Men: Here’s Why Vulnerability and Male Intimacy Are Likely The Medicine You Need to Thrive as a Leader
All of us men have been taught – either explicitly or by example – to be invulnerable.
We receive the message countless times each day that “real men” are rough, rational, independent, and always having their shit together. We’re supposed to be providers. We’re not allowed to be “weak” or “soft.” We could go on…
This patriarchal belief system is like a suit of armor that we can’t take off. We may get accustomed to living with armor on, but when we get honest with ourselves, the cost (to ourselves, not to mention others) is immense.
Armor is the opposite of vulnerability, and vulnerability is the gateway to intimacy – “into me see.” This experience of being seen, reflected, and honored by others is an essential ingredient for our wellbeing, healing, and growth.
Without lots of healthy intimacy, we are far more likely to be lonely, disconnected, isolated, and in pain. Symptoms surface such as depression and anxiety, health issues, insecurities and doubts, struggles with relationships and sex, career stress and lack of purpose. At the extreme, we may even become suicidal.
Many men will do anything to feel better except be vulnerable and intimate – get obsessive about Crossfit, turn to any number of addictions (workaholism, alcoholism, gaming, etc.) – but these don’t resolve the underlying issues.
Without the light of attention, our old patterns stay stuck in the shadows.
Connection is everything.
Male intimacy in irreplaceable.
Many of us have learned it’s not safe to open up our hearts in the presence of other males. We’ve been misunderstood, shut down, shamed, and rejected too many times before – perhaps by our own fathers, certainly by other boys when we were boys and men since then.
Many of us were taught to conflate intimacy and sex, and – steeped in a homophobic culture – steered clear of the whole picture.
So when it comes to intimacy, maybe we’ll open up with a therapist or with female friends we trust, but for many of us, male friendships are about doing “guy stuff” and don’t go deeper than that.
This is a huge lost opportunity.
There are parts of us that can only be healed in relationships with other men.
Roughly speaking, about half of our wounds originated from our fathers and our paternal lineage. Generations of dads who were abusive neglectful – or on a more subtle level – emotionally cut of themselves. Our dads were doing their best, but invariably they passed down their own pain.
Layer on top of that all the cultural wounds we’ve been talking about as well as toxic male competition, patriarchy, aggression, and shame, and that we have our work cut out for us on the path to freedom.
When it come to healing, the best medicine is the source of our wounds in another reflection. Meaning, it’s healthy male relationships that are the balm for our male wounding.
Male intimacy is a critical source of strength and understanding that can’t be met any other way.
If you don’t already know this to be true, the only way to find out is through lived experience.
As co-leaders of The Brotherhood, we’ve done a lot of work over a collective 35 years in men’s work to untangle our own conditioning and show up vulnerably with men.
We lean on each other for support as well as celebration. Let our tears flow freely (as well as our fear and shame, our anger, our excitement, and our joy!). We say “I love you” to each other regularly. We feel less alone than ever, we’re thriving, and our growth and evolution are accelerated in the crucible of our collaboration.
After being in a men’s group together for three years, our purpose together awakened. We wanted more men to have this experience of deep connection with other men, which is why we created the Brotherhood Community.
We’ve created a space where men can feel safe to connect with each other honestly and vulnerably in mutual support. And yet there’s a barrier to entry.
The #1 thing that prevents men from joining our community through our Free Men's Coaching Circles isn’t money (the calls are free) or time (that’s the cover-up) – it’s fear of being vulnerable.
What we want to say to men is this –
Of course safety is important, and we do our best to create a safe and supportive space on these calls. We also actively encourage you to “stretch” into your vulnerability while taking care of yourself and knowing your limits.
Within these limits, vulnerability is where your freedom lies.
You may have heard Brené Brown – a shame and vulnerability researcher – talk about the power of vulnerability in her famous 20-minute TED talk that has been viewed over 30 million times.
Vulnerability is truly the medicine of our times, and if you’re considering joining this call, there’s a part of you that’s ready and yearning to be more seen, felt, heard, and known. Specifically by men, perhaps because you haven’t received a lot of empathy and care from men in your life.
Not only is vulnerability a key to healing, but it’s a key to leadership, since powerful leadership comes not from some facade or veneer you learn to put on – it’s the true freedom that comes from knowing you have nothing to hide.
This is the power of vulnerability.
If you’re a man reading this and are inspired to lean into your vulnerable edge, read more about our Free Men's Coaching Circles and join us for our our next call.