Am I an Omega Male?

When your life is in transition, major transition in my case, it only stands to reason that you’d engage in some serious self-examination and self-reflection, asking yourself some hard questions.

So today I’m asking myself the question: Am I an Omega Male?

What is an Omega Male, you ask? A most appropriate and excellent question. For an answer let us turn our attention to slate.com, which has an entire article on the subject.

The short definition is that an Omega man “is having trouble being a man,” like the Ben Still character in the Noah Baumbach film Greenberg.

The Omega male ranks below the Alpha male who wants to dominate and the Beta male who just wants to get by. Omega man has opted out or given up.

This idea is not a new one. Susan Faludi addressed it in her book Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Male in 1999, which the slate.com article references. But with the recession it is apparently this trend is becoming even more, well, trendy…

The article holds up Don Draper and character from Tom Hanks war films as examples of the Masculine Ideal.

The article goes on to define subcategories of the Omega male. If I am one of these types, it is most likely the Liberal Arts Layabout, whom “…are usually failed artists of some sort, often surrounded by more successful friends and relatives.”  With my MFA in Creative Writing and not a damn thing to show for it plus the fact that I’m underemployed and underpaid, working a library job that one only needs a  high school education to do, it’s difficult to refute the comparison.

I’m  not really refuting the comparison.In fact, I pretty much accept it, not with any pride but hopefully not with complete resignation either. The question now is can I do anything to change my status. I know I’ll never be an Alpha male, I just don’t have it in me, unless I’m playing dodge ball then I’ll kill your ass, make you eat gymnasium floor buddy. But I could at least bump up to Beta male, that would be something. Don’t you think?

Of course, one has to wonder: is an Omega male up to such a change? Or is he, by his very nature, incapable of this sort of positive change?

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24 responses to “Am I an Omega Male?

  1. Pingback: Generation X and divorce « junkdrawer67

  2. Some of it might simply be personality differences. Not all men are aggressively success-oriented.

    In terms of Myers-Briggs, most men are Thinking types and so men that are Feeling types are less typical. Our culture idealizes Thinking type men. Also, Perceiving types are more accepting of having an open-ended lifestyle which can apply to their careers as well.

    A number of typology theorists have pointed out that our culture idealizes ESTJs. I’m a male INFP and so I understand the conflict between social expectations and my own personality.

    Maybe you’re not living up to your potential, but then again most people aren’t. Potential is endless. The question is what are your own standards, your own aspirations based on your own sense of self.

  3. Well, I suppose I fall into that category of not being aggressively success-oriented. I got nothing against success but the pursuit of for it’s own sake often strikes me a hollow endeavor. Of course, if I’ve never really done it then how would I know. And I suppose in the end we all need something to do with our time.

    I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs assessment thingy but for the life of me can’t remember the results. That was a long time ago during my first round of community college.

    As far as not living up to my potential, I go back and forth on it. Sometimes, when vow to be more driven I can’t help but wonder if I’m doing it to satisfy some other’s expectations of vision of me.

    On the other hand, more money and esteem would be nice.

    • I’m very biased in the anti-success direction. By society’s standards, I’m not exactly an utter failure but certainly not a paragon of success. I don’t strive for success and do a pretty good job of avoiding it.

      I think I’d actually dislike being successful on anyone’s terms other than my own. I do what I enjoy. My life would be easier and I’d fit in better with normal society if I was more success-oriented, but it’s just not the way I am and I have little desire to force myself to be otherwise.

      It might be interesting to you to learn what you test as. When I discovered an INFP forum, it was an amazing experience. Even within a type people are different, but the similarities of attitude were mind-blowing. Having talked with many INFPs, I know they have a very idiosyncratic notion of success.

      Your post reminds me of a book by David Deida. A friend highly recommended his book The Way of the Superior Man. After finishing it, I realized I wasn’t a superior man or even that manly in general. Deida, however, did explain that masculinity isn’t a trait exclusive to males. So, he was talking more about this psychological trait than about what someone finds when they lift up your tail.

      I personally think it’s unfair to call a non-gendered trait by a gender label. In terms of MBTI, just because 60-70% of men are Thinking types doesn’t mean the 30-40% of Feeling type men are somehow less manly. People too often want to generalize and make judgments based on those generalizations, but sometimes differences are just differences.

