It’s true that both men and women have uncertainties in their relationships.
Women seem to have an easier time opening up about what those are to their partners, and it’s more socially acceptable to do for them — so long as they don’t come across as too needy.
On the other hand, there are common insecurities for guys that are thrust upon them since childhood, and they seem to have a harder time shaking them.
Men are taught that they need to “measure up” — and I’m not talking about the size of their hands. Societal definitions of male success and the need to have a veneer of keeping it all together reinforce any doubts they already have.
Most men’s fears are imagined and unfounded. Sadly, their flawed mindset and limiting beliefs are potentially keeping them from entering into a relationship or connecting deeply with their partners and enjoying their lives more fully.
And by keeping these fears bottled in, they are crippling themselves and their relationships, too. They assume women judge men for these insecurities. It’s not surprising that they sometimes allow their insecurities to manifest in unproductive ways such as indecisiveness, jealousy, controlling behavior — even withdrawal.
If they only knew what their strong women were thinking!
7 Common male insecurities guys have in life and relationships
1. Financial stability and responsibility
This fear is a big one with complexities on many levels. Many men wonder if they are financially secure enough.
Men of our generation grew up seeing their fathers as the primary breadwinners. It may be inconceivable to some of them that they might not be.
But women’s entry into the paid workforce has lifted barriers and shifted family dynamics. Although there is significant work to be done to level the playing field, many women earn as much as or more than their partners.
John says, “I love that my wife is growing her career as an architect. She’s smart, dynamic, and independent. But part of me wonders how I’ll feel later. If my career in finance doesn’t progress as fast, and I don’t have the same earning potential, will she continue to respect me in the same way?”
Let the other guys worry about this, John! Your significant other might just design your love nest. How cool!
In my coaching work, I hear men grapple with this all the time, especially if they’ve been laid off work. They see so much of their self-worth wrapped up in providing for their family, and suddenly they feel diminished.
The reality is that one partner may work at one time while the other is at home taking on the job of managing the family; and at another point in your relationship, the roles may flip when it makes sense.
Men have a notion that they need to be financially stable before they commit to a woman.
“What if we get married, have a family and I’m not really able to provide for a family? I don’t want to be that guy with the baby crying and the debt collector calls,” wonders Art. “My friend’s wife left him for a wealthy financial advisor.”
Men are afraid to tell their partner when they’ve hit a rough patch financially.
I regularly hear about men who are scared to tell their wives that they’ve lost their job or had a significant expense that has set them back. But hiding something so important can start unraveling the relationship. Women interpret withholding information as a lack of trust in them.
Straight talk: Women want to be in a partnership.
Do you think you have to lavish your lady with expensive gifts and earn enough to show her a good time? Maybe someone who is solely out for your bank account, not your average girl! Besides, there are many reasonably priced, creative date and gift options. A woman worthy of you will value your time, not your money. In fact, women leave men mostly because the relationship lacks intimacy.
As well, your partner’s participation in outside work and a successful career doesn’t have to take away from yours. Her accomplishments and financial contributions to your family don’t diminish yours in any way. Do you think less of your wife for making less than you? Or is what she contributes to your life so amazing that you couldn’t do without her?
Unless you’re truly a sloth (and really, sloths are only good for animated kid’s movies), she will respect your drive and determination — and everything else that you bring into the relationship. If it’s a partnership and each person is getting what they need, there shouldn’t be an issue. Trust her and let her be there for you, too, occasionally.
Bottom line: Soulmates view life as a journey with ups and downs, challenges, and successes. You and me for the world!
2. Career choice and progression
Men worry about perceptions that their careers are boring and going nowhere. My career coaching clients regularly bring up concerns about the lack of promotion.
Dominic, 35, says, “I dread telling the women I meet about my job. They think that by my age, I should be at least a manager by now.”
Millennials generally expect progression more quickly than other generations. They are so used to change at lightning speed, and they figure change should happen rapidly in their work life also.
Straight talk: Organizations are flatter and jobs are broader than they once were. And, besides that, everyone has a unique set of skills and talents that they bring to the world — and that includes you.
