Shake Things Up – With Some Testosterone

young couple on the beach

Image courtesy of graur codrin/

Some primate communities are very hierarchical, and male monkeys in a community can be divided into dominant males (Alphas) and submissive (Beta). This means that the Alphas run the show, and they pretty much gets first choice among the resources (including the females) while the Beta Males have to scrounge for what they can get. In terms of females, this means while the Alpha Male may mate with multiple females, Beta Males get whatever females are left, after being rejected by an Alpha. Much of this seems to have to do with testosterone levels, with Alpha primates having high levels, and Betas have lower levels.

In one study, researchers decided to shake a monkey community up a bit, and they gave the Beta Males in the group some extra testosterone. The result was crazy: these males no longer accepted their submissive “role” in the group, and began fighting back, and tried to establish some authority for themselves. That’s all it took for the Beta to revolt from his pitiable (as least from an evolutionary standpoint) lot in life: a little more testosterone.

We are not monkeys, but we are similar. There are dominant men and submissive men. It isn’t expressed the same way as it is in apes, because our brains are more advanced and we are civilized. Nonetheless, you can see similar patterns. Why do some guys get dates all the time, yet others are always in the “friend zone?” Why do some guys seem to get all the promotions while others are destined to hang out at the lower rungs of the ladder? Why do some men seem to inspire others, with confident body language and commanding speech, while other struggle to be heard? Is it all just about testosterone levels?

It very well may be. Studies show that women prefer men with higher testosterone, especially when the women are fertile. Studies also show that men (and women!) in positions of power have higher testosterone than those who do not.

Guys that are popular, confident, and outgoing likely have higher testosterone. The good news is that studies now show that testosterone levels aren’t necessarily set from birth. Even though our testosterone levels at birth do determine a lot (like our sex and sexual orientation), this is not to say our lot in life is set at that point. Testosterone levels can change over time. Studies show that “manly” activities like football increase testosterone (and as the season goes on, it is increased). Holding confident body language poses for a few minutes increases testosterone. Getting sleep increases testosterone. Having a baby can temporarily decrease a man’s testosterone (thus keeping him around to help raise a child).

I saw this testosterone effect firsthand when I was in high school. My freshman year I was more “soft.” I was in the band, pretty inactive, and spent my free time playing video games. I had an awakening, and changed course right before my sophomore year. I started lifting weights, running, playing football, and changed my attitude. A friend of mine on the football team, whom I had known since I was young, glanced at my yearbook photo from my freshman year, and was amazed at the change. He said my 9th grade photo looked so “soft.” Looking back, I guarantee I was increasing my testosterone. I was probably looking much manlier at that point.

Basically, there are ways to increase your testosterone at any age. Physiologically speaking, you can change. It should be an exciting prospect for anybody who has desired to be in charge and confident, but who hasn’t seen this happen.

I should note that while in some lower animals, high testosterone is associated with increased aggression, in humans, this is inconclusive. Some research even suggests that optimal levels of testosterone are associated with calmness as opposed to aggression (and in reality it may be high estrogen in men that may cause aggressive behavior). So, the increased testosterone from body language modulation shouldn’t increase aggression. In fact, my experience has been the opposite. The more I am in control of my life, the more relaxed I have become.

About David Bennett

David Bennett is author of seven self-help books, and an in-demand speaker and consultant. Over a million readers per year read his online content, and his writings have been referenced in many publications and news outlets, including Girls Life, Fox News, the New York Times, Huffington Post, and BBC. He also writes for The Popular Teen, and other sites. Follow him on Twitter.

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