First things first, vulnerability resources for men does not mean vulnerability for dummies! As as a man, when you hear the word “vulnerability”, what comes up for you?
Does the word conjure up ideas of weakness or insecurities? You wouldn’t be alone if you said yes.
Perhaps, as a man, you think that it’s a word that only relates to women.
Well, neither of those are true.
The fact is that vulnerability is the opposite of those misconceptions, which have plagued men and delayed their growth for decades, perhaps even centuries.
When surveyed, 51 percent of men indicated they had two friends or fewer to have an open discussion about serious topics. And a staggering one out of eight indicated they didn’t have anyone to talk to at all.
If they were in Canada, those numbers would amount to approximately 7.6 million and 1.9 million men, respectively.
Becoming more vulnerable brings you greater happiness and more fulfillment.
You become a more balanced person and others find you more approachable. Continue reading to discover why it’s important to embrace the feelings of vulnerability and why it’s even healthy, especially for men.
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How do we define vulnerability?
Why does vulnerability have such a negative meaning in our culture? Does it mean there’s a problem, or does it mean there is an opportunity?
Vulnerability, in its truest form, is the state of being exposed and opening yourself up to being attacked, either emotionally or physically.
However, it happens to be one of the strongest emotions that anyone can ever feel. When you’re vulnerable, it is an opportunity to show strength.
Most men misinterpret those feelings because of being taught not to show any sign of being “less than a man” – whatever that means.
To defend ones’ manhood, most men shy away from vulnerability because of the uncomfortable feelings and the fight or flight mode that is often overwhelming.
Being vulnerable has nothing to do with gender, weakness, or being “less than a man.” But if not embraced, it can cause insecure feelings to emerge because of what experts call – shadow beliefs, which will be discussed further below.
Being vulnerable can easily put a person in an undesirable position to be hurt emotionally or verbally attacked, and no one wants to feel that way. In fact, the Latin interpretation of the word “vulnerability” literally means “wound,” and it very often has a negative connotation when discussed.
Can you be vulnerable and strong at the same time?
The short answer is yes. But it takes the skills to manage vulnerability, which you will learn throughout this article.
Identity: Know Who You Are
When you know who you are, you feel more confident in your interactions with other people. It’s as simple as that. But for most people – man or woman – this can be a struggle. Perhaps past experiences from childhood or past relationships have impacted your self-esteem. At the core of vulnerability is how much you can trust yourself – not the other person.
Other people are going to act the way they choose to act. Period. You cannot control their behavior. But you can control the way you respond.
However, when you have a low opinion of yourself or areas of your life that have contributed to feelings of distrust, the thought of being vulnerable to anyone can be frightening. That does not negate the fact that most people naturally feel uncomfortable when dealing with vulnerable moments. And that should make you feel differently about being open to vulnerability.
Knowing yourself will always be the strongest foundation for vulnerability. And men need to understand that everyone on the planet feels some type of fight or flight feeling when they feel vulnerable, regardless of self-acceptance and self-esteem. But if you’re unaware of your true value, it can make vulnerability seem like a nightmare.
The good news for men is that it’s all manageable, and it’s perfectly normal to ask for help to achieve a greater sense of self and not be controlled by your ego. The ego wants to protect itself at all costs, and that is a losing battle.
Know Your Value: You Have More to Offer
How do you get to a place where you know exactly who you are? What are the things that are considered “men’s work” to get comfortable with being vulnerable? Although there isn’t a book written yet called “vulnerability for dummies,” there are plenty of things that you can do to strengthen your self-esteem and build a solid foundation to become open to being vulnerable.
First, get rid of a negative mindset and negative thoughts about your true value. Replace negative thoughts or misplaced feelings of inadequacy with positive affirmations about your truth.
Everyone has value. Don’t get caught up in your ego.
As a man, you’re naturally prone to identify with your accomplished efforts. After all, you’re the hunter of the human species and, to a large degree, your masculinity is connected to this raw and natural embodiment.
To get to a place of true acceptance and knowing your true worth and value means that you must detach yourself from what you “do” and focus more on your “who.”
A man’s true value is based on who he is as a person and how he chooses to live his life based on integrity, honor, and purpose. Practice finding opportunities where you can highlight the core values of your inner self.
Does that mean you should disregard your external contributions to society? On the contrary, you should honor those contributions and feel good about them. But that is not all you have to offer as a man.
When you begin to identify more with who you are, rather than what you do, you’re less likely to see vulnerability as a hindrance to being strong.
You’re more likely to stand firm in the belief that you are enough, regardless of anyone’s ability to attempt to hurt, attack, or make you feel anything other than what you truly know yourself, without any ambiguity.
