Strength In Vulnerability
When I tell guys that my coaching practice has a strong element of getting men re-connected with themselves, their integrity, and their ability to be vulnerable, the responses are predictable.
“But isn’t being vulnerable seen as weak, and therefore unattractive to women?”
“I was totally open with my last girlfriend and things went south… never again.”
“Okay cool… so what do I do to be seen as vulnerable?”
First of all, men have an aversion to showing weakness of any kind. Just as women are raised and socially conditioned with “slut-shaming” (a world in which being seen as easy is the highest social offence), men are raised in a world where they are taught that emoting and being vulnerable is a bad thing.
From before we can even speak, we have likely heard the phrase “big boys don’t cry” more times than we could count.
With this general aversion to being perceived as weak or incapable, I generally see two patterns emerge:
a) A complete refusal to be anything that could be seen as weak/incompetent/low-status/etc.
b) The externalization of vulnerability into a technique to do, as opposed to a way of being.
In either case, men are trying to keep control. Of themselves. Of others’ perceptions of them. Of outcomes.
When people feel uncertain, they want to feel certainty as fast as possible.
Men think, “if I never come across as weak, then I won’t have to feel weak”. Or if they realize the importance of vulnerability but still fear it on a deeper level, they grasp at certainty by making it a thing that they intentionally do. This way, when the technique doesn’t go as planned, it wasn’t really their ego on the line, just a silly thing that they were throwing out there.
It’s Not A Doing, It’s A Being
Masculinity (like femininity) goes through shifts over time. Like a pendulum, trends will swing one way for a few decades, and then swing back the other way just as hard.
Through the free-love movement of the 1970’s, women stretched their masculine muscles by burning their bras and joining the work force. Meanwhile, men grew their hair long, went on ‘men’s retreats’, and got more in touch with their feminine sides. This was a healthy step in the deconstruction of overly strict gender binaries and was progress for men’s emotional health in general. Where the problem comes in is that currently, like a dorm-room college girl rapidly un-tagging photos of her self on her Facebook account from her previous nights shenanigans, men are trying to cover their tracks.
Modern masculinity still has a resistance to being seen.
There is a brilliant re-frame of the word intimacy when it is thought of as the words “into-me-see”. Although this implies a one-way street of vulnerability, true emotional intimacy comes in to your life when you find a partner with whom you can both make that request.
Women are attracted to men based on their behaviour and character. If you are comfortable in your own skin, and in your head, then you are seen as more attractive than your more needy, reaction-seeking counterparts.
So how do you build your ‘tolerance’ to emotional vulnerability?
1. Stop hitting your internal snooze button
One of the most common things that I see on a day-to-day basis is men censoring themselves. I can see the hesitation on their faces as they think “I really want to tell her how I feel/how amazing she looks/how scared I am right now… but then I would look weak”. Being congruent with yourself is largely about leaving the internal snooze button alone and just saying what you feel. Does it take courage? Yes. Is it worth the sacrifice of ego and will it grow you as a person? Absolutely.
2. Embrace your self-perceived weaknesses
I knew an angel investor once who said that he would only put money into someone who could quickly answer the question “What are you terrible at?”. More times than he could count, someone pitched him their business idea, had all of the right answers in all of the right places, but when it came time to answering the question, if they hesitated in the slightest, he would lose all faith in them and their abilities. He described this to me as a sinking feeling in his stomach that registered consciously as “I can not trust this person anymore. They don’t know what their gaps are, and that means they are a risky investment”.
I think of this often when it comes to women and attraction. Women feel this just as much, if not more, when a man shows his fear of showing weakness or fault. They intuitively know, if this man cannot admit to messing up/feeling vulnerable/etc. then how can I trust him for anything else? Women will always act as a moment-to-moment mirror to you of your integrity.
3. Let go
Throw off the social mask that you’ve constructed and start being honest with yourself. Do you have a firmly entrenched self-concept as the guy who is a badass, aloof around women, and really wants to make sure that everyone knows that you don’t give a fuck? Let go of that guy… no body likes him anyways.
4. Be judged
Too often we self-censor because we fear being cast from the tribe. If the tribe doesn’t want to accept you for who you actually are, then it wasn’t your tribe to begin with. Move on.
5. Do it intentionally
Although I don’t recommend externalizing vulnerability into a technique, if you are someone that has an especially strong aversion to showing your emotions or being seen as “weak”, then doing it intentionally for a short period of time is a healthy step. This isn’t about lavishing others with your faults and insecurities, but rather about being comfortable with being seen. Try making your feelings known occasionally when you would otherwise be quiet. Set a boundary when you would otherwise have let the situation slide. Ask your girlfriend for some verbal nurturing after your long day of work, as opposed to closing down emotionally and hoping that she can read your mind. With time, this process will become more intuitive as you start to listen to what your mind actually wants.
As with anything worth having in life, there is no one quick fix in becoming more comfortable with vulnerability. Acclimatizing to vulnerability is a life long journey to be embraced and seen with compassion. And if there is any relationship in your life that is worthy of patience and nurturing, it is the one you have with yourself.
Dedicated to your success,