Having a passive, ineffective or absent father has an enormous effect on a man's development and eventual self-confidence. The quality of your relationship with your father, and his ability to pass on to you his positive masculine wisdom and energy are the most important factors in you developing your full potential as a man.

A passive father will damage your sense of masculinity

However, if your father was relatively passive, non-assertive, ineffective, absent physically or even just shy and withheld, you may have some work to do in order to recover what you missed out on. Here are some suggestions on how to fill the gap your father left:

Join a Men's Group

The most important indicator of confidence in a man is your secure ability to relate meaningfully to other men. Your relationship with other men is modeled on your relationship with your father, and on your friendships with other boys while growing up. You can't improve on this by yourself, nor can you do it with women: you need to find other men who you can relate to on a deeper level.

Find men you can trust who are prepared to drop the usual competitive male bravado and talk straight with you about their successes, failures, frustrations and joys in life. Learn from their wisdom and their mistakes, and practise sharing yourself on a deeper level with them. I attend a monthly men's group with this specific purpose, but any group with mature, trustworthy men can fulfil this need provided everyone is willing to support each other and most importantly be authentic.

Find a Male Mentor

Having learned everything you can from your father, which may have been most of what you need to know or may have been relatively little, you need other male mentors to fill in the gaps. Nobody achieves success in life without having other mentors in the form of teachers, counsellors, coaches, and supportive older men who have the wisdom you need. Start looking for potential mentors around you, and attend courses which teach the things that you haven't yet learned.

Don't let your pride get in the way of you learning from another man who has mastered a skill that you desire. Develop a habit of ferocious curiosity and life-long learning. There are mentors who can teach you everything from how to manage your money to how to seduce a woman. Take any area of life where you feel frustrated and consider what relevant skills you're missing and who can teach them to you. Anything your father wasn't particularly good at is also a good starting point.

Develop Your Communication Skills

Many men are poor communicators. While girls sat around talking to each other for most of high school, most men were out on the sporting field beating each other up one way or another. Conversation skills weren't highly valued by most of us guys during adolescence. We may have wanted to get laid, but we didn't know what to say to the pretty girl in order to make it happen. Our ability to communicate determines how well we can get our needs met involving people, and show when we can meet theirs. Any time we feel frustrated with someone else, we can either blame them and get angry or look at ourselves and ask the question: “How could I be communicating more effectively?” A fist in the face usually isn't the most helpful answer.

No man is an island. We need other people. To get what we want from them, we need to learn to communicate. And it cuts both ways: there's little point feeling love for your woman, your children or your fellow man if you can't communicate it with them. Communication is the soul of human relationships, so it's worth taking some time to learn how to do it. Assertiveness training courses teach active communication skills which will boost your self-confidence as your learn to get your message across more effectively.

Learn to Master Your Emotions

Learning to master our emotions is one of our key developments as a boy growing into a man. My father was a model disaster when it came to mastering his emotions, so I couldn't learn this from him. I found other men to teach me instead. The secret is to allow yourself to feel your emotions, and express them in some constructive way. Repressing or avoiding how you feel sets you up for depression and anxiety, while dumping emotional baggage on other people destroys relationships and leaves you feeling guilty and lonely.

Being able to express both pleasant and unpleasant emotions constructively is vital for your emotional and mental health, and a key skill in relating with women. Modern women are crying out for men who are willing to share their feelings with them. Women are emotional beings and they starve in relationships with men who are emotional brick walls. Often feeling at the mercy of their emotions, women want to know that you have them too, but have learned to master your emotions and have the stability they seek. If you want better relationships with women, this is where to start.

To learn more, see Part 2 of The Confident Man Program guide which is devoted to emotional mastery, including specific chapters covering Sadness, Shame, Anger, Fear, and Self-Love.

Get Professional Help and Support

Recovering from the damage done to our masculinity by a passive father is one of the most challenging tasks we can face because we often need to unlearn our passive way of interacting with the world and become assertive about what we want instead. This is difficult when our childhood role model of masculinity couldn't do it himself and the effect of that conditioning becomes lodged deep in our unconscious mind.

