5 Ways To Become More Vulnerable (And Be A Better Father)
It's no secret that a lot of men have trouble with vulnerability. I'm one of them. For fathers (or expecting fathers), however, that's a bit of a problem. Good fathers need to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is the vehicle that allows you to connect emotionally to people. As boys growing up, we're conditioned to think that vulnerability is a weakness. We should never cry or appear weak. Tough guys are stoic, strong, and not emotional.
The truth is, we need to be emotional. We need to be in tune with our emotional selves in order to truly validate the feelings of other people. We need to show empathy and compassion. We need to know how to nurture.
So, one of the first things I prioritized for my fatherhood training was how do I become more vulnerable? I'm incredibly fortunate to have a great therapist, and together we put together an action plan of sorts of how I can practice vulnerability, process my own emotions and open up my emotional self for when baby comes.
Here are the five things I've been doing to become more vulnerable in preparation for fatherhood:
1. Look at other babies
It sounds weird, I know, but seeing other babies has absolutely melted me after Mina became pregnant. The mixture of excitement, joy, pride and sensitivity is something I have never experienced. In a weird way, it feels really good to get that mushy feeling inside whenever I see a baby make a face, or cry, or laugh. I've learned to embrace this feeling, let myself feel it and to use it as an opportunity to practice batting away the judgmental thoughts of what I've been told masculinity is supposed to be.
2. Don't hold back the tears
Ever since I was a teen, I've had trouble allowing myself to truly feel sadness and process it. Like a lot of men, it's rare for me to cry, and when I do I usually find myself trying to swallow the feeling or feeling completely ashamed for being a baby. Lately, I've been working past these self-judgments and letting myself fully realize the tears and sadness. I make myself sit with the emotion and let it come out of me, if it wants, without judgment. I'm even experimenting with sad films and stories, to see if I can trigger this response and practice it and recondition myself to feel again.
3. Daily journaling
This is probably the most important one. Every night I write the feelings I remember feeling throughout the day and how I managed them. I make note if there were feelings I avoided (like pushing away sadness instead of processing) or feelings that didn't make sense for the situation (like if I was angry, was anger a secondary emotion to protect myself from being hurt?). This has allowed me to recognize patterns and troubleshoot them as they come up, to make sure I'm dealing with my emotions and being as vulnerable as I can be.
Clearing the mind has helped tremendously toward clearing my emotional slate. For ten minutes a day, I sit silently (usually in the steam room of the gym) and focus on my breath. I don't let my thoughts dominate my mind, I just let them pass through as they need to. The key is to not get hung up on them. Then, I'm able to be still, mindful and in the present. This allows me to navigate past the clutter and be in tune with my emotions as they are.
5. Speak your truth (even if it's uncomfortable)
This is the hardest one for me. I'm notorious for not communicating what I want and then being resentful about it after. With the help of my therapist and my fiancé, I've been working on being direct about my feelings, even if they're uncomfortable or I feel like it's silly. For example, if my fiancé says something like "are you really going to wear that shirt", instead of bottling up my feelings or getting defensive, I will directly say "hey, I like this shirt and I feel like you're being judgmental - which hurts my feelings", which allows us to troubleshoot and strengthen our communication.