A Young Man’s Self-Image: Why it is Alarming and How it Will Be Changed

Growing up in America in the last five decades has proven to be extremely dangerous to boys and young men. One has only to consider the endless diet of harmful Hollywood nonsense that is ever present to young people. Unfortunately, our society has become very hostile toward boys and young men. A lifetime of Hollywood productions, music lyrics, news programs, liberal education, pornography, and video games has taught young men that they are the problem rather than the solution. As is accepted and often repeated, the most dangerous animal on the planet is the adolescent male. A young man growing up is continuously and often subliminally taught by those in his own neighborhood that he is lazy, stupid, prone to violence, inept, lacking ambition, and completely given over to a troubling and grotesque thirst for sex.


What goes through the mind of a young man when he first arrives on a college campus and is required to attend a conference on “sexual consent” or “date rape”? Or recall the great achievement of the Obama administration that allowed a young person to remain on his parents’ health insurance until the age of twenty-six. That is success? On the contrary, economic liberty and parental independence should manifest themselves much earlier than the age of twenty-six. Even families ordered to the growth and development of their children cannot prevent their sons from hearing these denunciations of themselves and their male peers. They even hear these denunciations in the classroom. Under the term “patriarchy,” which is always used pejoratively, boys are taught that women have been oppressed for centuries as the result of the success of men and the contributions they have made to society. Consequently, young men are pushed aside and deliberately neglected in order that social engineers might achieve an artificial restructuring of the social order.

Men, including the young, have complained for decades that the modern world has pressured them to conform to unnatural norms, to be socially domesticated, and to forgo any semblance of an authentic masculine identity. By “authentic masculine identity,” I do not mean a version of man typified by sitting on a couch, drinking beer, eating pork rinds, and watching television. Men need to believe in themselves and strive to reach their higher selves.

Whether boys and men choose to resist or conform to an authentic masculine norm will determine whether they live happily or in loneliness, anxiety, and pain.


The Scriptures tell us that…

all men are undeniably endowed by God with significant personal power. In the objective world of nature, that cannot be denied. Evolution has manipulated man’s body to be a machine for the defense and care of his family; his body certainly bespeaks the condition of a warrior and a provider. Even more, men who are husbands and fathers have an enormous influence over the emotional and psychological well-being of their wives and families. Men are natural-born leaders, builders, and dreamers. Ultimately, men are generative. A man should celebrate and respect all of this. Man is given the freedom to choose the type of man he will be and what he will do with the power he has been given. It would be wrong, in the spiritual realm, for a man to lay claim to this power exclusively for his own benefit; after all, he is but a custodian of this power, “for there is no authority except from God” (Rom. 13:1). But God has given man, from Adam to modern man, the freedom to choose the type of custodian he will be.


I invite you to sit with a young man and allow him to share with you his innermost thoughts, feelings, anxieties, and motivations. If you are patient and eager to listen, you will discover in him, without any exception, a good man who very much desires to be better.

This article is adapted from a chapter in The Mentor’s Handbook by Fr. Peter Michael Henry which is available from Sophia Institute Press

Art for this post on man’s self-image: Cover used with permission; Featured image: Photography used with permission of Annie Niemaszyk.


To read more about how we can remedy man’s impoverished self-image, click HERE.


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