You must see vulnerability as a skill and not as another thing lacking in your life. That’s how you become a great man, and that’s how you’re going to better your relationships with others.
Actions to take for important men’s work and support:
- Speak with other men to understand what they’re experiencing.
- Maintain a journal to write down your most private thoughts.
- Join men’s groups to associate yourself with like-minded individuals.
- Read books on gratitude and other spiritual books that are positive.
- Find ways to integrate vulnerability for other men into your life.
- Detach yourself from anyone who is toxic and contradicts your core values.
- Permit yourself to cry in private to release built-up emotions.
- Don’t volunteer personal information that you know will bring resistance or attacks.
Vulnerability and Loving Relationships
If you’re a father of daughters, are you the type of man that you hope your daughters will marry one day? What type of legacy are you leaving behind?
These are questions that need to be answered to find out if you truly will do the work to become open to vulnerability. It comes down to understanding there is undeniable value in sharing your thoughts and feelings, and even failures, with others in a safe environment. Choosing to do otherwise simply creates a false narrative and space for others to fill in the blanks of who you are. And that is a huge mistake, especially if you’re a father.
A good way to connect with those you love while learning how to be more vulnerable is also by giving others what you’ve learned. Once you’re making headway and feeling more confident with vulnerability, consider being a mentor to someone. Consider the relationships that you have.
Is there anyone in your life who could benefit from the experiences you’ve encountered?
You may think that you don’t have much to offer since you’re learning about vulnerability as well. However, more times than not, the teacher usually learns more than the student.
Take the opportunity to share your journey with a loved one that is struggling with the same vulnerability issues. If you’re the father of a son, this is imperative. You can break the cycle and reduce the likelihood that he will incur the same experiences as you.
While valuable vulnerability resources for men are readily available, there is no comparison to receiving information and direct knowledge from a respected authority figure. You can make the biggest difference and have the most influence, even while continuing the learning process yourself.
Common Struggles Among Men-to-Men Relationships
Some men grow up without a father, or the father is absent from the home because of a deep commitment to his job. Men have been led to believe that if you’re “putting food on the table” that’s enough to fulfill a fatherly obligation.
However, it’s simply not enough. And men are left without any direction for how to connect with other men without sports being involved. The masculine identity is a façade. And if you’re caught up in it, stop it. Men are creatures of habit.
Once they reach a certain age, it’s difficult for them to see things any different than they already are. You become isolated in your feelings and bury them deep inside. It is not only healthy for men to discuss vulnerable issues with other men, but it’s also essential to growing as a man. Men often imitate other men they respect.
The truth of the matter is that most men are desperate to open to other men, but they become frozen in any attempt to do so because of fear that the other man will consider them as being weak. How odd is that?
If the common unspoken bond is to share your feelings and be understood by another man, why do men struggle with opening up to one another?
While it may have to do with the fear of being misunderstood about ones’ orientation, it has more to do with the fact that they’re repeating the same pattern that was taught to them or the lack of teaching, to begin with, by an absent father. This pathology is continued until the man finally realizes just how damaging it has become to themselves and those they genuinely care for.
Unfortunately, it can take decades for some men to get to this point and it’s usually due to understanding their mortality once they become much older, perhaps elderly. And that’s a shame.
Below are a few ways to get the conversations started:
- Choose someone who has known you for a while.
- Don’t fear rejection or judgment from the other person.
- Don’t use alcohol to mask the feelings of vulnerability. Guilt from sharing too much may occur later.
- Ask the other person if they feel comfortable before speaking about the issues.
- Remain calm and don’t project your feelings onto the other person.
- Allow time for the person to let their guard down. They’re vulnerable too, just by listening to you.
- Consider using a related event that is like your issue to break the ice.
Men need other men to talk to, just the same as women need women. And there are vulnerability resources for men to support this life-changing process.
It’s vitally important to identify with someone who can relate to life in the way that you do. Talking brings closeness, respect, and fulfillment in immeasurable ways.
To get over this struggle much sooner in life, you must be willing to get out of your comfort zone and take a chance. More likely than not, the person to whom you choose to have an honest open dialogue will honor and respect your attempt at having a meaningful discussion about most things.
Typically, the uncomfortable feelings of vulnerability quickly dissipate. It must be a trusted relationship where a rapport has already been established or in an environment where those types of discussions are encouraged.
Identify Shadow Beliefs
Shadow beliefs are unconscious negative thoughts that you have about yourself that no one else knows about.
Everyone, regardless of who they are, has something about them that they want to change. But shadow beliefs can erode a person’s esteem to the degree that they become closed off from closely connecting with others because of the fear they will learn something that the person doesn’t want to be exposed to.
