General Advice Warning. The information on Dad Mode is intended to be general in nature and is not personal financial or product advice.
Vulnerability doesn’t come easily to men, or to women for that matter. But it’s incredibly important for our wellbeing to clean out our built up emotional baggage.
Our lives depend on it more than you think.
Six men commit suicide every day in Australia, most of them leaving behind grieving loved ones that had no idea they were struggling. People with suicidal ideations look just like normal people. They go to work, have dinner with their families and hang out with their mates.
So why is this happening and why are men in particular susceptible? It seems we are afraid of asking for help to the point of pretending to be fine and lying to our loved ones when asked 'Are you ok?', even when we are not.
Some of the top protective factors when it comes to suicide prevention are supportive social relationships and Effective help seeking. The problem with these is that in order for them to help, you need to be open and willing to communicate how you are feeling. You need to be vulnerable.
How can I be more vulnerable?
After recording a podcast episode for Being Men on The Power of Vulnerability (listen to it here) we had an amazing response, from both men and women, about how we were able to put it all on the line and share how we were feeling. I tell you what, it felt great but it definitely wasn’t easy.I spoke about how I have felt in the past, and how I overcame the urge to hold it all in. I have struggled, and continue to do so, but the power and strength I have gained through vulnerability is immense. This is true masculine power, and I want to share it.
Now, I’m not recommending that every man out there starts a podcast and shares their deepest struggles with the world. Talking to one person will do. You can move on to the rest of the world later.
In order for us to actually want to be vulnerable, we need to see the benefits. Although there are many others, I’ve outlined a few below.
It builds intimacy in relationships.
You can’t really get to know someone unless they truly see you. So, opening up to your partner and sharing your true self is invaluable. This can seem scary, but it’s necessary for a healthy and long-lasting relationship. Remember, a big part of being in a relationship is nurturing each other. That can be difficult if you aren’t telling your partner how you feel.
When I first met my wife, I didn't tell her how I was really feeling and we struggled to connect because of it. I was afraid of what she would think of me and that I she wouldn't see me as a strong man unless I 'took everything on the chin'. That all changed when she was assaulted (more on that here). I saw a side of her that I hadn't before, a raw and emotional woman that was wincing as she had her stab wound stitched up (seriously!).
I didn't see weakness in her that day, only strength. It inspired me to be more courageous with my vulnerability and our relationship has been strong ever since.
You will connect with more people on a deeper level.
Being vulnerable with people will make you realise that you are not alone and that we are all just walking around hiding from people that are hiding too.
It's a deeply human thing to feel comforted by someone empathising with you and it turns out that connection over pain is a great building block for relationships.
You will attract the right kind of people into your life.
We pretend that we aren’t vulnerable because we think people won’t like it if we are. The opposite is true. Valuable people want you to be real and to understand what you are going through. How can they help if you don’t open up to them?
To attract people who will understand and compliment you in your life, you need to show them the real you. And anyone that doesn’t like it can take a hike…
Now, before you jump in the deep end and try and muscle your way to emotional freedom, let’s make it easier for you.
1. Who can I be vulnerable with?
Go easy on yourself and be vulnerable with someone you know will support you.
This can be your partner, a parent, a mentor or your best mate.If you can’t think of anyone you trust in your social circles, get in touch with an organisation like Beyond Blue, or even me! I'm always up for a chat.
2. But what do I say.
The hardest part about opening up to someone is often not knowing what to say. So why not write a script in your head on your way to meet them or just take a moment to think about it before you approach them. I’ve even been known to write things down on a piece of paper and read it out word for word. Whatever works!
I've written a script below to help you get started!
3. Take it slow.
You don’t have to share everything straight away! Just start with the easy stuff and be proud that you have done it. There is nothing wrong with just saying, “Hey I’m not feeling great today”. That’s all it takes, you will build momentum from there.
More often then not the other person will say "Oh really? Im feeling crappy too". Then you're off to the races.
4. Where is the best place to be vulnerable?
It might help to keep yourself busy while you’re talking to someone. Driving is a great way to feel comfortable when being vulnerable. Your hands are busy and you don’t have to look anyone in the eye. This doe's wonders for that feeling of anxiety that comes up just before you're about to say something hard.
I usually like to avoid things like alcohol and loud, distracting places like bars to have these conversations. Do it where you feel comfortable, it's quiet and you can speak freely without worrying about other people listening in.
Your vulnerability cheat sheet
Below is a great conversation starter that can get the ball rolling for you and remove some of the nerves. Use this a a guide and add your own flavour.
Hey mate, thanks for catching up! It's been a while...(insert small talk, hows your dog, check out this great website dadmode.io etc..)
I've been feeling really crappy lately mate, can I chat with you about it? (this is a good temperature check to see if your mate is up for a chat, some people aren't and thats ok!)
They may ask you to explain what is happening. You can be as vague or as detailed as you want.
- My dad just died and I feel so much pain but I don't know how to deal with it. I miss him.
- My girlfriend is pissed at me and I don't know why, this relationship is super hard.
- I'm finding it really hard to get out of bed, do you feel like that sometimes?
- I have this tight feeling in my chest, it fucking sucks!
Sometimes you may want them to give you advice and sometimes you just need someone to listen, it can be valuable to be clear about this at the start. You could say, "I would love to hear your thoughts" or " Can I just vent for a bit?".
Like I said earlier, it's important you have the right person, but if you try and they aren't receptive. Thats ok too!
Make sure you thank them after your chat, give them a hug and ask them how they are going, reciprocation is important!
Some tips if someone is being vulnerable with you
Some of these seem obviouse but are worth keeping in mind.
- Be an active listener
- Let them know you understand
- Be non-judgemental
- Let them know you are here if they need to chat again
- Take them seriously
- If you don't understand, do some research!
Remember that it takes real strength to be vulnerable so be proud of yourself when you do it.
Now go out there. Be brave and be vulnerable. You’ll be amazed at how good you will feel.
Cya in the next one X
Want to dive deeper into vulnerability? Check out Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown.