Skip to main content

Vulnerability often gets a bad rap, especially when it comes to defining what it means to be strong or masculine. But let’s set the record straight: vulnerability isn’t about weakness; it’s about courage. It’s the willingness to show up, be seen, and speak your truth, even when you can’t control the outcome. Embracing vulnerability opens the door to deeper connections, greater empathy, and a life rich in emotional texture.

Vulnerability in Action

A couple of months ago, one of my closest friends gave me a call. From the moment I heard his voice, I could sense that something was really wrong. His voice clearly conveyed pain and sadness. My heart went out to him as he shared his story. The previous night, he had gone through a traumatic event that left him feeling completely shattered and devastated. I made sure to give him my complete attention. I wanted to create a safe space where he could freely express himself without any fear of judgment. I understood that he needed someone who would genuinely listen and validate his feelings.

In the following weeks and months, I made sure to always be there for him. We would often have long conversations, and I did everything I could to show him kindness, empathy, and unwavering support. It was crucial for me to create a secure and nurturing environment where he could open up and share his pain. I knew that the best way to do that was by being open and vulnerable myself.

A few years ago, I might not have been capable of providing the level of support that my friend desperately needed. Fortunately, I’ve been on an incredible journey in pursuit of a more fulfilling life. During this journey, I’ve learned that it’s perfectly okay to be vulnerable. I’m truly grateful that I was able to be there for my friend, expressing how much he means to me and how deeply I care about him.

Embracing Change and Finding Purpose

Being vulnerable has always felt like climbing a mountain for me, and I think a lot of it comes down to being a man. Society and even our own families often send the message that men should “man up” and hide their vulnerability. My dad, who struggled with alcohol and was pretty harsh, set the tone for me. He rarely let his guard down, choosing instead to drown his feelings in booze and lash out. So, what did I learn? I learned that vulnerability was a no-go zone, something to avoid. I hid behind a tough exterior, thinking that’s what made me a “real man.”

Fast forward to my adult life, and it’s no shocker that I had my own battle with alcohol. My dad’s influence was like a shadow I couldn’t shake. He taught me that the “manly” way to deal with stress, whether from work or arguments with my spouse, was to numb it with alcohol. The playbook was simple: shut down emotionally, act like you’re made of steel, and drown your sorrows. Crank up some classic rock, grab a cold one, and pretend everything’s fine.

A Sobering Realization

After years of battling, I finally had a sobering realization that I was drowning in the depths of alcoholism. I felt like I had lost control of my life and desperately needed a change. I found it difficult, but somehow, I found the courage to reach out to a friend for help. With the compassionate support of a counselor, I began my journey towards sobriety, ready to reclaim my life.

As I emerged from the shadows of that dark period, I began to see how unhealthy drinking truly was. It was a habit I once believed was a measure of masculinity. This revelation prompted me to question other lifestyle choices I had made based on misguided notions of what it meant to be “manly.” This set me on a quest not only to quit drinking but to reevaluate every aspect of my life, in pursuit of a meaningful existence. Now, my aim is to live a life filled with purpose and genuine connections, no longer allowing societal stereotypes to dictate what it means to be a man.

Men are strongest when they allow themselves vulnerability with those they care about.

Breaking Stereotypes and Building Connections

Throughout this journey, I’ve discovered healthier ways to connect with those around me and build stronger relationships. After years of emotionally shielding myself, I’m actively striving to understand and embrace my own personal narrative. I’ve started to question the societal expectations and stereotypes that perpetuate these behaviors. And, perhaps most importantly, I’m working on breaking down the barriers I’ve erected and allowing others to witness my vulnerability. It’s a gradual process, but I’m making progress each day.

The notion that men need to be tough to be considered masculine is reinforced by societal and cultural messages. Cultural messages tell men to be aggressive, unemotional, and self-reliant to appear manly. Consequently, many men learn to suppress their emotions and avoid vulnerability to conform to these gender norms. As a child, I vividly remember hearing phrases like “boys don’t cry” or “man up,” which urged me to stifle the painful emotions I experienced during challenging situations.

Embracing Vulnerability as Strength

Men might hesitate to show vulnerability because they may not have had a positive role model who openly expressed their own vulnerabilities. If we haven’t witnessed other men demonstrate vulnerability in healthy and productive ways, it can be challenging to know how to do so ourselves.

Furthermore, men often fear that revealing their vulnerabilities will make them appear weak or inadequate. I can relate to this fear; I used to worry that showing vulnerability would diminish my masculinity. And sometimes, I still have those concerns. Cultural messages reinforce the fear by suggesting that vulnerability shows weakness or femininity.

However, through time and self-reflection, I’ve come to understand that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather an indication of strength and bravery. In the words of Brené Brown, a well-known researcher and author, “Vulnerability is not winning or losing; it’s having the courage to show up and be seen when we have no control over the outcome. Vulnerability is not weakness; it’s our greatest measure of courage.”

The Rewards of Vulnerability

I want to emphasize that this journey isn’t easy. It’s a continuous struggle that demands daily effort, ongoing learning, and deep self-reflection. The key is to practice self-compassion and remind myself that being vulnerable takes courage, even if it feels scary or uncomfortable. I must be kind to myself throughout this process.

What keeps me going is my strong desire to break down barriers and truly connect with those around me. I want the people in my life to understand just how much I care about them, instead of assuming they already know. When someone opens up to me, I strive to show genuine empathy and understanding. And in return, I need to allow them to see my vulnerabilities too.

When I express vulnerability in healthy and constructive ways, I find that it helps me build deeper connections and improve my overall well-being. Despite what I was taught in my upbringing, I’ve been able to reshape my beliefs about what it means to “be a man.” I’m learning that it’s perfectly fine to be vulnerable and let others see the real me.

Although it can be challenging, the rewards are incredibly fulfilling. Embracing vulnerability has transformed my existing relationships and brought wonderful new ones into my life. I owe it to my family and community to continue pursuing a life of openness and love.

Brown, C. B. (2012). Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead (1st ed). Gotham Books.
Nicholas Cardot

The transformation begins with you. Develop the leader inside you and become the driving influence your community is looking for.

Leave a Reply