How Justin Baldoni Is Helping Men Connect



The lads usually are not alright. Across the nation, males are hurting—and all of the extra as a result of they usually received’t admit it. Propped up by the idealization of the “male breadwinner1” all through historical past, a lot of society nonetheless glorifies the concept of “a person’s man” (i.e., rugged, stoic, aggressive, dominant), main 8 in 10 males to really feel strain to “be emotionally robust,” in accordance with a 2017 Pew Research Study2. Whereas subscribing to this idea of male toughness has been proven to place males at risk for poor mental health3, it’s additionally the very factor keeping them from reaching out4 for assist, whereas additionally reducing their likelihood5 of getting any shut confidants. 

It’s no surprise, then, that male isolation has change into its personal microcosm throughout the bigger loneliness disaster. How can any man be anticipated to type real connections in a tradition that’s rewarded—if not demanded—male self-reliance?

In fact, we received’t fake that males aren’t nonetheless thriving from a societal perspective. Males—particularly white, heterosexual, cis-gendered males—nonetheless make the vast majority of the choices on this nation. Of the 116 supreme court docket justices we’ve had in america, all but eight have been white men. White males fill 90 percent of C-suite roles6. Even throughout the latest awards season, men made up 68 percent of the total Oscar nominees7 (the bottom it’s ever been for the reason that inception of the Academy Awards). With so many males on the helm of society, one can’t assist however suppose: What would the world appear like in the event that they had been allowed—and realized how—to really feel a little bit extra?

Fortunately, the outdated adage, “You’re by no means too outdated to study one thing new” rings true as we watch the cultural dialog shift round masculinity. Up to now decade alone, we’ve seen the rise of “well being masculinities” applications, like The ManKind Project and Rethink Masculinity (each designed to assist males embrace stereotypically “female” qualities, like vulnerability and self-reflection), together with men’s retreats like Evryman and Sacred Sons (every centered on instructing males to search out wholesome retailers for his or her feelings and construct neighborhood with different males).

Even male celebrities have joined the dialogue. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Pete Davidson, and Elton John have all come ahead in recent times to share their battles with psychological sickness, serving to dismantle the concept it’s “unmanly” to wrestle along with your psychological well being. Others, like Benedict Cumberbatch and Paul Mescal, have rethought their very own masculinity expression and have known as on others to do the identical.

Among the many loudest voices on that checklist is that of 40-year-old filmmaker, producer, actor, activist, husband, and father of two, Justin Baldoni. Whereas Baldoni is likely to be most generally recognized for his roles as Rafael Solano in Jane the Virgin or Ryle Kincaid within the upcoming 2024 movie adaptation of It Ends With Us, he’s additionally constructed a public presence distinct from—and but, intrinsically linked to—his suave interpretations of male characters. 

What would the world appear like in the event that they had been allowed—and realized how—to really feel a little bit extra?

In 2017, Baldoni launched a TEDx Speak titled “Why I’m done being ‘man’ enough,” describing his wrestle with reconciling the historically masculine characters he’d performed on display screen with the person he felt he actually was. Within the years since, he’s made it his mission to personally unlearn—after which publicly dismantle—the masculine beliefs which have saved him from true connection.

In 2021, Baldoni printed his memoir Man Enough: Undefining My Masculinity and launched The Man Enough Podcast shortly after, each exploring what “being man sufficient” would possibly appear like if we divorced masculinity from its foundation of toughness and self-reliance. And in 2022, Baldoni printed the guidebook Boys Will Be Human to assist younger males higher get in contact with and specific their feelings—a core ability he thinks is important to deconstruct masculine norms and diminish male loneliness alongside the way in which.

Difficult the normal male function

Baldoni first started reckoning together with his personal expression of masculinity when he realized that the person he usually portrayed on display screen—the emotionally empty playboy—wasn’t to date off from the machismo man he’d lengthy been embodying in his actual life. As a baby, Baldoni’s seemingly conflicting passions of theater and sports activities made him a goal of bullying in school. To slot in, Baldoni says he realized to suppress any features of his persona that could possibly be seen as “female” by different children. “I started to resent my dad for not instructing me stereotypically masculine expertise, like woodworking, searching, and combating,” he says.