      As for self-esteem, psychologists would say it’s best to embrace your own nature rather than strive to be like others. Or, as Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your Bliss.” That is the tricky part, though. Many people (INFPs in particular) spend their whole lives trying to discover who they are and what they love. As a representative of INFPs, I’ll always argue that this isn’t necessarily a problem because life is about the process and not the conclusion… the only conclusion life offers is death.

      • I never used to concern myself too much with other peoples’ definition of success for me. In fact, it was often a point of pride to buck any such notion. I mean, I fought against my father’s notion that I should be an engineer to major not only in English but creative writing.

        When I first decided that I wanted to be a writer, a fiction specifically, I had this image of myself of my generation’s Hemingway or something like that. But over time I found myself lowering my expectations, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. Nothing wrong with being realistic. Also, I wasn’t giving up on writing, I just cast of this notion that I had to “a great writer” or whatever.

        But perhaps I took it too far, lowering my expectations of myself to such a degree that I expected little if anything at all.

        All I know is that I feel much more self-conscious about my success, or lack there of. FYI: I don’t consider myself to be a success. If I was a “working writing” or published to some degree I might, depending, but that, unfortunately, is not the case.

        And so now I find myself not trusting my instincts and decisions about my life. Not just career-wise but personally as well. I just don’t have a whole lot of faith in my ability to make wise choices anymore and so I guess I can’t help but look to adopt someone else view of what I should or should not do/be. I don’t like it, but there it is.

        I suppose it just a matter of confidence. I used to be more confident, perhaps even cocky. I lost the cockiness, which was good, but somehow the confidence that went along with it got entangled and thrown overboard as well.

        I don’t know. I suppose at some level I’m just whining. Not to mention being lazy. It’s easier to let someone else make decisions for you than to struggle to make them yourself. But in the long run it is very unsatisfying. I imagine it is the kind of tactic that leads one to be a man living a life of quiet desperation.

        And that’s just how I feel right now — desperate. Any kind of success might work to reduce that feeling, but lately I feel as if I just can’t win. And instead of thinking, well, things can’t get any worse and so it’s uphill from here, I worry about what can/will go wrong next.

        It’s a terrible thing to leave in fear. Although I realize my fear is self-generated and not exactly life-threatening, it is still real, to me at any rate.

        As far as embracing my own nature. The problem there is, I’m not eve sure what that is anymore. It feel nebulous, ghostly, so fragile try to embrace it will turn to dust and — Poof! –like that it will be gone.

  4. I should add that for all my griping I can at least identify my bliss.

    That’s my daughter, being a father to her.

    And writing. No matter what I’ve never lost … the burn to do it, although I have to admit that some of the old joy is gone.

    Joy or no, though, all I know how to do is stick and I wouldn’t quit it no matter what the circumstances.

    • It sounds like it’s good that you have a daughter to keep you grounded and to remind you of your priorities.

      Maybe you could find a way to focus your writing on your fatherly bliss and on your present soul-searching. This might be the best time to do your best writing. You seem to be touching upon some core experiences that are forcing you to probe deeper. If you can find the way to express that, you might remind yourself why you love writing so much and out of it might come something that could get published.

      For me, my best writing comes from those times when I’m questioning myself the most deeply. It’s not cockiness, but a certain kind of self-assurance can come out of soul-searching.

  5. I’m surrounded by people who have degrees that they’ve never used and surrounded by people who have no career path. Once again, maybe it’s the town I live in.

    I myself am a college drop-out as is one of my brothers. I too have at times had aspirations towards being a published writer. My best friend even went to college with creative writing in mind, but instead ended up with a degree in religious studies and now works as a baker. He is the one who lives at home right now. I think he has more aspirations towards writing than I do. I’m too apathetic and undisciplined to be a published writer. My blog tends to satisfy my need to express myself.

    I do understand your frustration. My frustration might be a bit less as I never had either cockiness or confidence and so I’ve lost nothing in that regard. I’ve also been depressed since highschool and so I’ve learned to have low standards. I’m not exactly a good example of how to live with success in mind.

    • No doubt there are plenty of people out there with degrees they’ve never used, especially among GenXers. But I’d say that “using your degree” is a relative term.

      I believe in education for education sake, which I know isn’t very pragmatic and thus not very GenX, but there it is. And I think that any education a person can get, in any form, is good and will be used in some way. To me, the main purpose of an education is learning to learn. Doesn’t matter what subject you study specifically.

