Being a man doesn’t mean you should be invincible. You can’t avoid pain, it’s just a part of life. Vulnerability can be a powerful weapon.
Men notoriously misunderstand vulnerability. Not long ago, I visited Jim Rohn’s FB page and found this quote:
“The more you care, the stronger you can be.”
Another visitor commented, saying that it’s not true; and that the more you care, the weaker you become because you are more susceptible to hurt.
Some other time I asked a few guys to scrutinize my blog and give me feedback on what I can improve. One of them after seeing my income reports and a couple of other posts warned me:
“Why are you sharing sales data? If you’re discouraged by it, I also am. Frankly, sharing sales data has been done before and you’ll want a good reason for being that vulnerable and open.”
They approached this subject from a totally wrong angle. Vulnerability is the source of power, not weakness.
Wrong Method No. 1: Fake It Till You Make It
The first method of protecting yourself is by hiding your vulnerability (like my blog’s auditor advised). But it won’t change the reality. Pretending there is no big bad wolf out there won’t make it magically disappear. Pretending that I earn five or six-figures monthly from my books won’t change the fact that I struggle to make $1,000 a month from my royalties, And this is the level of challenge I currently face.
This avenue is very dangerous because it incites internal deception. Pretending you are tougher than you are or that you have no hot spots may create an explosive situation. The moment you are touched (in a less than pleasant way) you will explode.
The reality will be different than your false beliefs about yourself. This will create a cognitive dissonance, and your brain will go frenzy. It will try to keep your internal world stable by enhancing your beliefs: “Yes, you are a tough guy, but…” Your mind will generate a load of excuses pointing out who is responsible for your situation (not you, of course). The blame is destructive, not constructive.
As a man, you want to be tough. I get it; I have the same testosterone-initiated inclinations. You wish to be the toughest guy out there. You want to be so mean/strong/invincible such that no one can hurt you or your family.
The problem with that approach is that it’s not realistic. Vulnerability is just a part of human fate. No matter how tough you will be, the universe will always be tougher. It can crush you at any moment. When that happens, you don’t just suffer from the ‘crushing’ part, you also suffer from destroying your self-image of a tough customer.
It happened to my distant cousin. He had a successful business, but it grew too rapidly. He wasn’t ready for that, he made some bad hiring decisions, his partners and employees cheated him, and he bankrupted. The guy just collapsed. He couldn’t stand the reality, and he started to live in the fantasy world where everyone was conspiring against him. Needless to say, that didn’t improve his and his family’s situation.
Wrong Method no. 2: Build Unconquerable Fortress
The other wrong method that avoids vulnerability is building thick walls around, such that nothing can go past them. Unfortunately, the only way to build an unbeatable fortress is to escape into catatonia. If you don’t feel anything you can’t be hurt, right?
“The walls we build around us to keep out the sadness also keep out the joy.” — Jim Rohn
The ‘Internal fortress’ way, is a path to a life of fear. Vulnerability won’t disappear because you’ve built walls around you. You will spend the rest of your life building even thicker walls, and you will focus too much of your energy on enforcing your fortress instead of just living your life.
The more immediate problem with this approach is that it will rob you of experiences. Hidden behind your walls, you won’t allow others to create a bond with you. You will play safe, but you will limit your options. You will not explore. In the end, you will finish with regrets on your deathbed.
Examine the five most common regrets of dying, and at least three out of them are related to vulnerability. We restrict ourselves from revealing our authentic selves and regret it afterwards. I cannot think of a better definition of failure that regretting on deathbed how you lived your life.
Vulnerability is universal and unavoidable. Embrace it and you will thrive.
Being a man doesn’t mean you should be invincible. You can’t avoid pain, it’s just a part of life. Vulnerability can be a powerful weapon. Allow yourself to put your guard down and be wounded. Do you remember the last fight scene from “Rob Roy?” Rob caught the opponent’s sword with his bare hand. He immobilized his adversary that way and finished him. That’s the allegory of real manhood, not hiding behind the illusion of being macho.
The greatest reward of this approach is that you will live your life in a more authentic way. You will be happier. On your deathbed, you will have no regrets.
Photo: Flickr/ Daniel Hoherd