Baldoni’s father—an Italian film marketer—didn’t match the hyper-masculine mildew both; he was softer, extra emotional, and extra inventive than the opposite males of their small Oregon hometown, says Baldoni. However his dad did embody a unique trope of conventional masculinity: the breadwinner. He shouldered the monetary burden of offering for his household and adopted an identical emotional mindset. “He took it on himself to repair the whole lot and maintain all people,” says Baldoni, “and his price was tied up in whether or not he was in a position to present for everyone else.”

“We’d like [to be able to] specific the power and feelings that come from having testosterone, and the answer just isn’t going to be to only push all of it down.”

— Justin Baldoni

It was this specific function that Baldoni, like so many different males, would later forged himself in as nicely: the only supplier for his household who sacrificed—and suffered—in secret. There’s no time to your emotions, says Baldoni, when everyone seems to be relying on you, “which is why males usually don’t even have the emotional capability to achieve out to a buddy and say, ‘I’m hurting,’ or ‘I’m struggling,’ or ‘I’m exhausted.’” To take action would additionally require some stage of vulnerability and earnest self-reflection—two strikes in opposition to conventional masculinity.

It’s no surprise, then, that males’s social circles are shrinking. Whereas 30 years in the past, 55 % of males reported8 having at the least six shut mates, solely 27 % said the same9 in 2021. And even for the boys who do discover themselves within the 27 %, it is unclear how open and trustworthy they’re actually being with each other. “They’re in all probability not six mates whom you’ll be able to name and be susceptible with,” says Baldoni. “That’s in all probability only one, should you’re fortunate.” 

It wasn’t till Baldoni was combating a private concern a couple of years again that he realized he, too, was afraid of vulnerability—a lot in order that he wrestled for days with the best way to ask his mates for the assist he desperately wanted. However when he lastly did, his perspective modified. As he shared in his TEDx Speak: “As quickly as I discovered the energy and the braveness to share my disgrace, it was gone.” To Baldoni’s shock, his mates didn’t choose him for being weak or insecure; they opened up about their very own struggles and linked over frequent floor. By the tip of their discuss, they discovered themselves validating each other and providing useful recommendation.

Such a seemingly impartial expertise—asking your mates for assist—ceaselessly modified Baldoni’s view of what masculinity might imply. It had been ingrained in him that males are predisposed to be in competitors with each other, and that males needs to be “man sufficient” to take care of life’s trials on their very own. However being susceptible together with his mates didn’t make Baldoni really feel any “lesser than.” Reasonably, it made him really feel extra in contact with himself and his mates, who took his honesty as permission to get susceptible too. Baldoni realized if he might speak in confidence to a good broader viewers of males, maybe they, too, might change their method to manhood for the higher.

Sharing the brand new scripts for masculinity

Over the previous a number of years, Baldoni has taken to his Instagram account, serving to to create a susceptible house by instance—one thing more and more uncommon on this planet of social media facades. He has shared what the messy facet of his non secular therapeutic seems to be like (tears included) and opened up concerning the connection between his bodily and emotional ache. He’s additionally chronicled his extra enjoyable adventures in tending to his well-being, like the time he and The Workplace actor Rainn Wilson frolicked in a sauna and did chilly plunges collectively whereas donning Viking hats (and, uh, not a lot else). With greater than three million followers, Baldoni hopes that his acts of vulnerability “will encourage and provides different males a protected house to do the identical.”

On his podcast, Baldoni additionally hosts candid discussions concerning the male expertise, notably the matters that defy or problem conventional tropes of masculinity, like male body-image issues, men’s sexploitation of women, and how men can learn to be emotional with other men. Alongside his co-hosts, Baldoni has posed the query, “What does it imply to be man sufficient?” to particular company like rapper Jidenna (who credited OutKast’s Andre 3000 for instructing him the best way to develop his personal taste of masculinity), and Jackass alum Steve-O, who used the podcast as a chance to get susceptible about his concern of growing old. 

In beginning these conversations, Baldoni goals to encourage different males to query whether or not their pursuit of masculinity is likely to be hurting them—and whether or not they would possibly profit from embracing the “female” qualities they’ve been ignoring. In his TEDx Speak, Baldoni challenged males to not view their acceptance of the “female”—of vulnerability, sensitivity, and tenderness—as a rejection or a weakening of their masculinity, however relatively as a reimagining of it. 