      As for learning to have low standards that’s definitely indicative of Generation X, generally speaking anyway. But I don’t think “low standards” needs to be a pejorative. Just because one doesn’t want to scrabble their way up the corporate ladder and amass large amounts of money and things doesn’t mean one is a slacker, although it is difficult if not impossible to fend off the social pressure to do these things or at least pretend like you want to.

      I wouldn’t say I have low expectations, but I do believe in being realistic. Is my realistic attitude ever tainted by my cynicism and pessimism? Yeah, sure. But I’d rather that than walking around with a phony shiny happy people mentality. I mean, unless I get a gig doing info-mercials . Then I’d gladly do the faux enthusiasm thing.

  6. Being an Omega has nothing to do with financial status or success. It may be an indication, but it isn’t everything. A true Omega is hideously creepy. It’s not the way he dresses or his appearance, it’s in his personality. He’s a loser, but he also scares people and utterly repels their company. Nobody wants to be around him except other Omegas.

    But there are several Betas who are even less successful than you, so take heart, friend.

    Speaking of which you wanna be a Beta? Than, that’s the best you will ever be.

    But if I were you and if you really can’t see yourself being an Alpha (like me), then I would aspire to be a Sigma. Become a lone wolf.

    Not a lone cockroach, like the typical Omega, but a lone WOLF. The Sigma is a guy who simply doesn’t care for company. Whether he’s successful or not, he doesn’t care whether or not he attracts anyone to his club.

    The Omega still cares, you see. He frightens and repels people like a bad smell, but he is still angered, hurt, and embittered by their revulsion. He may put up a front of not giving a crap but deep down, he DESPERATELY longs for a pack to embrace him. If that describes you, then you are not a Sigma.

    The Sigma is different. He doesn’t give a damn either way. In fact, he may even go out of his way to be alone because he cherishes his solitude.

    He encompasses qualities of the Alpha male “fuck-you-if-you-don’t-like-me” attitude but doesn’t spend all his energies trying to impress everyone, least of all women.

    He engages in such behavior because he has little to no respect for his fellow man and it emenates from his every pore. Paradoxically, this actually increases his odds of attracting women.

    It’s no gaurantee of getting laid, mind you, but it makes no difference to the Sigma. In many ways, he’s alot more free than the Alpha because the Alpha is too busy showboating and maintaining his dominance over the pack.

    Whether the Sigma is alone either by choice or circumstance, HE DOESN’T CARE. And unlike the Alpha, he doesn’t need company, he doesn’t need a pack to worship and adore and to validate him.

    But to attain this kind of status is not easy because it isn’t something you can simply fake. You can only feign apathy and indifference to the pack for so long before the mask slips off and reveals to all the Omega underneath.

    Sigmahood is something you truly have to cultivate within you. It isn’t about learning Game. Those who learn Game out of desperation are not Sigmas, they are Betas and wannabe Alphas (or in your case, wannabe Betas). Alphas don’t need to learn Game, they already know it by instinct.

    The Sigma, on the other hand, has no personal desire to learn it. His reason could be simple or complicated but the result is the same, he doesn’t care to learn Game or seduce women or to be a Playa (or even a pack leader of any type). He channels his energy towards other endeavors and is satisfied with that.

    If a hot girl wants to go along for the ride or be his fuck buddy, well, that’s a nice bonus but if not, oh well!!

    Basically, being a Sigma isn’t about fronting indifference towards other people and their opinions (women included), it IS indifference.

    Hope that helps.

    • There was a time when I was, perhaps not a full-blown Sigma, but very Sigma-esque, but alas that has long since changed. What I wouldn’t give to be a Sigma now. Indifference is a state I’d relish, but I’d only be feigning it, putting up a front as it were. I suppose that has something to do with my age, getting older. It also has something to do with having been married and now going through a divorce. It definitely as something to do with being a father. In any case, I’m not a Sigma.

      I’ll never be an Alpha, and I’m okay with that, but then an Alpha or Alpha-wanna-be would not, so it just proves the point. Still, I have my moments when I display very Alpha-like qualities. Play dodge-ball for example. When I play dodge-ball I not want to be the best baller out there I am the best. Other sports I know I cannot be the best. I lack size or skills or whatever. But dodge-ball evens the playing field. Being smaller isn’t a hindrance, and in fact is often an asset. And I’ve got dodge-ball skills. I may not be very muscled but I can I know how to focus all my energy into that ball. And I’m good at misdirection and being sneaky. You doubt me? Then let’s step on the court, buddy. I’ll take all comers.

