This was originally shared in my newsletter that I send out bi-weekly on what I’m learning and writing about in the topics of mindfulness, relationships, and technology.
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Greetings from foggy San Francisco.
You know that question that people ask sometimes? It’s frustrating and challenging to answer. “What would you do if you didn’t have to work?” or it’s close cousin, “in a world that money wasn’t a concern, how would you spend your time?”. Ugh.
I usually dismiss the question by saying a platitude that I’ve previously rehearsed. Although, as I’ve gotten older I have developed more clarity on this topic.
I would focus on the problem of toxic masculinity. I would specifically work to help men be more vulnerable. I was inspired to first think of men’s vulnerability in a surprising place; my college fraternity.
Many of the negative stereotypes about the Greek System are true. From hazing to sexual assault, many of these organizations inflict long-term damage on both college men and women. This is a problem and we need to work on it.
Are there positive parts of being a part of a fraternity? Of course. For me, one of those positive aspects were Monday meetings. The content and depth of those meetings alone is why many of us devoted years helping to run the organization.
A portion of Monday meeting would be allotted for brothers to speak about whatever was on their mind. An open floor and an open mic. Space was there to share anything. It could be a midterm we failed, an internship we were striving for, or a story of that cutie they were crushing on.
Some would share how their parents verbally or physically abused them growing up. Others would speak about how they were feeling about one of their family members who had passed. Most would share their deepest insecurities at some point in their fraternity experience. I would look forward to these evenings to do the same.
There were men from all over the world with a variety of temperaments, talents, and convictions. From Hong Kong, Dar es Salam, Dubai, Mexico City, and Miami. They were studying to becoming our future engineers, doctors, and founders. Externally many would present themselves to have their shit together. But once they were in that room on Mondays they could finally open up. After 4 years in the fraternity, in that room, you hear pretty much everything.
This is where I learned how valuable being vulnerable was. Especially the importance for men to do so. I believe there are three main reasons why this is important:
- For yourself: Being in touch with your emotions allows you to work through difficult moments in your life. It helps to be able to share them with others to realize you’re not alone. Finding other guys that can help you open up and be more vulnerable is powerful. The speed with which you’ll discover more about yourself, work through difficult emotional baggage from childhood, and hear what others are going through may leave you in a better mental place than men who in their 50’s and 60’s; who may not have had the opportunity to find a safe space for them to do the same.
- For the women in our lives: Many of my girl-friends have complained about their overbearing boyfriends. I think this occurs because those same men do not have other men to share their feelings with. They then share all of their emotional moments with their girlfriends, which can be overwhelming. A man that is open with themselves is one that can be more caring and compassionate with their sisters, their mothers, and their partners. Men who are in touch with their emotions can be better fathers.
- For society: If we’re vulnerable ourselves, we can create space for others to be vulnerable with us. This can allow us to connect with people that may not have the same background as us. We can observe our common humanity and concurrently develop our compassion and empathy. This compassion and empathy help you understand the people you work with, the citizens you’re crafting policies for, and the teams you’re overseeing. This is how you’ll become “more of a man” and generally a better a human.
Many men find it difficult to share their emotions, to let go, and to let people in. Our society is improving, but still, in the majority of the world, men are not encouraged to be vulnerable. We see incorrect role models in our fathers; a figure without emotion who withstands any difficult experience without shedding a tear. A father who isn’t able to say “I love you”, and open up about his insecurities; even though you know he has plenty. I was lucky to be surrounded by men that behaved differently.
This is a topic I’m quite passionate about. So much so, that working with Davidson Hang and a few other authors, I’ll be writing a short book about this topic. This piece I’m writing now was inspired through a conversation we had on his podcast I shared with you last week, which you can find here.
I’m curious to get your thoughts on this. It’s the first time I’m writing a book and I’m a bit nervous. Can you share with me what you think about the topic of men’s vulnerability? Do you think about it? What can we do better? How do we educate other young men to think through these topics more deeply?
Looking forward to this journey.