“I problem you to see if you should utilize the identical qualities that you just suppose make you a person to go deeper into your self: your energy, your bravery, your toughness,” he mentioned. “Are you courageous sufficient to be susceptible, to achieve out to a different man if you need assistance? Are you assured sufficient to take heed to ladies—and really consider them?”

Male isolation has change into its personal microcosm throughout the bigger loneliness disaster.

Motivating males to acknowledge and embrace their “softer” traits is what Baldoni believes will assist them foster the real connections they’ve so desperately been lacking. And his personal interactions with males are proof: Within the seven years since going public together with his masculinity revamp, Baldoni says he’s been in a position to join with numerous male followers and podcast listeners on related journeys, thus creating his personal rising neighborhood of recent males.

The need for such male-focused communities is catching on, says Baldoni. “[More] males are realizing we want assist, we want connection, we want neighborhood, and we want the sense of primal tribal relation,” he says. “We’d like [to be able to] specific the power and feelings that come from having testosterone, and the answer just isn’t going to be to only push all of it down.”

Elevating a unique sort of robust male lead

For Baldoni, embracing a life past the confines of machismo has allowed him to get pleasure from all the features of who he’s as a human being. “I like that in a single second, I can go be the shadow of a punching bag, after which in one other second, be capable of maintain my spouse as she’s in tears after a tough day, or be a mild pillow for my daughter, Maiya, who wants her daddy,” he says.

Elevating his eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son together with his spouse Emily has additionally given Baldoni the prospect to interrupt a generational cycle of male isolation in his household. He and Emily work to actively assist their children’ pursuits, no matter whether or not they fall consistent with societal norms for his or her respective gender identities. Baldoni additionally impresses upon his children a theme that comes up usually on his podcast: Your price as an individual is innate; it can’t be taken away, and it isn’t tied to any specific expression of masculinity or femininity.

Changing into a mum or dad has additionally given Baldoni perception into how future generations would possibly depart behind dangerous gender stereotypes, together with the self-reliant mentality he as soon as inherited. “It is about creating well-rounded people which have a wholesome sense of masculine and a wholesome sense of female, and that may solely come from them having a wholesome sense of self,” he says.

Baldoni makes it clear that his purpose isn’t to do away with masculinity, however relatively to dismantle all of the features of it that take males away from who they really are. Actually, he truly agrees with the frequent sentiment that the world wants robust males: “We simply want to vary our definition of robust first,” he says. In Baldoni’s preferrred world, males received’t must be “robust sufficient” to do the whole lot by themselves—as a result of males will probably be robust sufficient to ask for assist as an alternative.

Nicely+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, latest, strong research to again up the data we share. You’ll be able to belief us alongside your wellness journey.

  1. Sear, Rebecca. “The male breadwinner nuclear household just isn’t the ‘conventional’ human household, and promotion of this delusion might have hostile well being penalties.” Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Sequence B, Organic sciences vol. 376,1827 (2021): 20200020. doi:10.1098/rstb.2020.0020

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  3. Wong, Y Joel et al. “Meta-analyses of the connection between conformity to masculine norms and psychological health-related outcomes.” Journal of counseling psychology vol. 64,1 (2017): 80-93. doi:10.1037/cou0000176

  4. Sileo, Katelyn M, and Hint S Kershaw. “Dimensions of Masculine Norms, Melancholy, and Psychological Well being Service Utilization: Outcomes From a Potential Cohort Examine Amongst Rising Grownup Males in america.” American journal of males’s well being vol. 14,1 (2020): 1557988320906980. doi:10.1177/1557988320906980

  5. Campos-Castillo, C., shuster, s.m., Groh, S.M. et al. Warning: Hegemonic Masculinity Might Not Matter as A lot as You Assume for Confidant Patterns amongst Older Males. Intercourse Roles 83, 609–621 (2020).

  6. 2023 Volatility Report of America’s Main Firms. Crist|Kolder Associates, January 2024.

  7. Academy Awards 2024 Gender General. USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, March 2024.

  8. Survey Middle on American Life. Might 2021 American Views Survey. Might 2021.

  9. Survey Middle on American Life. Might 2021 American Views Survey. Might 2021.


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