      Otherwise I guess I’m just Beta. Yes, I’m on Beta. And I’m sitting here in perpetual 2nd-placer.

    • Hey Venom Froggy.

      I sort of fit sonnypi67’s ideas about Omega, but I do have some tendencies of Sigma. I do care about people to an extent and at the same time I’m an authentic loner. Society taught me that I should be an Alpha and my failure made me feel like a Beta, but I realized I was failing society’s standards and not my own. I’ve come to understand my own personal standards which I try to live by.

      I’m not sure how much of a Sigma that I am. I’ve had depression for much of my life which is a part of my nature and has emphasized my loner tendencies. Depression runs on both sides of my families and so I suppose I get my depressive nature honestly. I don’t have to pretend to be a loner. Even as a child, I was perfectly content to play alone. But I don’t pretend to not care about others. It’s just that I care about others on my own terms. Does that make me a Sigma?

      I know I’m not an Alpha. And I know I have no desire to be an Alpha. The way you describe Alpha it sounds like a sociopath and I think the main problem with our society is that it rewards and encourages sociopathic behavior. My ideals are more that of an Omega in that I see modern society as having failed in terms of human nature.

      The way you describe Sigma it doesn’t sound much better than Alpha. Your Sigma just sounds like a garden variety psychopath. Complete indifference towards others? That is pretty extreme. That certainly isn’t normal human behavior considering humans evolved as social animals.

      The choice between Alpha and Sigma seems like the choice between embracing the dysfunction that is our society or else embracing one’s own personal dysfunction. I’d prefer to embrace the ideal of the Omega to be an authentic human being and not just give in to dysfunction even the dysfunction that our society idealizes. I know that embracing dysfunction offers a cynical sense that can feel quite empowering, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s dysfunction.

      • You’re certainly right about society rewarding sociopathic behavior. The more self-centered and self-serving people are the more they seem to succeed, although I suppose that depends on your definition of success.

        In fact, it seems nearly impossible to get anywhere in life by adhering to any kind of moral standards. You may begin that way but you’ll eventually find yourself bending and making exceptions until your integrity is tattered and falling apart, at which point you can grieve and lament the loss or more likely rationalize it, making excuses for the sake of blah blah blah…

        I’m setting myself apart or above this kind of behavior. I’m guilty. I admit it. But at least I feel badly about it. Seems like more and more people don’t feel any guilt. They do what they gotta do, you know. That’s the way the game is played. yadda yadda yadda.

        My point is this, and only this: seems like the Geroge Baily’s of the world are losing to the Mr. Potters.

        And it’s disappointing.

      • Allow me to clarify.

        The Sigma is a lot like Clint Eastwood’s movie persona. The Man With No Name. The lone gunslinger.

        Or he could be like Wolverine. He can work in a pack, but he’s just as fine on his own.

        I was just exaggerating the characteristics of the Sigma to illustrate my point. Hope that clears things up.

  7. sonnypi67 – A person would only be sociopathic or psychopathic if they lacked any moral sense and hence lacked any guilt response to moral failure.

    Venom Froggy – I realized you were exaggerating, but I wasn’t sure if you actually believed in your own exaggerations or if you were merely exaggerating for effect.

    Your clarified notion of Sigma makes more sense to me. Such a person doesn’t lack morality, but rather has such a strong sense of morality that they hold to their principles no matter what the consequences. Their loner tendencies are part and parcel with their moral strength.

    The Sigma is particularly idealized by Americans. People from other countries (in particular Europe) have pointed out how the extreme idealization of this (in American entertainment) seems unrealistic and dysfunctional. I see both good and bad in it, but taken to the extreme it definitely is problematic.

    In terms of political philosophy, the rugged individualist is generally in line with the rational self-interest of Ayn Rand’s Objectivist morality. There has been a number of recent examples that have shown the dangers of this attitude.

    In the entertainment field, the Western gunslinger is the icon. Interestingly, Westerns were partly influenced by such things as the Samurai films of Akira Kurosawa. The Samurai were warriors with a strong code of ethics. The Samurai films often portray the time when traditional society was breaking down and many Samurai lost their respected position in society. Many became swords-for-hire and outlaws. So, there was an obvious similarity to the veterans of the Civil War who became professional gunslingers.

