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.
Up until I turned 40 I found that most of the male friendships in my life had been quite a strange and mysterious experience.
Yes as mates we were often at the same place at the same time and we did plenty of things together. We seemingly enjoyed going to a night club, watching a movie, playing sport, or doing a job together but we never really discussed our feelings at length or if we did, it would be more like one guy telling the other guy a solution to a problem usually based on some one-liner like 'you need to harden up and dry your eyes' or 'man up' without the real warmth and understanding I was looking for.
It was different with women though. They wanted to talk about their feelings all of the time (and my feelings too) and go into great depth about how and why things were a certain way and how things could potentially change. Sometimes they tried to fix me and that wasn't a good feeling, but often they would share a piece of wisdom that was completely what I needed to hear - they understood me and my situation and everything would just make sense.
I secretly longed to have that same type of relationship with men but as time passed it just didn't happen and I grew more and more frustrated with not being able to connect with them.
I found I was trying to prove myself most of the time, especially around men like father or people that I respected or wanted to be like. Sometimes I did it in obvious ways and other times more subtly. For example if my father asked me how business was going I would always make sure that I mentioned increasing profits and how busy work was that year in my answer.
One day I hit a point where I could see nothing was changing and that there was actually more to this problem than other men not understanding me. It dawned on me for the first time that they weren't really the problem at all - I was. There was something about the way I related to myself and in how I saw myself as a man that was causing me all of this angst.
I realised then and there that although I was a decent and caring person, that for the first 40 years of my life I had spent very little time and energy developing an appreciation of myself or any solid measure of self-respect.
I saw that without investing in self-worth over a long period of time it had became easy to blame other men for the discomfort that I often felt. What's more the fact that I had seemingly gotten on better with women now plainly was really just the other extreme of the same problem. Sure at the time I had felt understood, but in truth I was just using them too to have my needs met without addressing the real problem at hand - that I had very low self-esteem.
The truth is that, like any other man, I have an enormous beauty, strength and a deeply caring nature. To actually bring these qualities to life requires a solid commitment to (patiently) developing an appreciation and acceptance of myself that will eventually build a self-worth that is unshakeable. Why? Because it built from the inside out instead of the outside in.
Looking back I see that most of men I have known in my life have struggled with exactly the same issue.
I wonder now where this new approach can take us.
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