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 pre-teen. 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.
A sigma male sees himself as an independent, strong-willed person who stands out from the crowd with a quiet but determined confidence.
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, fame, and so on,instead looking to live life on their own terms and strive towards personal fulfillment. They value freedom and independence, and may view rebellion against societal norms as a worthwhile endeavor.
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.
People who align with the sigma male mindset often view themselves as non-conformists and possess an alpha-like attitude but without the desire or need for recognition or power over others.
Key differences between alpha and sigma males include:
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 – independence, self-reliance and confidence, to name just a few – are laudable, some experts believe that people who identify excessively 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 him or herself.
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 traits of success, like wealth, status, or fame, and instead pursue personal fulfillment. It’s a good idea to check in regularly with your child about any confusing terms they may have encountered online. By starting a dialogue with them, you build trust and encourage them to come to you to discuss difficult topics.