    The decades following the Civil War was a defining time for America. There was a lot going on at that time… socially, politically and religiously. There were still gunfighters and Indian Wars as the feminist and workers’ movements began to take shape. Society was losing its traditional agrarian lifestyle which led to a breakdown of community. The loner ethos became more popular. And with the growing wealthy elite, the Robbing Hood mythos became popular as well.

    I wonder if there is still a place for the Sigma in our society right now. How does a Sigma make money without sacrificing his principles? There isn’t any place for the gunslinger in our present world. Most of us aren’t like Wolverine with almost unbeatable fighting skills and healing powers. And for sure most of us aren’t independently wealthy like Batman.

    So, how does the normal person manage to remain a Sigma? My guess is most genuine Sigmas are homeless. I could imagine a genuine Sigma might refuse society’s standards entirely and also refuse welfare. Many of today’s warriors (i.e., war veterans) do end up homeless.

    • A Sigma isn’t a bum. He just sticks to his guns and his convictions and picks and chooses which hoops he will jump through. And if he is alone because of it, he deals with it.

      It isn’t about being a derelict. In fact, there are many Sigmas who are successful and rich, but they refuse to give up their identities or their morals for acceptance or for pussy (you’ll be amazed what the average man will sacrifice for that one).

      • Also, there are some Sigmas who simply enjoy being alone. They can get along with others, but they enjoy flying solo far more. In many ways, it is harder to enter a Sigma’s world than anybody else’s because some are simply not pack animals by nature.

        Whether they were born that way or became that way, they enjoy solitude. Which can be bad because everybody needs somebody sometime. But you get the idea.

  8. “A Sigma isn’t a bum.”

    I wasn’t equating being a Sigma with being a bum. I was merely saying that our society doesn’t necessarily offer much opportunities for success for some who is an extreme example of a Sigma. I was also making note that many war veterans (who often are unable to adapt to society) do end up homeless or in prison, but I don’t know how many of these war-traumatized veterans can be considered genuine Sigmas.

    To be successful in our society typically demands one play the corporate &/or political game. I suppose some Sigmas might learn to play the game for their own purposes, but I imagine game-playing might irritate the nature of many Sigmas.

    “Also, there are some Sigmas who simply enjoy being alone.”

    Yes, I agree. I am definitely that kind of Sigma. I enjoy the occasional company of a close friend or family, but I’m perfectly content to spend most of my time alone.

    That aspect relates to psychology. Research has shown people are born with a tendency towards Introversion or Extraversion.

    However, a desire for being alone and a tendency towards principled behavior aren’t correlated to any great degree as far as I know. Being principled probably has more to do with what in MBTI would be the Judging functions of Thinking and Feeling. I test as an INFP which means I’m a dominant Introverted Feeling type. INFPs are considered the most idealistic type.

    What US society considers principled is more an aspect of the TJ types. My dad has tested as an ENTJ and my mom as an ISTJ. They both have a very principled attitude that is quite distinct from my idealism, even when my idealism is at its most righteous. My guess is that the cowboy archetype would most closely align with the ISTJ type.

  9. This cool, you guys. Most traffic my blog as ever seen on any single post. I’m digging it. Great conversation.

  10. I’m an (I/E)NTJ and I am not favored by society as such. I think the political / corporate system simply favors anyone who would be a benefit to those systems.

    People can call me whatever they want because they do. I have been called a nerd, a jock, a bad boy, a good boy, an ass, a saint, a leader, a follower. The only thing consistent is my own view of myself. Who are you seeking approval from guys? One thing I believe a man must do is conquer his need for sex. Only then will he be truly free and have the power to accomplish anything.

    And stop paying attention to the rotten hypocrites shaming “omega men” for all their “perceived” deficits. In fact, turn the tables on them.

  11. There is a hint of anti-intellectualism in upholding the ideals of masculinity to such an extreme that other valuable traits are downplayed. The distinction between ‘jock’ and ‘nerd’ seems to do this. While a nerd can be so intelligent that he can afford to be lanky, a jock can be so strong that he can afford to be stupid.

    It is perhaps ironic, then, that nerds are the ones branded ‘omega males.’ In my experience, it is the nerds who are intelligent enough to admit their faults and make such comparisons, while the jock is often totally ignorant of his stupidity.

    This is not to say that there aren’t absolute indicators of fitness analogous to a peacock’s tail. In fact, it may be the brilliant idea of a nerd (or jock, if smart enough) to synthesize the adaptive traits of both jocks and nerds in refining the gene pool. It could very well be a better evolutionary strategy than keeping nerds alive and torturing them.

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