When I think of “vulnerability,” I think of things like crying a lot and being forced to watch Oprah marathons (or Lifetime movies – take your pick). Unfortunately, the term “vulnerability” is often taken to refer to a more feminine expression of it. Trust me, I am not suggesting we guys “need a good cry,” share our feelings more than we want, or need to start attending cuddle parties.
However, as I have been reading the excellent book Models by Mark Manson, I am convinced by Manson that vulnerability not only means the opposite of what I thought, but that it is crucial for guys to be vulnerable if they want to be successful in life.
Being vulnerable means having such a strong degree of non-neediness and confidence that you are willing to put yourself “out there” regardless of the consequences. And, as anyone who studies attraction and success knows, that is extremely attractive. As Manson points out:
In this way, vulnerability represents a form of power, a deep and subtle form of power. It’s courageous, even. A man who’s able to make himself vulnerable is saying to the world, “Screw the repercussions; this is who I am, and I refuse to be anyone else.” He’s saying he is non-needy and high status (31).
So, vulnerability isn’t about buying into a more feminine frame; it’s actually the opposite: expressing your true feelings and intentions even if it might lead to criticism. As Manson mentions
Vulnerability is the path of true human connection and becoming a truly attractive person. As psychologist Robert Glover once said, ‘Humans are attracted to each other’s rough edges.’ Show your rough edges. Stop trying to be perfect. Expose yourself and share yourself without inhibition. Take the rejections and lumps and move on because you’re a bigger (34).
So, a lot of guys think of vulnerability the wrong way. True vulnerability is showing not only that you are non-needy, but that you are a real human being. And trust me, women are attracted to human beings. People tend to like and admire confident people who have a few flaws. We call them “wounded warriors.” Women don’t like weak guys. They don’t like insecure guys. But they love otherwise confident and non-needy guys who are “wounded” in some way.
Vulnerability also opens you up to recognizing your values and then standing up for yourself and embracing those values. It is important to be cool and kind to people, but assertively enforcing boundaries is a part of vulnerability. As Manson points out in his follow-up book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck,
The point isn’t to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.
Being vulnerable means you open yourself up and thus sort through the people and situations in your life that aren’t in line with your values. It stops you from wasting your time interacting with people whom you wouldn’t get along with anyway. So, being more vulnerable may mean standing up to your narcissistic mom for the first time, or getting closer to someone at work because you had enough confidence and vulnerability to share something with her about yourself that led to a deeper connection.
A few days ago someone tagged me on Facebook asking why I voted for whom I voted for. It was a detailed list of questions worded in a way that no matter what I said, him and his friends would have pounced on me.
In the past, I would have given a very nuanced answer that would have taken me an hour to word, with the intention of delicately pleasing him and his friends while maintaining my own views. In other words, producing pabulum that wouldn’t say much of anything.
I decided a few things this time around, namely that I didn’t owe an answer to him, let alone on a public forum where I knew I would be instantly passive-aggressively attacked verbally. And, since he was barely an acquaintance, I didn’t think I owed him an answer period.
My response to being tagged was a simple comment to the status: “I don’t have any obligation or compulsion to answer these questions here.” I was defriended within minutes.
That is vulnerability. I put myself out there by standing up to behavior I considered against my values. I took a social and personal risk. I learned very quickly that this acquaintance obviously wasn’t much of a friend if that statement alone caused me to be defriended immediately. My vulnerability steered me away from a guy that I wouldn’t have enjoyed hanging out with anyway.
So, guys, try some vulnerability, in the real sense of the word. You may be shocked how vulnerability is just the trait you need to become more successful in many areas of life.
When I was seventeen, my parents bought the family a camcorder for Christmas and to test it out, I decided to record a music video to the song “Video Killed The Radio Star,” which mostly consisted of me moving slightly while the camera was set to the strobe effect. I wanted to look like I was from the late 1970s (or at least what I thought looked like it), so I put on some hair gel. As I did that, a clump of hair came out from near my temples.