Think about your career less than a series of progressive steps up the ladder and more in terms of a set of rich experiences, relationships built, contributions made, and accomplishments celebrated.
Not everyone has or wants a regular office job. In fact, there has been an explosion of job types in the past decade alone. Just look at O*NET online, and you can find detailed information on almost 1,000 occupations. People now can work virtually, too, giving them the ability to balance family and other pursuits — and even design their own job!
Real women will like you for who you are, not what kind of job you have.
This includes my client Sam who says, “My boyfriend used to worry that I would drop him for the next suit on Wall Street. What he doesn’t know is that before we met, I purposely screened out all accounting guys on the online dating sites. I wanted to meet someone who worked with his hands, in a physically demanding job. I was done with all the office types who just wanted to get ahead and didn’t make time to have fun and commit to a relationship.”
Bottom line: When you do what you love, you shine. And nothing is more attractive than that.
3. Body image
Men worry about how they look compared to the ideal and how women will judge them for it. There seems to be a perception that the ideal man is tall, dark, and handsome with a 6-pack and a full head of hair.
Men worry if they have too much hair, too little, or all in the wrong places. Added to this, a pre-occupation with flab has prompted men to get plastic surgery in record numbers and not just celebrities.
Straight talk: Women don’t want a Ken doll. Some women like tall men; others like shorter men. Some like trim men; others like more men with meat on the bones. Some women prefer bald men while other women prefer more hair on their men.
If you’re 5’7″, you don’t have to date Nicole Kidman. “Some of my guy friends have been teased for having small man syndrome. I guess it’s a thing, but I’m 5 feet myself, so anyone taller would be a bonus!” declares Kim.
“I think Nabil worries that he’s not as buff as he once was. He avoids swimming as a result,” suspects Sue. “I wished he’d say so. Does he think I’m thrilled about my post-baby figure?”
Just imagine if Jack Black’s Shallow Hal didn’t learn the lesson of inner beauty and fall for Gwyneth Paltrow’s Rosemary!
Still, if you’re unhappy with how you feel in your body, do something about it: take a daily walk, take up a sport, eat better, or take a fitness class. And if your receding hairline is getting you down, keep your hair short or shave it all off!
Overall, what women want is a real man: one that is comfortable in his own skin, attractive in his own way, who is reasonably healthy, and who loves and cherishes his woman.
It’s like the Shania Twain song: “That Don’t Impress Me Much!”
Bottom line: Accept what you’ve got because attraction comes in all shapes and sizes. Anyone worthy of you will like you just the way you are.
Many men wonder if they are smart enough.
“I get nervous every time I have dinner at Jane’s parent’s house,” says Greg. Her parents are doctors, and her brother’s a lawyer – I just can’t compete with that. I end up being silent the entire night.”
Straight talk: There is book smart, and then there is life smart.
Women don’t care about the letters beside your name. Sorry to tell you MBAs, but Professor Richard Boyatzis has found that depending on the program, you might even have less emotional intelligence as a result of your degree.
And it is emotional intelligence — self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management, that is increasingly becoming a factor in relationships.
What’s essential in love is your ability to look into the mirror and see your self-worth. Then, it’s your willingness to grow as a person and in the relationship, along with her.
Bottom line: You were brilliant enough to pick her and that counts for a lot!
5. Their personality
Men worry about whether women will like them for who they are.
They wonder if they are confident enough, funny enough, charming enough, suave enough to get the girl — and keep her.
“Meeting girls at a bar is not what it’s cracked up to be,” admits Vlad. “All I am thinking about is whether I’ll get rejected.”
Despite getting a bad rap in popular culture, guys, you need to know that nerds are cool and super sexy.
Straight talk: Ditch your pickup lines.
Many girls grow up dreaming of marrying prince charming. But seriously, name one princess who was ever truly happy! Women want what’s real, not what’s imaginary. She’ll be more impressed by your life experiences and genuine nature that your made-up lines and image.