Typically, they’re formed at an early age. Perhaps a parent, bully, or sibling has contributed to feelings of inadequacy. Sometimes it’s sexual or verbal abuse that is blocking the person from being open. But shadow beliefs can also be the result of one bad outcome after another or simply bad luck. And for men especially, that can have a devastating effect on their lives. They are those little nagging thoughts that remind you of things that you wish you could forget and follow you wherever you go – like a shadow.
At the core of a shadow belief, a person doesn’t feel good enough or that they belong.
Belonging or being accepted is perhaps the most important feeling anyone can hope to have, and it is undeniably at the center of being open to vulnerability.
Men are very unlikely to share their true feelings in an environment where they are already unwelcome. Women are typically given the benefit of the doubt more often than men. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of shadow beliefs haunting them as well.
Women are often confronted with the words: “who does she think she is,” and that can leave feelings of doubt and insecurity.
For men to overcome feelings of lack or inadequacy, it means they must make a conscious choice to confront them. It may even take therapy.
Shadow beliefs are energy drainers, and men who don’t understand them are more prone to depression, alcohol abuse, or drug use. These thoughts must be challenged. Often, more than not, it’s simply F.E.A.R.: “False Evidence Appearing Real.”
Avoid the Narcissist!
While being vulnerable is a strength and a good way to connect with others, there is one trap that you need to be aware of. The narcissist!
In an attempt at being open and honest, you could come across someone who has the traits of being a narcissist. And they should be avoided at all costs when you’re vulnerable. It may even be someone that you’re already in a relationship with.
A narcissist looks for prey and relies on others’ vulnerability to enhance their sadistic ways of gaining joy from what they perceive are weaknesses.
Telling a narcissist your whole life story and secrets is a huge mistake. In the beginning, you may feel as though they’re interested in your need to open and discuss things authentically, but it’s not how they operate. As a predator, many of those with a narcissistic personality disorder will use the information against you. It could result in verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or manipulation.
Telling a narcissist your deep-dark secrets is like telling a burglar where the keys are to the front door of your home. Although your intentions may be to bring them closer, they intend to exploit you for their gain.
Signs that you’re dealing with a narcissist include:
- They disclose a private conversation between the two of you to others, sometimes right in front of you.
- A need for constant praise, attention, or validation. It’s all about them.
- There is a huge sense of entitlement, especially if they’ve helped you.
- They have a lack of shame, guilt, or remorse for wrongdoings or mistakes.
- Belittles, bullies, or demeans you or others, even after being confronted.
Narcissists are great charmers. You may think they have your best interest at heart, but don’t be fooled. Once they know that you’re vulnerable, they will plan their methods to exploit you while smiling ear-to-ear and pretending to care.
If you encounter a narcissist during a moment of sharing, they may also emphatically disagree with you, even when it doesn’t make any sense. Don’t try to explain the situation. They will use the opportunity to irritate you and attempt to gain power over you.
Simply walk away and end the conversation. Another good way to handle it is by remaining silent.
Silence is their kryptonite.
The bottom line for men is that they should treat vulnerability as a skill.
Vulnerability should be embraced and not feared.
Now that you understand that vulnerability is merely an extension of who you already are and that everyone feels it, the process should be much easier to embrace.
Remind yourself of the value that you bring to the world by just being who you are and that is enough. In the end, the fact that a man feels vulnerable means that he is in touch with his feelings to some degree, rather than having a cold existence. Knowing who you are is a key factor when engaging with others in deep and meaningful discussions.
Men should support one another and encourage open dialogue without fear and judgment. While every man is different and will have a different approach to being vulnerable, once the intention is clear, there can be a pathway to closeness and belonging in ways that were never achieved without being vulnerable.
End the cycle of past generations and stagnated pathologies by opening to others, even when it’s uncomfortable. And by all means, surround yourself with like-minded individuals, and stay away from toxic people who only want to drain you of your power.
Being vulnerable has nothing to do with being weak.
It can become the foundation you need to become a better father, husband, and friend, and even co-worker.
Once you have mastered being vulnerable, you become more fulfilled and a much happier person. The result is a truly open and loving person with flaws and gifts just like everyone else in the world. Own it.
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What does it mean to be a ‘great husband’, a ‘great father’, a ‘great brother’… a ‘great man’?
The lines have blurred and generations are challenged by these questions. Some would say a great man is one who doesn’t crumble under pressure, gives respect, also expecting respect in return, someone who loves others without judgment, a person whose word is their bond, controller of self-expression, and emotions, and ultimately someone others can look up to.
But is that it? Is it that simple?
It is easy to write down a list of all the aspects and ideas believed that make a man a great son, father, brother, or friend. But living into those lists, proved not so simple.
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