I became worried that I was losing my hair. My barber already said my hair was thin and suggested I would likely go bald, so it was on my radar, and not in a good way. I looked in the mirror and everything looked fine. Okay…nothing to worry about…
Fast forward to September 1996 of my freshman year in college, just 9 months later. One day while I was showering in the horrible dorm showers, I noticed a lot more hair than usual in the bottom of the shower.
Later that day I looked at my hairline. It looked different than it had back in January. It had receded in the front of my scalp, across my forehead and temples, and a small bald spot was developing in the back.
I suddenly started to get worried. I was only eighteen. I couldn’t believe I was starting to go bald. At the time, I already considered myself at a dating and social disadvantage, and I hated that I may have had to add baldness to that. My dad went bald at a young age, and I always worried I would be next. And, my twin brother Jonathan was going through the exact same thing (not a surprise).
I have always been proactive, and fortunately the FDA had approved minoxidil for over the counter use in 1996, and it was showing up in stores when I noticed all of this. I went to the local K-Mart and bought a month supply of the 2% solution, since that was all that was available at the time. A few days later Jonathan decided to as well.
Luckily, since I started using it early enough, that alone caused frontal regrowth as well as growth at the vertex. I have used minoxidil 2% since fall of 1996, and my head has just as much hair as it did then. In fact, in recent years, my hair has actually gotten thicker, and I’ll explain how. Jonathan has used the exact same treatment and experienced the same positive results.
I make no guarantees (so consult your doctor!) of general safety or effectiveness for what I list below. It is simply based on my experience.
I list all the anti-baldness treatments I have used, along with discussion related to them, and they are all available over-the-counter (minus Retin-A), and cost next to nothing. Note that the key to effectively stopping and treating hair loss is to catch it early. In fact, a lot of my success is related to the fact that I caught it in its earliest stages.
I have faithfully used generic 2% minoxidil since 1996. When I started using it, my hair loss stopped immediately, minus some possible initial shedding. Within a few weeks I noticed small, fine, hairs coming in.
Within a few months, I saw normally colored hair growth around my temples and front of my scalp, and I assume in the back as well (since minoxidil has actually been proven to cause growth there). That hair remains to this day (well, not the exact hairs but you get my point).
Without being on sale, minoxidil sells for around $20 for a three month’s supply. Most guys today use 5% minoxidil, which is just as cheap, and more widely available than 2%, but with theoretically more risk of side effects. The instructions say to use a dropperful (1 ml) twice a day. I am down to once a day (if that) thanks to using other treatments. So, for about $20, I get what amounts to a six month supply. Right now you can get generic 5% minoxidil for under thirty dollars on Amazon, for a six month supply.
Now I add a little bit of Retin-A to my minoxidil because it seems to increase its effectiveness. However, that is only available by prescription. If your doctor will prescribe it, you can add some to your minoxidil bottle.
Minoxidil likely works by bringing more blood to the scalp. It doesn’t address the main cause of male pattern baldness, which involves DHT. This article briefly explains how DHT causes baldness if you want to know. So, minoxidil may result in diminished returns after a while for a lot of users. Also, minoxidil alone may not work for every guy, nor will it work for long periods for every guy.
One side effect of using it regularly is dry scalp. I had extremely dry scalp after using it. The solution? This thing called a “pocket hair brush,” which I call a “head scraper.” Give your scalp a vigorous once over with it every few weeks to a month, and you’ll notice you’ll pull up a lot of dead skin. It also may stimulate the scalp and clear any gunk on your scalp that may be hypothetically worsening your hair loss.
Some people claim other side effects (like increased wrinkling, especially around the eyes), but the fact is that it is a commonly used, over-the-counter drug attests to its general safety. While not risk free, it is generally thought to be safe when used topically. I haven’t experienced any of the side effects, at least not that I know of.
If you are concerned about increased wrinkles from minoxidil, the mechanism by which that happens may relate to collagen destruction. Internal and topical Vitamin C could help with that. I have taken 500-1000 mg of Vitamin C a day basically for the same time I have used minoxidil. I have started applying it topically (face and scalp) over the last few months and the results have been great.
