We may shy away from stereotypes, but often they are there for a reason. While women might meet for a coffee, to walk the dogs, or play with the kids, and chat about their day, week – their entire life, men are often more reluctant to open up about their feelings. That’s why it becomes increasingly important to foster an environment that encourages men to express their feelings.
The Importance Of Emotional Vulnerability In Men
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Call it toxic masculinity or the hunter-gatherer instinct, but for whatever reason, some men find it very hard to display their vulnerabilities. And yet, men are more susceptible to feelings of suicide, depression, and loneliness. The main issues that men struggle with, but don’t want to talk about include:
1. Mental health
When faced with pressure from all sides to be the “strong one”, it can be very difficult for men to talk openly about any struggles that they may be having with their mental health. By normalizing talking about how people feel in their work and home life, it is possible to create a forum in which men may feel a little bit more able to open up.
It’s not only men who experience tricky relationships with partners, family, friends, adult children, or work colleagues, but men don’t tend to have a natural space where they can vent their problems. Asking open questions can help give men space to expand on their concerns a little bit, rather than shutting the conversation down with a yes/no/fine answer.
Related Reading: Expert View – What Is Intimacy To A Man
3. Sexual health
From sexually transmitted infections to erectile dysfunction, very few people like talking openly about the less glamorous side of their relationship. However, if one man starts talking about the impact of Viagra on his sex life, you can guarantee that his friends, too, will open up about a preference for sildenafil.
Similarly, most men of a certain age and experience will have known people with STIs, or dealt with them themselves. The most difficult part is talking to someone but if you or your partner seem quiet or concerned about sexual health, encourage them to see a doctor even if they won’t open up to you.
4. Self-esteem and body image
Dad bods might be all the rage at the moment but a dad bod by social media’s standards is an “amazing condition” by anyone else’s. We think that it is only women who look in the mirror and don’t like – or even hate – what they see, but poor body image and low self-esteem don’t discriminate between sexes.
Once again, society has normalized that men are lone hunters, or they go in packs. Both being alone and being in a “pack” can be incredibly lonely; in fact, men who experience loneliness often say they feel most alone when they are in a big group of people, but nobody can see their pain.
There are different ways of encouraging men to express their feelings, validating those feelings, and giving men space to process the impact of their emotions and what they would see as a successful resolution. However, there are some things that everyone can do to help all people, but most especially those who are most reluctant to bear their vulnerabilities, open up and take care of themselves.
6. Challenging societal norms
You may have noticed that most of the issues that men struggle with are rooted in societal norms that expect men to be strong, silent, and resilient. People of all genders can tackle this issue by addressing the unrealistic societal norms and reinventing them to reflect the real norms: that it is OK for anyone to show weakness and express their emotions; in fact, often, it takes more strength to open up and face your fears and anxieties than it does to hide them away from the world.
Related Reading: 9 Things That Happen When A Man Is Vulnerable With A Woman
7. Create a safe space
By normalizing talking about emotions, anxieties, and aspirations, it is possible to help men to open up more about what they are really feeling. It is important to create a feeling of safety. The idea is to make it clear that if something is said in confidence, it will remain so. It can help to “trade confidences” – mutual vulnerability, trust, and openness can encourage others to be the same.
In some instances, for example, in some relationship troubles, or if there is a substance dependence in place or a history of severe mental health problems, that safe space may be, to start with in a counseling or group therapy session. There is no harm or shame in seeking help; the bravest people do.
8. Show you care
It may sound like the most obvious thing, but people who are anxious, depressed, or lonely often feel as though they are the only ones who feel that way, and that nobody will understand them. Conversely, some people feel that their emotions are invalid and people are experiencing worse things, so they don’t have a right to express themselves.
Make sure that those closest to you know that you are there for them if you need them. Emphasize that there is no such thing as an invalid emotion, and practice being an active listener – this means listening openly, nodding, and showing empathy, without taking over the conversation.
We all have a duty to make the world a kinder place. By playing our part in acknowledging the strength it takes to be honest and open with ourselves as well as others about our emotions, we can make it easier for those around us to express their vulnerabilities and ask for help when they need it.