Book Review: Man Enough- Undefining my Masculinity by Justin Baldoni

I read a lot of books and every so often, a truly fantastic one finds me and rocks my world. Man Enough: Undefining my Masculinity by Justin Baldoni is one of those books.

What is this book about?

Let’s start with the author’s rationale for writing the book:

“I need this book to heal from those formative years where the other boys first taught me; scratch that, ENFORCED the rules of masculinity and handed me my first script that told me what was ok, what was not ok, and set the rules for how I must become a man.”

This book doesn’t fit neatly into the category of memoir or self-help book; rather, it’s a hybrid of the two genres.

In Man Enough, Baldoni addresses a struggle that all men face from time to time: feeling inadequate. He does this by discussing key elements of manhood and by confronting elements of toxic masculinity. Chapter subjects include:

  • Bravery
  • Body image
  • Intelligence
  • Confidence
  • Privilege
  • Success
  • Intimacy
  • Relationships
  • Fatherhood.

“There are serious issues that men are facing that frankly, just arent talked about enough: from addictions like opioids, porn, and alcohol to depression and suicide. And there are also serious issues that men at much higher rates than women are causing: from violence to sexual assault and rape; and when it comes to white men in particular, mass shootings and serial murders.”

Insights Gained

One of the things that made this book so refreshing was Baldoni was authentic and vulnerable throughout, normalizing the experience of being a sensitive man learning to embrace the full range of emotions. He bravely tackles topics that I don’t hear a lot of men talk about (and I’m a therapist!) such as the pitfalls of pornography as well as sexual assault that happens to men.

I loved the chapter on body image, as I am currently on a mission to lose the quarantine 15… and the new daddy 15!

“My confidence and energy; for as long as I can remember, has been linked to the way I feel about my body and the way I perceive how the world sees me.”

When I read those words, I felt understood. I’ve written previously about my own body image challenges, so hearing the author be forthcoming about his challenges with pandemic weight gain and body dysmorphia was validating for me.

“A cut is a cut. And even if it’s tiny, everyone knows a paper cut can be as painful or even more so than a larger wound. These paper cuts have done far more damage than I’d ever allowed myself to realize. Over time, they have compounded into a secret and unhealthy relationship with my own body that has been rooted in proving that my body was good, strong, or big enough.”

I also appreciate that Baldoni acknowledges two types of privilege in writing his book: white privilege and male privilege.

“White privilege is not a free pass by any means. At the same time, I can no longer ignore that, overarchingly, white people are not oppressed in the same way that Black people are. We are not judged, pulled over, enslaved, imprisoned, or killed in the same way. […] There is part of me that feels ashamed that it has taken me as long as it has to intersect my journey with mascuinity and male privilege to white privilege and racism. And then there is part of me that reminds myself that shame is an invitation to lean in, not to run away from or repress.”

Finally, the author does a great job connecting the pitfalls of toxic masculinity to mental health; more specifically, discussing the depression, isolation, and even suicide that results from society’s messages that men are not supposed to have feelings.

Noteworthy Quotes

  • “Regardless of the issue, I don’t believe there is anything more “masculine” than a man who is willing to stare his shame in the face and seek out and receive help.”
  • “As men we are socialized to believe that feeling at all is a sign of weakness and that the only socially acceptable feeling we are permitted to feel is anger or rage. But if we actually stop to think about why many of us lose our shit, or break in moments when we should have the power to keep our cool, especially with the ones we love the most, we will realize that it’s only because we haven’t given ourselves the space or the time to actually feel what’s underneath it all. And what’s underneath the anger is often some form of sadness, anxiety, or if we’re being honest, a feeling of inadequacy.”
  • “We must stop punishing ourselves and other men for having momentary bouts of feeling directionless. The policing and pressure that mount on a man when he doesn’t have direction or purpose can be debilitating to his mental and physical wellbeing.”

Conclusion

In the week I’ve spent reading this book, I’ve found myself recommending it to several of my male clients because it’s just that relevant. I highly recommend checking out Man Enough: Undefining my Masculinity by Justin Baldoni.

Thanks for reading!

Be sure to sign up for my email list, as I’ll be doing a summer book club of sorts on my podcast starting in June!

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One thought on “Book Review: Man Enough- Undefining my Masculinity by Justin Baldoni”

  1. Ashley says:

    Sounds like an important book to have out there in the world.

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