One thing I didn’t like about the “masculine world” was the competitiveness of it, the striving to compare yourself to others and be better than them. But in comparison I wasn’t the best so I was rarely in the upper rungs of competitive success. At an early age I was disillusioned with whole “being better” than anyone else: I was terrible at sport (I hated it) and in academia I was a bit of an underachiever, doing the bare minimum of what was asked of me, especially if I wasn’t interested in the subject.
But this “under-achievement” was a place of safety; the bottom rungs, a place that most people ignored (successful, “better” people draw too much attention to themselves, and thus more judgement), so I had the freedom to do what I wanted without the pressure to be and do “better”. Whatever I did I did to make myself happy more than others.
Achievement has too much stress associated with it, something I didn’t want; I wanted to be happy, not run around like a headless chicken. But it has a flip side: not striving to be better at such a young age can become a habit; doing nothing can be the norm, so nothing happens. I did come to a crunch moment in my life when I couldn’t just opt for second best ALL the time; I had to find a way to achieve things in my life, or else nothing would happen, but I didn’t want to do it as a Man to outdo other Men; it’s just wasn’t worth it.
I found a manner to step aside from the ladder everyone else seemed to be on. It was difficult to avoid conventionality when I didn’t see what alternatives there were, but in the end I succeeded on my own terms and began looking at my life, not as part of the system but something of value in its own right. The world still works on this competitive system, and though I don’t have to be caught up in it I still have to negotiate with it a bit (less and less as I find alternatives). Eventually the under-achiever became the self-achiever, and I haven’t looked back.