My prince charming is someone who puts me first, respects me, encourages me, celebrates my successes, and makes me feel beautiful inside and out. His charm is his humble and authentic personality.
It might take some time to find that one person who fits you, but when it happens, you’ll know it.
Bottom line: Be yourself and you can’t lose.
6. Their handyman skills and other “superpowers”
Men feel pressured to win, build, fix, and save the day. Fairytales depict a damsel in distress, only to be rescued by a man who will ultimately become her prince. Boys are brought up to believe that they must be invincible, physically fight off the villain or swoop down like Superman to save the girl from danger.
On a more practical level, they think they need to know their way around a toolbox. This means changing a car tire, fixing a clogged toilet, or figuring out why your furnace is making a clunking sound.
Men also think they need to do it all well to impress a woman. This means being the guy’s guy who can BBQ a mean steak, shoot baskets in his sleep, and program your computer.
Straight talk: It’s not the skill or superpower that matters; it’s the resourcefulness and the intent.
Girls do appreciate a little chivalry now and then. They’ll take you up on your offer for the last seat on the subway after a long day at work or to pick up chicken soup and Advil when they’re too sick to go out.
But, guys, you don’t have to be Tim the Toolman to score points. Your partner just wants you to listen to her than help her solve a problem.
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“That might be keeping up with your AAA membership to get out of a jam when the car breaks down and holding her hand as they come to jumpstart the car. Or it could mean keeping a Rolodex of reputable repairmen and arranging for the service,” says Helen, mom of three.
Bottom line: Find out what would really make your girl’s day and deliver more of it. Make her say, “I couldn’t live without you!”
7. Their sexual abilities
Men worry about performance and endurance.
Men seem to be pre-occupied by too little, too much, too fast, too slow, too small or too big. It’s as if somehow size is a measure of performance! Ease off on the porn; it’s really not what it seems to be. Instead, get out a medical journal, read up on the average endowment, and rest your mind easy.
As for the other markers of success, don’t make assumptions. Ask your lover about her favorite sexual experience with you, then repeat, repeat!
Straight talk: Women want an emotional connection. You don’t have to be a dynamo.
Sexual dysfunction can crop up at any age. If you have concerns, ask a doctor. Otherwise, be open to new ideas, and remember this golden rule: lots of physical and intellectual foreplay.
Most importantly, forge a secure attachment with your partner that grows when you share your innermost thoughts – and fears.
Bottom line: Get naked — figuratively as well as literally.
If you are suffering in silence, thinking you don’t measure up, you don’t need to! Rest assured, these typical male insecurities are mainly myths. Don’t let them hold you back from finding that special person or experiencing the relationship you’ve always wanted.
Get out of your head and into your heart! Awareness is the first step.
How men can deal with insecurities
So, now that you know you have these limiting beliefs, what else can you do to stop sabotaging yourself?
Admit your worries — to yourself, to a friend, or to a partner and realize that vulnerability is a strength.
Then, do the internal work that’s needed to overcome your anxieties. For example:
- Connect with yourself — your values, mission, vision, strengths, and develop a sincere appreciation for these.
- Let go of perfectionist tendencies. Perfection just doesn’t exist.
- Change what you can change; accept what you can’t.
- Stop comparing yourself to others. You are uniquely you.
- Enlist a therapist or coach to deepen your understanding and build your confidence.
- Trust what your partner says and does, not your imaginings. Don’t assume; always inquire.
- Instead of feeling insecure, ask yourself, “What would I rather feel?” Self-assured! Worthy! Secure!
Men, when you’ve changed your mindset, you will finally be free to experience a partnership fully.
Women, your guy needs to know what really matters to you in a partner and how much you appreciate him.
Finally, parents, teach your kids that kindness, authenticity, respect for individuality, emotional intelligence, and determination to accomplish your life’s goals are what count.
This will help to drive a culture where it is ok for men to share their self-doubts and in which they don’t have to live up to unnecessary ideals.
Lisa Petsinis is a certified life and career coach who is a frequent contributor to YourTango.