Elizabeth Entenman
August 25, 2017 5:59 pm
Dia Dipasupil / Getty

What does it mean to “be a man” in 2017? Everywhere we look, there are narrow stereotypes of what it means to be masculine. Harmful examples of toxic masculinity abound. Traditionally, men are tough. They never show weakness. And they certainly never ask for help. But in reality, these stereotypes often hold men back from being their truest, best selves.

How can young men avoid the pressures to conform to one singular definition of masculinity?

John Legend has some ideas. At a recent round table discussion about inclusive masculinity, he opened up about his own journey through adolescence and learning to be his most authentic self.

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

The panel was part of AXE’s Find Your Magic initiative. It also included masculinity expert Carlos Andrés Gómez, LGBTQ advocate Hunter Klugkist, and a current high school sophomore.

For Legend, music was a huge influence in helping him be confident in who he was at a young age.

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

He also said that his dad set a great example of what it meant to “be a man,” so to speak. When Legend was a kid, his father held a traditionally masculine job working in a factory. We know that jobs aren’t gendered, but our culture still tends to cling onto assigned stereotypes. At home, Legend’s dad pursued creative interests — like playing music, painting, and carving — and encouraged his children to do the same. A job does not define your identity.

As part of the Find Your Magic initiative, Legend works to expand the definition of masculinity to be more inclusive.

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

Legend agreed, emphasizing that there’s no one strict way to define masculinity.

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

The 15-year-old high school student opened up about his experiences with bullies. Then, he thanked Legend for setting a broader example of what it means to be a man.

Dia Dipasupil / Getty

Legend is glad he can be a role model and advocate for young men everywhere.

Legend’s words are so profound and insightful. We thank him for breaking cycles of toxic masculinity and championing a more inclusive idea of what it means to be a man.