Often other members of the family have also been affected but may not want to face the truth; which is why your siblings aren't likely to be able to help unless they've done some serious personal growth work. Passive people tend to attract friends who are either passive themselves and can't help you, or are domineering and don't get it; so most likely your friends aren't much help either. Healing the underlying emotional wounds caused by a passive father takes specialist attention.

I highly recommend getting professional help and support on this journey. Since I've personally been there myself, I now specialize in helping people recover from the devastating emotional impact of growing up with a passive father. I can offer assertiveness training sessions via Skype wherever you are in the world, so you can be pro-active about creating the life that you want. If you're ready to move past the effects of a passive father in your life, contact me about coaching.

Graham Stoney

Graham Stoney

I struggled for years with low self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of self-confidence before finding a solution that really worked. I created The Confident Man Program to help other men live the life of their dreams. I also offer 1-on-1 coaching via Skype so if you related to this article contact me about coaching.


Becca · May 8, 2015 at 4:24 am

Hi Graham,
I noticed you didn't write anything with regard to daughters. I am a daughter of a passive, ineffective father (controlling mother) and am sifting my way through it. Both were for the most part emotionally unavailable as well. Its been interesting processing and sifting but I have been making strides in this area which is how I came upon your article. My curiosity lies in human behavior along with masculine and feminine energies (since my father was passive and mom was controlling). The dynamic has been very interesting to me.

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · May 11, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Hi Becca. I think we're on the same page here; having a controlling mother and passive father is equally a disaster for girls as it is for boys during their development. I'm glad you mentioned masculine and feminine energies because it's one of the best metaphors I've come across to explain why controlling women and passive men wreak havoc on their children. Most likely your mother felt the need to compensate for your father's lack of masculine energy, but it came out as unhealthy masculine (i.e. control and dominance) and your father ended up adopting a passive unhealthy feminine role (i.e. submissive victim-hood). That would have been super-confusing for you as a child to sort out, and perhaps you also learned to take on swapped roles yourself. I haven't written much on this yet, but it's also something I'm very interested in and many tantra teachers address relationships from the masculine/feminine energy perspective. I've even seen Anthony Robbins talk about it. You might also relate to this article about how passive men tend to end up with controlling women, and the impact it has on their kids when the natural energies are swapped. Good luck on your search; I think you're on the right track. Cheers, Graham

      Phil Kronenberg · February 12, 2016 at 11:27 pm

      Graham. A controlling mother and passive father may be a disaster but I don't think it's an equal disaster for girls and boys. Whereas it will affect a girl's esteem a boy's entire self identity is at risk

        Graham Stoney

        Graham Stoney · February 17, 2016 at 1:04 pm

        I totally agree Phil. The equivalent disaster for a girl would be something like an abandoning mother and an abusive father. I'm curious if the controlling mother & passive father was your experience?

Frank · March 5, 2015 at 7:27 am

Great article. This reminded me of a movie I saw recently "The way, way back". It was about a 14 y/o boy coming of age story. His father is not around after a divorce and his mother's BF is a jerk to him. He meets a 30+ something guy who works at a water park and this man imparts life lessons for the boy. It brought a tear to my eye because for many of us we never had that father figure in our lives to teach us to be a man. The adult male character in this movie recognized this and instilled a great deal of confidence in the boy. As boys/men we need these role models in our lives and so I try to be that now for my son, just wish I had a role model growing up.

    Graham Stoney

    Graham Stoney · March 5, 2015 at 10:06 am

    Hey Frank, thanks for the comment. I'll keep the movie you mention in mind. I'm sure your son will benefit from your awareness of the importance of having an effective father in his life. Good on you! Cheers, Graham

Matt · April 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

No doubt, most times at least, father's do their absolute best. There are undoubtable cases though, as you've mentioned Graham, where a father simply hasn't managed to pass on the 'lessons' to his son that would assist him in becoming a more 'complete,' man.

I really support the idea of seeking out a strong, male mentor. They don't need to be a chest-pounding alpha dog but a smart, savvy and charming male influence is essential if you're looking to learn the subtle traits you'll need in order to extract the most out of life and your interactions with the opposite sex.

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