A lot has been talked, said, written, rewritten, filmed, discussed and debated about and around the topic ‘Male ego’. The term itself draws a lot of attention and controversy when one even mentions it. Well, then why are we back to it? Even with so much discussion, around the conclusion and the understanding, it seems to be inadequate. We still see a lot of our peers and loved ones getting influenced with the male ego. Men are generally never aware when their decision making skill is getting influenced by it and the other gender majorly just tries to go around it without causing any harm.
Is the whole idea just a societal construct and has been overhyped by our society or do people really go through it and make the lives of others around them miserable? A woman is stereotyped and questioned if she is going though ‘that time of the month’, when she does anything even slightly different than what is expected from her, should the same treatment be started with men when they pitch something ridiculous?
A lot of queries, worries, and discussions are still developing when one talks about the infamous male ego. How fragile is it really? What is male entitlement? How does the male ego affect a relationship? What can men do to make sure that their ego does not become a problem when it comes to their day to day working or in between their jobs and relationships? How can women be helpful when their men end up being troubled by their own ego and whatever might be going on in their head. All this and more, further:
Is Male Ego a social construct? Is it overhyped?
We are living in a world where men are constantly told that they have to be the decision makers in the family. Right from their childhood boys are told to be the one responsible for their sisters and the general well being of the family. Men are always assumed to know it all, from how to fix up the fan, to how to fix up the country; ask your male counterpart and they will always have some or the other opinion.
The way a boy is treated responsible for the ownership of his family and other decisions, is sure to give them an inflated ego when they become adults. The same boy who was told to look after her sister, as an adult makes it his responsibility to be the authority about each and every matter of the family from finance, parenting, to yes even social interactions.
According to Freud, ‘male ego is not only a reflection of the individual self, but also of cultural definitions of masculinity and ideas about how men should think and act. Men’s identities are shaped by social influences.’
Men, note that these concepts are societal constructs and what each gender should do is defined by the society. These are not individual decisions, choices or values but something that has just been going on from ages and inserted in young minds. The society installs a system which tells men that they have the real power and are supposed to be the strongest, tough enough to make and do with any situation.
When the societal treatment of an individual or gender is in a way that it makes them feel powerful and beyond others, it is but obvious that the person or gender develops an entitlement. Male entitlement is an exaggerated judgment of one’s own capabilities and importance. The world feels on their shoulders, with it being their responsibility to make everything happen.
Men are socialised and brought up in a way that they discount their own feelings. They are expected to be the protectors, saviours, controllers, decision makers, strong, responsible, bread winners, and survivors. With so many emotions that are all about being responsible and tough, one stops looking inside and being vulnerable. They tend to forget that even they have the right to show emotions and be fragile, because that is told to the men as a sign of weakness. The result is an inflated ego and entitlement, which honestly can burst anytime with one small prick.
We are brought to believe that men are the providers while women are supposed to play the role of nurturers. These roles might have been a way to work out the lives of cavemen, when due to body strength the men used to go out to hunt, while the women stayed back. Although, with current times, we really don’t need men to go out and hunt, honestly, women are now capable enough to even do that.
Hence, many men have now come to the terms of equal participation of women in office. According to a study conducted by University of Bath, UK, ‘husbands are least stressed when their wives contribute about 40 percent to the household income. Most stressed when they are completely dependent on their wives earnings.’ The study was conducted on 6,000 American Heterosexual couples over 15 years. In conclusion, the study indicated that men are unhappy when they have the whole responsibility of the household income, less stressed when their spousal income rises, although the same study found men not so happy when their status as the chief earner was threatened.
How fragile is it?
The above study is the perfect example of how fragile male ego is. We are aware that generally the male ego stems from the issue of superiority in an individual. But is that always the case? Apparently no. At times, this ego can also stem from a complex that alternates between superiority and inferiority.
The responsibility of always being the tough and smart one in any situation, can also lead to feeling like one is not capable of it. This complex emotion can also lead to men reacting in ways that others might find hard to understand.
According to Freud: ‘Whereas a girl might choose to grow up to become like her mother in certain ways, a boy tries to be becoming to his mother— to make her proud.’ The responsibility on a man’s shoulder is to not only prove himself in the eyes of his parents but also in front of the society. This creates a bubble of emotion that in itself becomes very complex and hard to understand.
Yes, a healthy ego is important and needed in our society to show our confidence and courage, but this ego at times leaves its boundaries. On another front the same ego is as fragile as the thread. Men are literal beings and they take words literally more than women. While women believe and understand more about feelings.
For example: If you tell your man some task and at the end of the day he is not able to complete it, and in your frustration you tell him that he is irresponsible. All that your man has then heard is that he is being accused of being irresponsible. While the woman might have just said it in frustration and would have felt that his action towards today’s task was irresponsible. You have now hurt the infamous ego and according to his mind, you think that he is incapable of completing normal everyday work and responsibility.
Ego and relationships
Due to the very fact that men are at times not the best communicators and then add to the fact that their ego at times gets burned, results in a lot of casualties in relationships. The burden of understanding male ego and acting as such that their man’s ego does not get hurt generally falls on the partner. This creates an inequality in the relationship, resulting in a lot of clashes.
We have stated above that women are emotional beings while men are literal. When a man is dealing with their peers they have the tendency to show each other rather than just talk and make them understand. A fine example of the same is what I observed between two of my male friends who were living together. Let’s call them Roommate A and B. In a certain situation due to the arrival of his guest, Roommate A told B to clean up the place as he was looking forward to making a good impression on his guest.
This of course was not carried out by Roommate B and in the end Roommate A ended up cleaning the house just before the arrival of his guest, making it a close call. The same situation repeated after some weeks, although this time Roommate A collected all of Roommate B’s stuff that was lying around and burned it, as that is what he had told him earlier, that he will burn his stuff if he doesn’t clean the premises. During the third encounter Roommate B did clean up the house this time. What we learned? Men understand more if we just burn their stuff? (kidding)
If the same situation would have happened in a couple’s home, the women would have ended up cleaning the house and would have taken all the responsibility. This needs to change. As a woman you have the higher place in his life and will hurt his ego if you keep telling him that he is irresponsible. Show rather than tell. Heck yeah, burn those pyjamas lying around! (or not)
What to do?
As every coin has two sides, the solution of how to handle the male ego also has two sides. Although, it is generally the women who get the heat of the situation and have to handle it as according to their wit. My straight away advice, don’t. Please understand you are not responsible for this behaviour and should not feel the brunt of it. Although, if you are in a relationship where your man skips the beat and fails to understand when he is relying on his ego rather than logic, well then I suggest that you first try to have a talk with him.
Be a good communicator and try to make him see how it’s affecting your relationship and ask what he thinks can be done. Even after this talk if the situation persists, well then as I have said before, show rather than just tell.
The second side and the more prominent side are the men themselves. Men, talk to yourself, try to see yourself from other people’s perspectives. Go back to the situations you think you could have handled differently. Ask for help from your loved ones. Be open to listening, be fragile, be vulnerable. It is okay to show your side of emotions, don’t let the upbringing take an advantage of you. Be the change, after all it starts from you.
Male ego is the result of a societal upbringing that keeps telling men that they have all the power in the universe. When this confidence, that a man can handle anything and everything reaches a point where they start seeing their peers and others as mere individuals who are lesser and can not reach their plethora of success, the complex of male ego rises.
This complex emotion is not only harmful for others but can also be damaging to men as well. The end result will alienate you from others making you feel that you are complex being above and beyond the reach of many. The dark side is that it will get lonely. Understanding this complex emotion and keeping a check is important and necessary.