Internal Saw Palmetto And Plant Sterols (Phytosterols)
This small study showed that a combination of saw palmetto and beta-sitosterol (a specific plant sterol) taken internally (I assume) had positive results in treating hair loss. This is because saw palmetto and plant sterols may block DHT. I have taken saw palmetto extract since around 2001, and plant sterols since about 2007. I take a daily saw palmetto and sterols a few times a week.
I have noticed no negative side effects from taking these chemicals. Granted, I don’t take a whole lot compared to what others do, but I can say that they haven’t negatively impacted me.
Since starting this, I began cutting my minoxidil usage down to once a day, and nothing on my hairline changed. If anything, I saw an improvement in my hair count, so I continue taking them internally.
Topical Saw Palmetto and Plant Sterols
In 2011 I decided to start applying these elements to my scalp topically. That actually resulted in an expansion of my frontal hairline, for the first time since 1996. For the base of the mix, I combine equal parts filtered water + black pepper, slightly gooey coconut oil (let it melt a little), and some sunflower lecithin powder. Black pepper extract has been shown to render topical chemicals more effective. I heat water in the microwave, put some pepper flakes in it, let the water steep until the water is gray, then strain out the flakes.
The lecithin turns the water and oil into a mayonnaise-like consistency. Then I add a few sterol softgels, saw palmetto softgels and whisk it. It turns into a yellowish gel. I apply at the front and back of my hair. If I want to cover my whole head like a kind of shampoo, I mix it with some almond milk.
After using this, my frontal hairline expanded about 1/4 inch, particularly on the front right and left sides near my temple. And, that is using this very lazily, i.e. about once a week. I am currently expanding my usage of this to three times a week and seeing what happens.
I just started this, but a few studies suggest that this anti-dandruff shampoo may be just as effective as minoxidil in treating hair loss. That doesn’t mean it will be magic, but could be a cheap part of a hair-loss program.
Nizoral is available from Amazon and drug stores. Online advice from successful users seems to be that the OTC concentration (1%) works well. Shampoo with your regular shampoo first, rinse, and apply the Nizoral. Massage in your scalp and leave on for about three minutes. Use it every third day. Sadly, in some people it can cause hair loss, so watch out for that side effect.
I will update this article if I see any noticeable improvement or side effects.
UPDATE: Since the original publication of this article, I have stopped using minoxidil on Nizoral days, effectively reducing my 2% minoxidil down to once a day, 5 days a week. I haven’t noticed any change in my hairline, either better or worse.
Derma Rolling (Microneedling)
This is the newest addition to my anti-hair loss routine (as well as anti-wrinkle). Most people aren’t exactly lining up to stab themselves with little needles, but this is exactly what derma rolling is. The hypothesis is that the process gently stabs the surface of the skin to stimulate blood flow from the capillaries, without actually damaging the skin.
It may sound crazy, but one study found that microneedling + minoxidil was significantly more effective in promoting hair growth than minoxidil alone, in every measure (hair count, hair thickness, etc). Here is a link to Amazon’s listing of some derma rollers. In the study, they used the 1.5 mm length roller one time a week. They also applied minoxidil 5% twice a day, waiting 24 hours after derma rolling. Be sure to learn how to use the roller properly, including sterilizing it correctly.
I’m not convinced much else that is available over-the-counter will help with baldness, except perhaps topical azelaic acid. This means that I don’t think various supplements like Biotin or Silica will have much of an effect. I do take a lot of supplements, but I don’t think any of them directly impact hair loss, except the two I mentioned above. I do take Stinging Nettle for allergies from time to time, and it may inhibit DHT, but likely no better than the two I mentioned.
I have not mentioned Proecia/finasteride (aka Proscar) in this article. The reason is that I haven’t used it. It is available only by prescription. It is proven effective, and works in the same way saw palmetto and phytosterols hypothetically do, by blocking the effects of DHT. Some people swear by it, while a small percentage of others claim it ruined their lives by causing horrible side effects, including sexual performance related ones. Personally I avoid any pharmaceutical if I can.
