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The Mask of Masculinity: How Men Can Embrace Vulnerability, Create Strong Relationships, and Live Their Fullest Lives by Lewis Howes, Rodale Books, US $25.99, Pp 256, October 2017, ISBN 978-1623368623

In the patriarchal societies, boys grow up learning to behave in a particular way. Most men – and arguably women – have a misguided notion of their masculinity. They always hide their real selves from others. They live the lives they actually don’t want to live. Consequently, they are deeply unhappy, angry, and frustrated. The real tragedy is that few, if any, know what is behind their frustration. Lewis Howes was also once like most young men, hiding his real self behind several masks. But he learned to remove those masks and live the life he wanted. Lewis Howes was an athlete and a two-sport All-American who played football professionally. He went on to transfer his competitive nature from sports to business, building his podcast, “The School of Greatness” into a global phenomenon.

In The Mask of Masculinity, Lewis Howes tells his story and how he succeeded in removing those masks as well as how to unlearn the dangerous and false ideas he learned from his teammates, coaches and in the locker rooms. Over the last few years, he has interviewed hundreds of successful men and women in all sorts of fields. He asked his guests on his podcast questions like “What does it mean to be a man?”, “What is your greatest fear?” and “Who are you pretending to be?” Lewis Howes says he learned from their answers that all of us have or have had our own insecurities. He writes, “All of us are, or have been afraid to be invulnerable and real. Though this fear manifests itself in unique ways for each individual, with their help I was able to uncover nine common masks of masculinity that men wear interchangeably. I have worn almost all of them at some point in my life, and most likely, so have you or someone you know and love.”

Lewis Howes says that our society teaches us that every man must be invulnerable and tough. In The Mask of Masculinity, he discusses the nature of masks we wear and how to remove them. Our society expects us to carefully manage and suppress our emotions. Men should not cry, or feel pain. This is called the stoic mask. One of the clearest ways a man can distinguish himself is on the field or on the court. He is like a modern-day gladiator whose weapon is domination. This is called the athletic mask. There is no clearer sign of a man’s worth than the amount of money in his bank account. This is the material mask. Our societies define men by their sexual conquests.  Men’s worth is determined by the number of women he’s slept with. Relationships are for lesser men. This is the sexual mask.

Men are supposed to be aggressive, violent and tough. It is their nature. Howes calls it the aggressive mask. Men have a sense of humor and a wit that can repel even the most withering critique or the most nagging doubt. This is the joke mask. Men are fearless. Men take risks from betting their life’s savings or cliff diving. This is the invincible mask. Men are supposed to be intellectually dominant. Howes calls this the know-it-all mask. Our cultures tell us that there are only two types of men: alphas and betas, winners and losers. No man can stand to be the latter. This is called the alpha mask. Many of us have worn our masks for so long that we are not even sure what is actually underneath anymore. Howes says that we have lost track of where we end and mask begins, of who we really are. That’s why removing the mask is not only terrifying, it’s painful. Howes writes, “However, it’s in the most difficult and challenging moments that we find the most meaning…”

The Mask of Masculinity is about the most common psychological and behavioral problem among men. Howes’ diagnosis of why most men feel insecure and frustrated is completely correct. He powerfully shows that most men try to live the way they live only to please the people around them. This is the biggest source of most of their behavioral and psychological problems. Those who succeed in removing the masks they wear live happily. Every young and old man should read The Mask of Masculinity in order to lead a happy and enjoyable life. This beautifully written book will be one of the most important books you will have read during your entire life.

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