What do James Bond, Wolverine and the Dos Equis guy have in common?
Manliness. (Okay, maybe Wolverine has a little something extra…)
These guys are tough, intelligent and interesting. They’re the kind of dudes who could grow a full beard overnight, just by focusing their willpower, or chop down a tree while smoking their favorite cigar. And you better believe they get the ladies’ attention.
The thing is, we’re not all world traveller / secret agent / overly-hairy badasses. In the real world, most of us sit at a desk all day and keep our faces clean shaven. Hell, I couldn’t grow a real mustache if I wanted to (no Movember for me).
And, as a smaller man, I’ve often wondered if I could defend myself or my loved ones if I had to.
Maybe you’re shorter than average, or maybe you look young for your age. Perhaps these features have made you soft-spoken, and you’ve never considered yourself an alpha male.
Even in our advanced society—where it’s obvious that wisdom and success are more important than size and strength—traditional measures of manliness still persist in our minds.
We evolved this way. These beliefs are part of our genetic code (and probably always will be). This is the reason men find women with a particular waist-to-hip ratio especially attractive. It’s why women can’t help but feel an instinctive attraction toward big/strong/hairy dudes with deep voices. On some primal level, we all still feel drawn to the perceived fertility and protection that certain physical traits offer.
But these traits don’t matter anymore. And for us men who can’t grow a beard or bench press 200 pounds, there are still many ways to be manly.
If you need a concentrated shot of manliness, here are four things you can get started on today.
1. Be the Best Dressed Man In the Room
Readers of The Distilled Man are ahead of the curve when it comes to style, but most men in their 20s and 30s still have room to improve. In particular, men who want to feel and appear more masculine, can really use clothing to their advantage.
Before a woman notices your haircut, muscles (or lack thereof), smile, height, etc., she notices your outfit. It’s like my father told me:
Your clothes are always working. They’re either working for you or against you, but they’re always working.”
Gentlemen, I implore you: Make your clothes work for you.
If you know you could be dressing better, don’t worry. There are so many great resources available for those who want to step up their style, and many of them are right here on this website. Here are some great starting points:
Always remember that fit trumps everything other aspect of style. Stay away from trends, and don’t buy anything based on brand. If you want advice or feedback on specific outfits, reach out to the Style Forum, Male Fashion Advice (Reddit), Dappered and Art of Manliness communities.
(And you can always reach out to me @modestmanstyle).
2. Learn How to Talk to Women
Most men don’t know how to talk to women. It’s easy to assume that everyone else at the bar has game, but look around: most men are standing in the corner drinking with other males. This is because approaching women isn’t easy, especially if you don’t consider yourself to be very “manly”.
For the guys were been born with this ability, more power to them. But for the rest of us, “game” (for lack of a better word) is a learned skill, just like anything else. And for those of us whose appearance makes it hard to feel manly, practice is all the more important.
The art of winning over women has grown very popular over the past few years. You’ve probably heard the term “pick up artist” at some point or another. There is actually an entire subculture dedicated to perfecting this skill. (Read The Game by Neil Strauss for an interesting and honest glimpse into the world of professional pick up artists. Hint: it’s not as glamorous as it seems.)
I’m not suggesting that you should make it a goal to “get” more women or become some sort of smooth-talking Casanova. That’s not noble or manly. But you should make an effort to understand and connect with women, be they friends, coworkers or pretty girls at the bar.
You will only get more comfortable talking to (and dating) women by doing it. You have to force yourself out of your comfort zone and accept the fact that – like anything else – you will suck at it at first.
But guess what? Just by putting yourself out there, you will be ahead of most men.
Alternatively, if you don’t like or are over the bar scene, go online. Online dating doesn’t carry the stigma that it once did, and it is a great way to meet women for friends and dating.
3. Get Comfortable Speaking In Front of Groups
Most white collar jobs will require you, at one point or another, to get in front of a group of people and present information or ideas. Even if your professional life never calls for public speaking, your personal life very well might (best man speech, anyone?).
It’s no secret that most people don’t like public speaking. In fact, it’s our number one fear. This natural fear is exacerbated if you are insecure about your physical appearance. After all, when you’re in the spotlight, it’s all eyes on you.
But fear not! Just like talking to women, anyone can get good at public speaking with practice. It’s a numbers game.
The best way to get over the fear of speaking in front of groups and hone your presentation skills is to join Toast Masters. There are plenty of classes, seminars, books, online courses that promise to turn you into a great speaker, but Toast Masters is tried and true.
I’ve seen it work in my own life and the lives of others. Toast Masters provides a comfortable environment in which to practice your speaking skills in front of a receptive, supportive and encouraging group of like-minded people.
With multiple groups in every city and town, it’s totally convenient, and it’s very inexpensive. Even if you are comfortable with your presentation skills, I guarantee TM will help you iron out any problems with your, uh, delivery.
4. Learn How to Fight
Most men have never been (and will never be) in a fight. And despite what Tyler Durden said, this is a good thing. You know why? Because fighting is dangerous and scary, and real gentlemen avoid it at all costs.
That said, it is a very real possibility that you will encounter a situation in which you will have to fight. If this happened tomorrow, would you be ready?
I know that’s a little dramatic, but the truth is, you don’t need a practical reason to learn how to fight. Martial arts training isn’t a means to an end. It’s just an inherently good way to spend your time.
It helps you stay in shape. It builds confidence. And, yes, it teaches you how to defend yourself.
With the growing popularity of mixed martial arts, there are great martial arts schools all over the place. I recommend starting with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, which shows you how to use leverage to subdue bigger/stronger opponents.
There is something thrilling and primal about unarmed combat with another man. It’s surprisingly fun and very addictive. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
Here’s the good news: These four areas are related. They all have the same effect: increased confidence and higher self-esteem—which impacts every aspect of your life.
And you know what’s awesome about more confidence? It begets even more confidence.
You don’t have to tackle all of these things at once. Pick an area that you are interested or particularly weak in, and go after it like there’s no tomorrow.
Always remember: there are plenty of things in life that you can’t control—your height, your thinning hair, your IQ—and there’s no point in dwelling on these things. If you want to be manly and interesting and attractive, focus on what you can control.
And start right now.