Why Alpha Males Are Bullshit
The other night at the bar I witnessed something I’ve seen variations of virtually every night I’ve ever worked for my whole career. It went like this:
A guy approaches the bar wearing a t-shirt with an exotic sports car logo, a ball cap with a high-end clothing brand logo, a large bejeweled watch (which if the gems were real, would have easily been worth a quarter million dollars, but they were obviously just glass bobbles), a thick gold chain necklace, and several gold rings. He ordered a round of expensive tequila, (the kind that really should be sipped and enjoyed) as shots for his friends, totaling nearly $200. To pay, he pulls out a stack of credit cards nearly an inch thick, sorts through them and hands me one.
The card declined. He insisted I try it again (I always try three times before handing a card back to a guest, but I did it anyway.) It declined again. He sorts through the stack again, and hands me a second card. It also declines. This continued through a total of four cards before one of his friends, frustrated with the whole humiliating interaction, handed me a his card to pay the tab, giving his over-extended buddy a stern look, but saying nothing else to him.
This is what it looks like when someone tries to be an Alpha Male.
What is an “Alpha Male”?
Somewhere along the line, men learned that human beings were social animals, and began looking to other animals for clues about how to behave in order to get what they want out of life. The idea of an “Alpha Male” comes from an over simplified understanding of the hierarchy of wolf packs and gorilla bands and other pack animals. I say over simplified because the various rolls of males and females in social groups is more complex than a linear progression, even in less complex animals and the concept of “alphas” in social groups of any species has been widely abandoned by science. However, this idea has a great deal of support among pick-up-artists (PUA) and other “bro science” sub-cultures.
The basic theory is this: If you want to have all the good things in life – money, status, women, etc. – you have to be an Alpha Male, and alphas are leaders, the don’t take shit, they don’t take “no” for an answer, they do whatever it takes to win, they are aggressive, intimidating and in charge all the time. In other words, Alpha Males are “real men” whatever that outdated macho standard means to you. Further, the theory goes that if you aren’t naturally an Alpha Male, you can learn to become one by copying certain behaviors, the “fake it till you make it” approach.
Based on the zoological origins of the theory, its often pointed out that the alpha of any animal group will aggressively intimidate and attack lower males in order to maintain his dominance, and for doing so he gets the pick of females, the pick of the best food, the best sleeping places, etc. Again, this is based on a total lack of understanding of the social dynamics of any species and is complete based on cherry-picked snippets of wild life videos.
In life, its easy to spot these guys. They are like peacocks strutting around, chest out, arms bulging, bling and labels on display, making sure everyone around them knows he’s a winner, a success, the big man on campus. He’ll tell you how he’s an entrepreneur, or about all the girls he’s banged, or how much he spent on his new car, etc. No matter what’s going on, he wants to make sure you know who he is and that’s he’s a real man.
Truly Dominant Men
All of that posturing is born out of insecurity. Those so called Alpha Males have an under developed sense of self, and they need outside approval to validate then. They collect things – titles, possessions, sexual conquests – like checking boxes on a to-do list, hoping that someday they’re have enough checked that they will feel complete.
Hint: It never works.
Alpha Male wanna-be’s are obsessed with strength and power, whether its physical or emotional, they constantly see themselves as in competition and are absolutely terrified of ever seeming “weak.” And to a man, none of them seem to grasp the concept of vulnerability as strength, so let me illustrate the idea in a way I think an would-be Alpha Male might understand.
Two warriors approach each other prepared to do combat. Think knights or samurai warriors. Each has spent their entire lives honing their skills becoming the best they can be. They face off a few yard apart, sizing each other up.
Then, one warrior sheaths his sword, and unbuckles his armor. Piece by piece he lets the plates fall to the ground until stands naked and unarmed before the other and states, “Now I am ready to fight.” He does not shake in fear, his face is calm and emotionless, he is so sure of himself and his ability to defeat the other that he does not even need armor or weapons.
Which is the truly dominant warrior?
