This article on why masculinity fails men is interesting. I agree with a lot of it, but I also think it’s not entirely a gender/masculinity issue – more that society is generally conditioned to act as if everything is a competitive scenario.
By this I mean that our day-to-day interactions are coloured by the idea that each must involve a “winner” and a “loser”. That’s a bit difficult to map to reality, in which the gamut is vastly greater including resolutions of mutual benefit, mutual loss and general indeterminacy. (If it rained today, a situation I had no control over, did I win or lose?)
This leads to people trying to create competition where there is none; anybody who’s walked in London will have encountered the pedestrian who’s determined that everyone must be forced to move out of their way, even if this entails zigzagging across the pavement to force that conflict. Related is the station stairwell conundrum, where many people will jostle to gain position in the inevitable queue (a situation with a clear winner and loser) but almost none will take that same place in the queue if it’s openly offered to them. What kind of ambiguous situation are you trying to trick me with here?
The thing is that just as hyperfocus on masculinity affects a guy’s ability to be a happy, confident and complete man, obsessing about the little battles affects one’s ability to win the big ones over quality of life and good social relationships. We all know at least one unlikeable, constantly stressed person who’s that way because they’re always picking and winning small fights, right?
(Thoughts for another day: why is society this way? Who perpetuates it? Who benefits?)