back a few times now and well up each and every time. Lorne, if you are reading this, every single one of those people who stood for you after your reading were mesmerized by what you did and I hope someday you will be able to take pride in that personal achievement.
I have included the video of Lorne’s presentation below. From now on, any time I feel guilty for having emotions or like I can’t do something, I will look at this video and remember that sometimes the best things in life come from stepping outside of my comfort zone.