An Alpha Male, always boasting and posturing and intimidating others is wearing armor, he is terrified of facing challenge without it. A man truly possessed of himself does not need armor. To be vulnerable, to show emotion, express pain and doubt, and yet have the will and self discipline to carry on anyway is the mark of true masculinity. To be masculine is to be master of yourself, not a master of others.
Humans seem ill equipped to survive in the wild compared to virtually all other animals, yet we are the apex species on the planet. To fully utilize the intelligence and creativity we posses which made us the dominant species, we had to develop a will and self-control, a sense of confidence that in spite of all we lacked – fangs, fur, claws, speed, strength, etc. – we would perceiver.
The Alpha Male mindset is highly focused on women. In a way, this makes sense, because masculinity is drawn to femininity, and vice versa. One of the excuses Alpha Males use for their behavior is the idea that women want a man who can protect them, so they strut around with puffed chests and talking tough, staring down any guy they think might be eyeing “their woman.” And that right there shows the problem – women as prizes and property.
To these guys, everything is a prize to be won, including women. Everything is a trophy to be displayed, a way of proving their value. To them other people are either of use in proving their own dominance and worth, tools for gain more status and material gains, or obstacles in the way to gaining status. Everything is a competition to them.
It is true that a man possessed of true masculinity is highly attractive to women, and therefor has his virtual pick if he chooses. But being masculine in order to get women is putting the cart before the horse. Appreciation by and from women is a byproduct of masculinity, not the goal. Woman want to feel safe, not just from the outside world, but from the man she is with, and a man with a fragile ego, as all Alpha Males inherently have, is not ultimately safe, he’s a powder keg waiting to explode – possible at her.
Another obvious trait of the Alpha Male is his inability to keep cool under pressure. He may have honed his skills in one area of life such that he is unflappable in that realm, but invariably there are areas on life where a failure to get what he wants causes radical and out of proportional responses. The typical scenario is when a woman refuses his advances and he begins insulting her, or someone accidentally bumps into him and he tries to pick a fight over it.
Evolution made men bigger and stronger, in general, than women. In ancient times this served the purpose of providing protection from wild animals and the ability to hunt for food. The idea that ancient men competed for the women of the tribe is probably false. Much anthropological research suggests ancient man was polyamorous, just as all primates are. Some tribes today still exist that practice polyamory and view monogamy as selfish and perverted. Thus, the possessive male would be a problem, not an ideal. Ancient man, the type of men we are still genetically programed to be, didn’t seek to possess women, women wanted him because he was valued as member of the tribe, he didn’t need to be the leader, simply a good member of the community.
The reason men are bigger and stronger is to be of service to the tribe, his community, in general. That is what a masculine man does. He does not set out to gain things for himself, he gains things as a result of being useful. Just as you get paid for doing a job, and the better you are, the more you are paid (ideally, at least), the more you are of value to your community – be that work, friends, your sports team, society in general – the more attractive you are to women, regardless of your wealth and without having to be an intimidating asshole.
A Man Has A Purpose
Not every man’s purpose is to be a hunter or warrior, but every man does have a purpose. Consider the characteristics of a group of ancient hunters. They would have to be strong and fit, courageous, but also aggressive and competitive, very much like today’s professional athletes. But if the entire tribe consisted of only this type of man, it would quickly devolve into a chaos. The tribe also needed thoughtful planners and leaders, skilled craftsmen to create tools and weapons, spiritual leaders or shamans. The social dynamics were far more complex that just a pack of guys who hunted all the time.
By discovering his purpose, and directing his efforts toward fulfilling that purpose, a truly masculine man gains the respect and appreciation of not just women, but everyone around him, and in so doing earns the material things that go with that.
A man serves others, not himself. He possesses himself, not others.
Our culture has lost its understanding of what it means to be masculine, though at a base level, in our guts and in our DNA we still recognize it when we see it, even if its fleeting. The focus of my coaching practice is to help men find their own true masculinity, their purpose in life, and their own way of expressing who they are. If you’d like a free consultation, please visit my website RevelCraftLifeCoaching.com
Also, check out my podcast, Slap The Basil on Anchor.fm, or your favorite pod cast service.
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