ue bot icon

Leadership Thought #264 – Vulnerability Doesn’t Equal Weakness

December 15, 2011

Free Photo Of Man Wearing Black Eyeglasses Stock Photo

As a boy growing up all my public role models were the strong silent types.  John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen were all men of few words but vigorous action.  Men didn’t show their feelings; they just dealt with whatever came their way in the most expeditious fashion.  Problems were meant to be solved not fretted over.  Real men weren’t vulnerable. They were strong for all of those around them and kept their feelings to themselves.  My dad very much lived up to this expectation.  I can’t remember even one example of him telling me how he “felt” about something.  He just did what he was supposed to do and that was that.

From where I sit now, I both respect and feel sorry for him.  It must not have always been easy to have to “suck it up” and just deal with things.   Vulnerability isn’t a weakness it is just the acceptance of being human and having to deal with the full range of human emotions.  Moreover, emotions aren’t bad.  How we deal with our emotions is what matters.

No one has ALL the answers and to act as you do must be a heavy burden.  Leaning on other people when you need them is not a sign of weakness but more indicative of our common human need for love, friendship, and support.  If you bottle everything up and repress how you are truly feeling, eventually something will have to give, and the reaction may end up being disproportionate or out of context.  Sadly, anger is often a common outlet for men who are struggling to come to grips with their emotions.

All of life is lived on an emotional continuum.  To ignore this fact simply won’t work in the long term.  This doesn’t mean you should dwell in the land of extremes or share how you are feeling about everything all the time.   What it does mean is that it is okay to show some cracks in the armor.  When life gets heavy or you are amid great difficulty, seek out family and friends and ask for help.  At a minimum, find a few people you can confide in.  Being vulnerable doesn’t equal weakness.  We must deal with emotions and skills gaps to our detriment or betterment – the choice is ours.