Why men need to realise there’s a certain strength in vulnerability

Let’s address the elephant in the room: Men have been raised and pressured to be strong and “manly”... so why are so many expecting otherwise?

By Rany Moran

The word “masculine” alone is defined by being stoic, brawny and tough, and yet we expect our husbands, sons, fathers and boyfriends to also be sensitive to feelings and open to expressing emotions when in reality, all these personality traits rarely co-exist. Feelings of sadness, hurt, anxiety, loneliness or vulnerability are, unfortunately, associated with weakness, and a seriously conscious effort needs to be made for any man to be comfortable being emotional—no matter the emotion.

Why are men less emotional?

Men are not less emotional, they are simply less emotionally literate—whether conscious or not. This is because, more often than not, boys have been brought up with the mindset that they shouldn’t cry, that being sad is a sign of weakness, and that showing insecurity, vulnerability or hurt will emasculate them somehow. This could then lead to them growing up into men who struggle with intimacy, who secretly struggle with self-esteem issues constantly questioning themselves if they’re “man enough”, and who can’t express themselves clearly or honestly because of all the emotional barriers built over the years. But the question is, can being more emotionally vulnerable be good for men?

What being vulnerable really means

Psychologically speaking, vulnerability is a state of being open and willing to potentially getting hurt, emotionally. It is when one allows themself to let their guard down to give and receive honest, often uncomfortable emotions, actions or words. It is also when one is fearless in expressing their thoughts, feelings, desires and opinions, without a care or worry about what anyone might think or say about you.

Why men should risk being more vulnerable

A high “risk appetite” can put you in an uncomfortable spot, but it can also reap great rewards. In order to become more resilient, insightful and connected to a situation, be it a work project or new relationship, you must first face what you personally consider your flaws and weaknesses so that they lose power over you, so you can progress and evolve without self-doubt constantly looming.

The benefits of being vulnerable

First and foremost, being vulnerable is to be trusting, and by being honest and lowering your guard, you in turn foster a stronger and more secure relationship, which cultivates and strengthens trust. This can be applied in multiple scenarios, from relationships between partners and parents with children, or colleagues and bosses—clear communication, mutual respect and trust are the keys to any successful partnership.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable opens yourself to the possibility to win more and lose more. Either way this helps you grow as a person, and you gain the ability to address and adapt to changing environments or emotions better without feeling attacked or insecure. This is a great way to allow change and evolution into your life, rather than fighting against it.

By letting emotions flow freely (but not excessively like emotional word vomit which can come off insincere), you increase the flow of love—because you give what you get. So if it is openness and acceptance that you yearn for, learn to be open and accepting of your partner’s opinions, needs and differences, so when you make a mistake or have an opposing thought, you can talk it out instead of arguing or getting angry with each other. Learning to love better also increases your connection and level of intimacy with one another because there is unquestionable trust.

And by letting go of your insecurities, or coming to terms with your differences or “flaws” and overcoming them, you’ll naturally build a stronger sense of confidence. This will help you in a myriad of ways, be it in better communication to express your thoughts and feelings, or to better understand what others around you are feeling or hinting towards. A stronger sense of self will slowly but surely overpower the harmful defense mechanism of always pretending everything is ok when things aren’t.

How can one practice being more vulnerable?

For starters, admit when you’re wrong, or when you aren’t great at something. Bragging creates a cringe-worthy impression or sets unrealistic expectations that often stems from a sense of inferiority. Those who are comfortable with their capabilities are usually most open to improvement and thus, success, while those who overcompensate tend to over promise and under deliver. Let’s all strive to be the former.

Taking responsibility for your actions rather than pointing a finger as the first instinct shows a sense of ownership and maturity. Even when in the wrong, one should maintain control over the situation and handle the problem, which can gain you even more respect, rather than sweeping it under the rug or blaming somebody else for it which shines a bad light on you.

And if you’re with someone you admire, appreciate or respect, tell them. Don’t be afraid to come off weak or “small”—successful people support successful people and there’s nothing wrong with praising one’s good words or actions. Many people not only love but thrive of praise, so complimenting an employee (or even employer) but push them to work harder and do better for everyone around them.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to being more open, emotional or vulnerable. One just has to make a conscious effort to be more present, honest and understanding, and deeper, stronger and more meaningful relationships (with oneself and others) will form and flow naturally.