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.