What Is a “Sigma Male” and Why Are Kids Talking About It? 

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The proliferation of social media means that kids are exposed to all kinds of new terms and pop culture references. Many are perfectly harmless, while others might be worthy of a conversation with your teen or preteen. One of the terms that has recently entered the online lexicon is “sigma male.” 

Like its cousins “alpha male” and “beta male,” which are rooted in the language of social dominance hierarchy, sigma male is increasingly being used to describe a certain type of male personality. 

Read on to learn more about what the term sigma male means and how to talk to your child about it. 

What is a sigma male?

A sigma male is an independent, strong-willed person who stands out from the crowd with a quiet but determined confidence. You may see the term paired with "sigma mindset," which refers to a sense of self-sufficiency and rejection of social norms.

Also known as a lone wolf, people who identify as sigma males aim to chart their own paths and emphasize their own self-worth. They are often uninterested in traditional forms of success such as wealth, status, and fame. Instead, they look to live life on their own terms and strive toward personal fulfillment. They value freedom and independence, and may view rebellion against societal norms as a worthwhile endeavor.

Sigma male origins

"Sigma" is the name for the 18th letter of the Greek alphabet. The term follows the pattern of assigning Greek letters to characterize masculine hierarchy, including “alpha,” to denote an aggressive leader and “beta” for a submissive follower. 

In 2010, the conservative writer Theodore Robert Beale, known as “Vox Day,” first used the term on his blog. Subsequently, the term gained wider popularity in Internet discourse and in memes, including among bodybuilders and biohackers. The superhero action character John Wick, played by Keanu Reeves, is often described as an archetypical sigma male. 

Mark Manson also described a sigma male in his 2016 best-selling book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck — a self-described “counterintuitive” guide that aims to reframe how to live a meaningful life. 

Sigma male vs. alpha male personality

People who align with the sigma male mindset often view themselves as non-conformists and possess an alpha-like attitude, without the desire or need for recognition or power over others. 

Key differences between alpha and sigma males include: 

  • Alpha males can be aggressive. Sigma males pursue their goals with quiet determination.
  • Alpha males are highly social. Sigma males prefer solitude.
  • Alpha males are dominant. Sigma males are more content to be in the background.

Why is it important to talk to your child about it?

Sigma male isn't just slang. Along with other terms in the language of social dominance, like “alpha” and “beta,” the term “sigma male” can be reductive and overly simplistic. While many of the characteristics of the sigma male — such as independence, self-reliance, and confidence — are good, some experts believe that people who excessively identify with the term may also be masking feelings of insecurity.

Children need to understand that they are complex human beings with different, and often conflicting, personality traits. An over-reliance on any single term might hinder a person’s ability to fully understand or appreciate themselves. 

Conversations to have when your child learns about the sigma male

  • The term may signal to parents that they should check in on their child’s self-esteem. Sigma males project confidence in who they are. Sometimes they are truly confident, and other times, the appearance of confidence and rejection of social norms can be a front for insecurity. Social media algorithms may serve this type of content to children whose online behavior has signaled low self-esteem. 
  • If age-appropriate, it’s worth talking about equality and misogyny if your child mentions sigma males, because people and groups who misappropriate the term may segue into misogynistic concepts. 

The bottom line

A sigma male describes himself as a strong, independent person who doesn't need to draw attention to himself or display dominance. They do not measure success by the generally accepted measures, like wealth, status, or fame. Instead, they pursue personal fulfillment.

It’s a good idea to check in regularly with your child about any confusing terms they may have encountered online. Regular conversations and monitoring their online activity can help you get ahead of new trends that may influence your child. By starting a dialogue with them, you build trust and encourage them to come to you to discuss difficult topics. 

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