HuffPost UK is running a month-long focus around masculinity in the 21st Century, and the pressures men face around identity. To address some of the issues at hand, Building Modern Men presents a snapshot of life for men, from bringing up young boys to the importance of mentors, the challenges between speaking out and 'manning up' as well as a look at male violence, body image, LGBT identity, lad culture, sports, male friendship and mental illness.
I was recently asked what I felt it meant to be a man?
I thought that was actually a fascinating question, as we live in a world still obsessed by who we are and how we define everything we do. You may think that, as a fighter, I would be all about physical strength being tantamount to true manliness. I am happy to surprise you.
My ideals and priorities have altered so much over the years and this in turn relates directly to how I feel as a father, partner, uncle, son, brother.. everything that defines me as the man I am today. Ten-year-old Alex would have said the ultimate man would have been Luke Skywalker or King Arthur, even He-Man. I know they would have been the heroes of any small boy but if you look at them beyond their childish exterior they still all stood for something bigger than then, something powerful and important, something good. Always putting their needs behind the needs of those around them and isn't that one of the true definitions of what makes a man?
Being named after Alexander the Great led me to extensively study the man himself. I was fascinated by him. His vision was that of integration of cultures, a unity of all people. Unfortunately his methods to achieve this were rather extreme. I do feel however his intention was valid, his aspiration to achieve a untied world, still is so important for each of us to work towards. I therefore think that part of my responsibility to my namesake is to attempt to emulate his ideal in this mixed up modern world. Whatever your belief system, figures such as Jesus Christ and Gandhi, really defined again that being a man is not wielding physical strength, rather a strong will and dedication to your cause is vastly more important.
That leads me to my true hero, a role model my entire life - my father.
He has taught me to hold true to what I believe in, no matter the opposition. To understand that a man is not defined by the clothes on his back or the money in his wallet. A true man displays kindness, compassion, discipline and is driven to achieve whatever it is that drives him.
A hard worker all of his life, with six children he never complained having to work all hours to provide for us. Alongside my mum, they ensure I only have extremely fond memories as a child with two loving, happy and supportive parents by my side.
I had believed to be a real man you needed to fight, be tough and intimidate others around you in to respecting you, it was the only way to assert your masculinity. It was only when I was around 13 I discovered my father was a Paratrooper who had seen active service and was also a decorated boxer. I remember being so impressed at just how "cool" my Dad was, how I wanted to be just like him. To be this kind and caring father figure, who could stand up for himself and others if need be. He defined to me that a real man is one who provides for his family, offers comfort and support to his loved ones and adds value to the world.
I have also learned, after many painful years of insecurity and soul searching, that there are much more important things to worry about than other people's opinions on how I choose to live my life.
I still believe many men in today's society still have very immature ideals of what it is to be a man, and may never really grow up or evolve in some aspects.
Some still believe that women are somehow inferior, the fact that equal pay is still an issue in 2015, is sort of testament to that. Trust me, growing up with an amazingly strong mum and sisters, there is nothing scarier than collective women, bound to the same cause!
Politicians spend their days arguing like children in a school yard, seeming to cling to whomever should loudest has the most salient point - does that make them men? Perhaps what would define them is actually sticking to the policies they so audibly refer to?
Corruption, war, gangs... the list goes on. All male dominated environments, all jostling to be top dog to prove just how important they all are.
To me, all that's important in being a man is supporting, providing for and caring for those I hold dear. That truly defines what it is to be a man.
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