Always be yourself. Why? Because that other guy you’re trying to be? He’s an asshole. No one likes him.

This message has been brought to you by: Personal Experience.

But who is this guy we call “Yourself?” Yourself is a man with great potential, but he needs to avoid being led astray. Because if you don’t have a body like Wolverine and bang babes a-plenty then you’re not a real man. Gotta have game. Gotta be alpha. Only wimps have feelings.

Instant asshole: Just add peer and societal pressure. And there is money is making you feel inferior, making you imagine there is something wrong with you. Good old capitalism; companies convince you that you have a problem then sell you the solution.

For three easy payments of way too much money you can attend this weekend seminar and learn the secrets to dominate in your relationships and be awash in enough depilated genitalia to choke an interstellar sandworm. Sex sells, and what is often sold to young men is the concept of banging every hot woman in his area code. Buy this hair gel, follow these pick-up tactics, use this workout program, spray this noxious scent and you’ll have scantily-clad females chasing you down like it’s a foxhunt.

Alas, life is not an Axe Body Spray commercial.

This whole “alpha male” construct is nothing but a marketing gimmick based on bad science. And even if it was good science, do you think human society should take its behavioral cues from the animal kingdom? Sure, some people will try to convince you that a “true” alpha is a gentleman who is strong and worthy and blah, blah, blah. It’s putting lipstick on a pig. It’s a toxic term you should purge from your vocabulary. (Speaking of toxicity, learn the difference between positive masculinity and the toxic variation.)

Because there aren’t any alphas or betas or omegas. These are bullshit labels used to sell crap. There are just people of varying natures and nurtures, and we’re mostly hoping to get through life and find some happiness. Trying to be someone you’re not isn’t the road to said happiness. It’s not so good for developing lasting relationships either.

You can’t change your genetics, and you can’t change your upbringing. Like Lady Macbeth said, “What’s done cannot be undone.” You can only move into the future, boldly.

Since we’re quoting old shit, let’s keep it up: Fortuna audaces juvat!

I did not study Latin, but I do know Google. This pre-Christian era proverb translates to “fortune favors the bold.”

In a society that continually places pressure on you to be someone you’re not, it is a bold move to be yourself. It’s not just yourself, however, but your best self. At my most id-focused core I am a serial-farting, foul-mouthed, beer-guzzling ass wipe with a borderline unhealthy fascination with breasts.

Side note: it was the fascination with breasts that got me to work up the nerve to cross the room and talk to the woman who would become my wife. And it was the desire to not have her walk away in disgust that prompted me to behave like the best version of me.

I’m middle-aged, and I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. I say this because I am still growing. Self-improvement is a virtue, but understand that the two words that make up that phrase carry equal weight: “self” is not sacrificed in the quest for “improvement.”

As I wrote earlier, yourself is a man with great potential, but potential cannot be realized if it’s built on a lie.

It’s about playing to your strengths and staying true. Your height may make you good at basketball, or gymnastics. Your voice may be DJ, or writer. Your sense of humor may be Monty Python or Eddie Murphy. Your brains may mean surgeon or salesman.

Speaking of basketball, I sucked at that. I was terrible at all team sports, and learned that when it came to physical activity I preferred going solo. That’s why I lift weight weights, run and bike mostly by myself. I went from completely inactive and overweight to physically fit, but I did it on my own terms.

I was never good at picking up women at a bar, but found that I could hold a conversation with one if we talked about things that were important to each other. That’s how I won my wife’s heart. It wasn’t about abs or game or negs or being some alpha douche bro. It was about being genuine. And nice. Nice is good.

One of the things I preach about fitness and getting in shape is that you can’t sustain something you hate. Transforming physically is about feeling the love; this is true for self-improvement of any type. Improvement doesn’t come by trying to be some mythical construct of what others tell you a real man is. News flash: there is no all-encompassing definition of what a man is. People are different. And different people like different things and have different skills and innate abilities.

When it comes to making friends, finding lovers, earning money, getting respect and having fun with life, you must do it on your own terms, because façades are unsustainable.

Deep down, you know the difference between right and wrong. You know hard work gets shit done, but you get to choose the type of work. It’s okay to like different things. If you’re weird, be bold and embrace it; perhaps the freaks shall inherit the earth. I know a lot of people who are awesome at being weird. I’m happy to call them friends.

An important part of life is discovery and learning. Learn about the world. Discover yourself. Seek out your place in the world. YOUR place, not this false construct that has been sold to you.


Feature image credit Kristine Slipson.

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James S. Fell, MBA, writes for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, AskMen, the Guardian, TIME Magazine and many other fine publications. His first book was published by Random House Canada in 2014. He is currently working on his next book, which is about life-changing moments.