Remember, this is just my experience. But, whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it right, for me. I have kept my hair 20 years after seeing it start to recede. A good friend of mine started balding at exactly the same time. He dismissed it. He is completely bald. There is nothing wrong with that, and he owns it perfectly. However, there are things you can do, especially if you catch it early enough!
So, you may wonder why someone else is popular, but you aren’t. What do popular people have that you lack? Well, science may just have an answer.
A study carried out at Columbia University by Dr. Kevin Ochsner suggests that what makes popular people popular is that they are highly attuned to (and emotionally invested in) the social status and likability of others, and then they adjust their behavioral strategies accordingly to become more likable themselves.
So, why popular people are the way they are isn’t too profound: popular people care about being popular.
According to Ochsner:
…the more popular someone is within a group, the more strongly these [emotional reward] brain systems react to the sight of another popular person. This finding suggests that popular people are “exquisitely sensitive to how likable other individuals are and that they can then tailor their behavior appropriately.”
Let me provide a few real world examples of how this may play out.
If a popular high school guy walks down the hall and sees a funny guy surrounded by three smiling girls, he’ll notice that. He’ll realize how good that must feel for that guy, and think about becoming funnier himself, likely by modeling the funny guy. He will also notice interactions that go badly, like when an awkward kid violates a girl’s personal space and she gives a disgusted look while leaning away. So, the popular guy will be aware of his personal space, and of any disgusted looks he might get, so in the future he knows what not to do.
An unpopular guy in the same high school likely may not have even been observing any social interactions that day. If he did see the three smiling girls around the funny guy, he likely didn’t think about the guy’s likability. If he did, he probably didn’t make the connection that he could change his own behavior to be more like the funny guy, because despite his unpopularity, he does want to be admired by girls like that. When he gets to class, he talks to a girl, standing too close, not picking up that she is leaning away with a mildly disgusted look on her face. And, he’ll repeat the same ritual again the next day without any social changes.
See the difference?
When I originally wrote this article around Christmas time of last year, I saw two forty-year old guys snatching up new Star Wars toys at a local department store. They seemed hyper-focused on getting all the right items possible. I was more concerned about how they came across – bad hair, beer guts, ill-fitting clothes, etc.
My brain was attuned to the social nature of the interaction; their brains were attuned to the Star Wars toys. While I’m not saying there was anything wrong with them or wrong with collecting Star Wars figures, I can gauge that caring about social interactions wasn’t high on their list of priorities, at least not at that point.
In the press release related to the study, the authors explain:
The work not only addresses the basic science question of how we track social popularity in the brain but also could eventually inform research on autism and other disorders that impair people’s ability to judge social status. “You could also ask questions about how can you bring people from the periphery, the not-liked part of a group, into the liked part of a group,” Ochsner says. And, he says, the work has enormous implications in the business world where the effectiveness of a hierarchical structure often comes down to who is most liked.
In other words, it may be possible to teach people how to observe likability in others to then change individual behaviors based on what is observed.
So, if those guys in the clothing store suddenly decided they were lonely, dateless, and wanted friends (and since I don’t know them, I have no idea if they are lonely or need social interaction) there could be ways to make them more popular, such as becoming aware of what popular people do, and then modeling their behavior after that.
That sounds familiar, because that is exactly why my brother and I established this website and consulting business a few years ago.
I should note that some people reading this may object that changing behaviors to be popular may be inauthentic. This is why our philosophy is that you should always strive to be your best self aligned with your values, rather than changing your values. However, part of being your best self likely involves having the skills to make new friends, get dates, and communicate well with others, and that is where learning social skills can play a key positive role in being your best self.
So, out-of-shape older guys everywhere can take comfort in their “dad bods,” sedentary lifestyles, and low-testosterone levels, right? Because, despite all other evidence, women must really be attracted to guys like Kevin James over Hugh Jackman, right?
No and no.
