vulnerability double standard

We have two perceptions of vulnerability. In others, we admire their ability to authentically display their emotions and expose themselves. We see strength in their ability to honestly and openly express their feelings with us. In ourselves, we see vulnerability as a synonym for weakness. We feel ashamed and embarrassed at the thought of sharing our true feelings. It’s a complete double standard and I think it’s important to be aware of it.

We can’t expect others to be vulnerable and honest with us when we fear this quality (yes, I consider vulnerability a quality). Guys, we especially struggle with vulnerability because society has defined men as stoic, powerful and therefore we’ve masterfully trained ourselves to create the façade that we don’t have feelings. Any behavior that doesn’t fit this limited and irrational mold of a man threatens our manliness. It’s such a complex topic and I urge you to check out a documentary on Netflix titled The Mask You Live In.

shame vs. guilt

These two words are used interchangeably, but it’s important to distinguish them, as they have different meanings. When I say You are a liar, I am shaming you. I am defining you as a person. I am attacking your character. When I say You lied, I am making you feel guilty. I am saying that in a specific moment you were not honest. The key difference is that through shaming you I am attacking you as a person, but when I employ guilt, I am merely attacking your actions.

Now, you might think that it doesn’t really make a difference. But, if people consistently use words of shame or you conduct shame-based self talk for years, that will start impacting your self-esteem. Shame is the #1 killer of a growth mindset. When we listen to shame, we lose accountability. We start thinking I am a loser, I am stupid and my actions will not change that. The correct approach is I lost, but I’m not a loser. I am still in control of who I become and I can grow. This doesn’t only refer to negative attributes. If you keep hearing you are smart, you are a winner, we can become overly confident and arrogant. We might start thinking that regardless of our actions we will always be successful and that is just as dangerous. It can lead to an entitlement and the notion that the world owes us something, which it doesn’t.

Positives

Detailed

This book really goes into detail on the topic of vulnerability. Brown delves beyond the surface and tackles a variety of topics related to vulnerability. One of my favorite sections is her detailed discussion on both men and women’s distinctly different challenges when dealing with vulnerability. 

This book is for you if…

  • You are struggling with low self-esteem
  • You are a parent
  • You are a boy/man – There is a societal taboo and stigma regarding men and emotional expression and this book discusses this topic well