Growing up, many men were conditioned not to show their emotions. “Be a man.” “Men don’t cry.” “Don’t be such a weiner!” These words were echoed in the ears of little boys before they even understood their own emotions.
In this article, we’ll explore how to be vulnerable and the importance of vulnerability for men.
What is vulnerability?
Vulnerability is what makes us humans. It is that invisible connection that keeps us in tune with our emotions. Also, it helps us connect to other humans on an emotional level.
For instance, when you choose to tell someone “I love you” for the first time, it requires a great deal of vulnerability. This is because you are opening yourself up to the possibility of them saying they don’t love you back or outrightly rejecting your love.
In a popular TED Talk titled The Power of Vulnerability, Dr. Brene Brown, a vulnerability researcher, and storyteller, perfectly captures the meaning of vulnerability when she says, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.”
This shows that vulnerability is a strength, not a trait representing weakness.
The dire consequences of “being a man”
Society believes being a man means you cannot show your emotions. It means you should always put up a bold exterior, no matter how sad, depressed, or anxious you might be feeling inside.
But what society fails to add is this: the more we choose to suppress and hide these emotions, the more likely it becomes to develop into mental health disorders.
Bottling your emotions up may lead to:
Why is it important to be vulnerable?
Before we explore the reasons why vulnerability is a strength, we should ask an important question: why do men hide their feelings?
As earlier mentioned, this is primarily due to societal conditioning. All our lives, we are constantly reminded that there is strength in being “tough.” So, as we grow to become men, we learn to hide our emotions behind the cloak of fearlessness and strength.
We smile when all we really want to do is cry. We keep silent even when we want to scream so badly. Interestingly, anger is a perfect example of how men express their feelings.
The same goes for discussions around depression. Even though women are more likely to report cases of depression, a 2013 study showed that 30.6% of men will experience major depressive episodes in their lifetime.
Unfortunately, because lesser men are speaking out about their struggles with depression and anxiety, the suicide rate among men in America is four times higher than that of women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But because we don’t show our emotions or talk about them doesn’t mean we don’t have them. In fact, men process emotions the same way women do, but thanks to social conditioning, gender stereotypes, and toxic masculinity, men are more likely to suppress these emotions.
When men choose to be vulnerable, they can finally:
- Become their authentic selves
- Connect with their emotions better
- Build better and more honest relationships
- Face their biggest fears
- Become more honest about how something or someone makes them feel
Learning to become vulnerable is teaching yourself how to express your feelings.
How to be vulnerable: 4 practical tips
To become vulnerable, you need to take active, conscious steps. It is a process of allowing yourself to express your emotions and be emotionally intimate, no matter how scary or different it seems.
At first, this will be extremely difficult because we have been taught as men never to show our emotions. But it’s definitely worth it.
Here are some ways you can learn to be vulnerable with your emotions:
1. Always be honest about how you feel
The first step to being vulnerable is to be honest about how you feel. It is natural for you to feel sad as a man or for you to feel anxious about something or someone. But rather than shut it down or bottle it up, open up to someone about these emotions.
It is also vital to accept that it is totally fine to feel this way. After accepting this fact, try to figure out why you feel this way.
Then, most importantly, express your feelings and emotions healthily. A licensed therapist can teach you how to do it.
2. Face your fears
It can be challenging to be vulnerable because it requires a great deal of courage. It requires courage to confess your love for the first time. It requires courage to demand respect from someone.
But whatever it is you are scared of doing, just do it anyway.
3. Find a therapeutic hobby
Did you know that doing something you love can help you focus more on your emotions? It could be as simple as walking your dog, exercising, reading a book, or watching a movie.
Whatever it is, it would give you time to reflect on your emotions, understand them, and express them clearly and productively.
4. Talk to a therapist
There’s nothing wrong with seeking emotional help as a man. In our societies, we have created a stigma around men and their mental health troubles.
But seeing a therapist is one of the most effective ways for men to talk and deal with their deepest emotions.
Online therapy at Calmerry is an opportunity to learn about your feelings and how you can deal with these emotions in healthier and more productive ways. It ultimately allows you to be more vulnerable without the fear of judgment.
Again, it is essential to remember that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeing a therapist. In fact, choosing to see a therapist early enough can prevent a simple problem from turning into a complicated mental health condition.
A closing note
Learning to be vulnerable involves a heavy dose of hard work. Set realistic expectations. Avoid beating yourself up if you fail to adequately express how you feel to someone. There’s always another chance to try again.
Constantly remind yourself that you are doing a great job. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and emotional vulnerability doesn’t happen in one week.
Give yourself time. You got this.
Michael David Adewusi is a content writer who is passionate about men stories and their struggles with mental health. He enjoys making music, listening to friends talk, and writing stories that will tear down the boundaries of race, discrimination, and gender stereotypes.Read more