Actually reading the article reveals a very different conclusion than “women are attracted to fat older dads.” The Yale professor quoted in the article, Richard Bribiescas doesn’t really say much about attraction. He does quote research that fathers have lower testosterone levels, which some studies associate with lower risk of various diseases. So, slightly overweight dads may very well live longer than in-shape, muscular dads due to lower testosterone levels.
Bribiescas also argues, “becoming more podgy makes dads more likely to invest their time in their children rather than looking for other women…” and “this change in body composition…facilitates increased survivorship and, hypothetically, a hormonal milieu that would more effectively promote and support paternal investment.”
In other words, low testosterone levels after having a child make it more likely a dad will be faithful to his mate and child. This isn’t really news for people who study this sort of thing, since it is well-known in evolutionary psychology circles and validated by research in 2011. It also makes perfect sense that fathers would evolve to be more caring towards their mates and offspring during the exact period when survival of the offspring is the most precarious.
The mistake the author of the original article makes is concluding that because fat dads are more likely to live longer and have greater paternal investment, fat and older dads must be more attractive to women.
Trust me, being old and overweight with low testosterone definitely isn’t an attraction strategy. Research (and common experience) actually seems to show the opposite. Women are much more attracted to muscular guys, but tend to choose more stable guys to be in a relationship with. In fact, in the 2011 study mentioned above, it was higher testosterone guys who were more likely to become fathers to begin with, but their testosterone levels dropped once they became dads.
So, women aren’t attracted to overweight, lower-testosterone guys. They are attracted to the opposite, but seem quite happy when these high-T guys become cute and sensitive dads thanks to a sharp drop in T levels for a short period in the life of their child.
Unfortunately, this means E.L. James likely won’t be writing a follow-up to Fifty Shades of Grey where powerful and fit Christian Grey is replaced by a fat dad who babysits his kids regularly and practices his active listening skills, even though that would probably a better story than the original.
So, sorry guys, science really hasn’t validated the “dad bod” lifestyle. You still have to go to the gym tonight.
Halloween is a great time for guys to not only be social and meet new people but also demonstrate their wit, humor, and confidence through a costume. Halloween is one of the few times (maybe the only time) that adults can express their personalities in such an attention-getting way and still be socially acceptable.
Some Halloween costumes increase your attractiveness, and make women want to get to know you more. Some stand out in a positive way and are a great way to start conversations. It is a great way to meet new people, including friends and potential date interests.
Below are some of the best costumes for guys (if you need a costume, check out the cool selection at Amazon).
It never hurts to go as an authority figure of some type. Sometimes you’ll actually be admired and considered attractive even though everyone clearly knows it’s a costume. Uniforms make a guy look really attractive to women. The authority figure costumes can include being a cop, a Roman emperor, a firefighter, a judge, a soldier, etc. You can even be creative if that involves power and authority. Going as Donald Trump would fit this, and may be just controversial and funny enough to get plenty of attention, especially given this election season.
Bonus points: Get into your role by “arresting people,” making Caesaresque pronouncements, etc. Just don’t get too into it that you’re the one getting hauled off to the slammer.
Women do have a certain fondness for bad boys. Even if they’d never date them, there’s definitely an allure. Just like they enjoying watching the bad boy on the TV, if you can dress up as a bad boy or villain, you’ll get those feelings going for you, even if you’re really a pretty good guy.
Halloween is the time to let loose and show your bad side (in a safe and non-threatening way). Bad boy costumes include convicts, vampires, pimps, movie villains (like the Joker), etc.
Bonus points: Be scary and bad in your role. But, don’t go full creepy. No one likes that.
The Funny, Creative, Or Outrageous
These are high risk, high reward ventures. If you can pull off something unique, fun, and creative and everyone gets it and appreciates it, you are the man. However, if it falls flat, is too obscure, too girly, or even creepy, then you’ll look like a tool or “one of the girls.” So, do this very carefully, especially if you think you might piss off people too much or be the one laughed at (rather than with). If that’s the case, don’t do it.
Bonus points: You pick something that makes the ladies want to pose with you for pictures.
So, here are a few great Halloween costume ideas for guys. Pick carefully. It’ll help your social life if you choose the best Halloween costume.