From Alpha Boy to Alpha Man

26 Jul

Alpha Boy to Alpha Man

Nick Clements

In the US the educational framework for our young people is based on the principles of competition and the fear of failure. It logically creates winners and losers. The system encourages our successful young men to become ‘Alpha Boys’. They sustain their success by becoming self obsessed, controlling and addicted to rivalry. Frequently, these young men are fast tracked to positions of inordinate responsibility and earn large sums of money. At the same time, many become stressed very early in life, often remain emotionally stunted, unable to form long term relationships, preferring to ‘dedicate’ themselves to their work. Let us remind ourselves, these are the winners!

The Alpha Boy is only doing what he thinks we want him to do. He is responding to the way he was parented, the pressure from his peers, and the messages (subtle and unsubtle) from the popular culture all around him. He is rightly seeking male role models and we are providing him with any number of superficial celebrities, sports stars, gang members, video game protagonists. These all point him towards the goal of continued success at any cost. 

We all know a wide range of entrepreneurs, business people, corporate leaders who have their foot hard on the accelerator and are unwilling to ease off. These men claim that taking the foot off the accelerator will be dangerous, will be an admission of failure, they are wrong. Taking the foot off is actually not as harmful as they believe, and is essential for a long and happy life. They need to realise there is more to life than superficial success. They need to experience the next stage in maturation as a man, and that is called ‘the wounding’. 

The wounding can manifest itself in many different ways in our lives:- being overlooked for promotion, being made redundant, losing a friend, losing status, becoming a parent, it is a very personal process. The true test of a man is how he reacts to disappointment, failure. How he deals with his emotions, and how he acknowledges his diminishment. Not how he deals with success. He needs to face these disappointments, not hide from them. The mature hero, The Alpha Wolf, then emerges: 

  • When he makes mistakes, when he is not successful.
  • When he absorbs and acknowledges his vulnerability. 
  • When he admits he needs help, he doesn’t know all the answers. 
  • When he is comfortable with his loss of control. 

These are the lessons the man has to now learn, these are the role models he now needs to seek, this is how he can become a mature man.

It goes against our nurturing instincts to stand by and say diminishment and disappointment will be good for you, but they are. They create a much more realistic, whole and three dimensional man. Failure moulds us, it actually helps us take our rightful place in society, not a false position. It enables men to take responsibility for their actions. Most importantly, such admissions decrease stress and amazingly increase happiness.

The Alpha Boy is taught at an early age to be obsessed by the material world. The Alpha Wolf adds spirituality and compassion to his life skills, he sees the bigger picture. A direct consequence of this is his increased ability to forge mature loving relationships with women, and now he is able to see men as friends not rivals. 

These are the role models we need to be promoting in the popular press and media. 

This is how we need men to be portrayed in films and books. 

These are the types of conversations we need to be having with our sons. 

We need to signpost our boys as to how to become emotionally intelligent. We need to encourage men to see the benefits of such vulnerabilities, rather than see them as admissions of weakness. This is not a simple or easy path. However, this is essential work for boys and men, and it’s undertaking will be of value to girls and women too.

Nick Clements in a workshop leader and inspirational speaker, who has recently completed a trilogy of books on male spirituality and rites of passage. He writes a highly influential weekly blog on masculinity at



His latest novel, ‘The Alpha Wolf, A Tale About The Modern Male’ is available from Amazon and all good book stores.

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