Are you a tough bloke?

Men, toughness and vulnerability

In a recent Man Talk session the blokes shared their thoughts about whether it’s possible to be stoic, tough and vulnerable.

Watch the video below for a summary of our discussion.

Then read on for more information about men being tough, stoic and vulnerable.

Let’s expand on all this a little!

What does tough mean? 

Making the right decisions under uncertainty and distress requires all of us to be tough and strong at various times in our lives.  This kind of toughness includes being:

  • Composed
  • Clear-headed
  • Stable in the midst of uncertainty
  • Resilient
  • Competitive
  • Able to Negotiate
  • Mentally strong

Not to be confused with machismo acts of strength.

How would you define stoic?

Here’s a couple of formal definitions:

‘Determined not to complain or show your feelings especially when something bad happens to you’ (Cambridge Dictionary)

‘Being calm and almost without any emotion. A person that seems emotionless, almost blank, someone who goes with the flow’. (

The blokes at Man Talk described stoic as:

  • Unfazed
  • Sucking it up
  • Non emotional
  • Cold
  • Able to ride it out

Vulnerability seems to be harder to define!

One formal definition of vulnerability is:

 ‘a person’s openness and willingness to risk being hurt emotionally. For example the risk of being willing to love and be loved and admit to the risks that go with it. Psychology glossary

Yet, there’s a manly dilemma!

A confusion for many blokes is that we’ve been taught that the more invulnerable we are, the manly we become!

The more vulnerable we are, the weaker we look!

Consequently for many men vulnerability is a mix of positive and negative experiences.

The positive include:

Being open and honest. Expressing feelings safely and being supported, heard and validated.

However, the negative include:

Not being in total control. Being vulnerable is weakness, embarassing and shameful.

Clarifying vulnerability

Vulnerability can be expressed in all kinds of ways.

Such as:

  • Having the courage to take a risk to change
  • Being brave to speak up when feeling out of control
  • Failing at our job and seeking help
  • Applying for that job we really want
  • Opening up to problems in our relationship
  • Sharing our deepest fear and worries with our partner
  • Telling our partner that she upset us
  • Telling our partner how grateful we are for having her in our life
  • Approaching someone for the first time despite fears of being rejected
  • Asking our partner about their worries and fears
  • Saying sorry and admitting our mistakes
  • Asking our partner for help
  • Telling our partner how much we miss her

 Why is vulnerability so important?

  • Vulnerability connects us to each other. Our worries, sadness, imperfections, draw us close to our partners, kids and close friends.
  • Vulnerability is the courage to be ourself. It involves uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure. This is also is why it seems scary.
  • Vulnerability is an inevitable part of human interactions.

Too many of us blokes are hiding vulnerability.

Sadly we end up dismissing or disapproving of these feelings in ourselves and others.

Is there a fix?

Most blokes know how to be tough and strong. They aspire to this kind of masculinity.

However, this often comes at the expense of being vulnerable which adds tremendous pressure to their mental health.

In general men need to find the balance between toughness and vulnerability.

In my view, the task of men is to:

  • Become comfortable with emotions
  • Accept our imperfections
  • Express ourselves without limitation
  • Fine tune our empathy in order to validate and normalise all our feelings
  • Focus on self compassion to soothe our hurt and pain

Man Talk is providing a structured space for men to talk and learn about these skills and more!

Interested in the next Man Talk session?

Give me a call now 1300 884 522

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