It’s no secret that many men struggle to express their emotions. Whether this is due to societal norms or personal beliefs, expressing emotions can feel like a battle to many men.
The problem many men face is that their idea of being stoic and strong also means they must be unemotional. This is not true, yet many men feel like these two halves of themselves constantly struggle with each other.
This struggle often leads to strained relationships, communication issues, and deep personal dissatisfaction.
But why do men fight to suppress their feelings? And what can be done to open up and embrace the emotions many of us try to bury?
Today, I’m going to explore the root causes of emotional suppression, why emotional expression is so vital to becoming a grounded man, and some practical tips you can implement to start opening up.
The Root Causes of Emotional Struggles
Several factors contribute to our emotional struggles, yet many of us trudge our way through life without attempting to understand them.
Is it because being emotional is seen as a sign of weakness? Is it because popular culture’s typical “alpha male” is dead-eyed and emotionless?
This undoubtedly has much to do with it, but the issue is much more complicated. Here are the four most common causes of emotional struggle in men.
1. The misconception of what it means to be “tough”
Soldiers and combat veterans are the most formidable men for a reason. These individuals have experienced physical and psychological stress that most of us will only dream of.
And while I can get enthralled in a good MMA soap opera just as much as the next guy, I think the theatrics of it all has a lot of men—especially young men—confused about what it means to be a strong high-value man.
If you’ve ever watched an interview with combat vets, you’ll notice that they often get emotional talking about their experiences.
I find it fascinating that while so many men will struggle to hold back their emotions under any circumstances, these guys often have no qualms about opening up.
See, you do not need to act strong when you know you’re strong.
This is the problem so many men face when it comes to emotions.
They’re so held up on keeping a facade of toughness that they fail to understand what the word even means. They fight themselves, trying to bury what is a natural part of their existence.
If you want to be a more grounded man with true inner strength, start by challenging your preconceived notions of toughness.
2. Deep-rooted fear of vulnerability
Let’s be honest for a second: I don’t care who you are, how attractive you may be, how much money you may have, or how successful you’ve been—a part of you still fears being vulnerable.
You probably fear being vulnerable because you’ve been rejected at some point. Well, news flash: we all have, and it sucks. The problem is when you let that experience of rejection eat away at you to the point that you put a wall up around yourself.
Many men worry that expressing their feelings will make them vulnerable to criticism or ridicule. They put on a front to hide this worry and act like they feel no emotions. After all, it’s impossible to be vulnerable when you don’t feel anything at all, right?
This is a flawed way of thinking, but many men have embraced that logic. Just consider how hypocritical it would be in other walks of life. Imagine if you got fired from your job and then refused to work ever again. Imagine if athletes stopped playing the game after their first loss.
None of us would ever get anywhere in life. Do you want to be a new man? Then do yourself a favor and face your vulnerability head-on.
3. Upbringing and lack of emotional intelligence
Emotions are what make us human, right? While this may be true, you shouldn’t assume that healthily expressing your emotions is a skill we’re all born with. Many men grow up in households where emotional expression is discouraged or punished.
When you’re exposed to this conditioning early in life, it makes it almost impossible to adapt later on. Without a role model and a clear emotional education, it’ll be difficult to identify, understand, and express your feelings.
The good news is that new resources are available to men that weren’t there in the past. Men’s dating coaching is a prime example. If you surround yourself with a group of strong, grounded, and like-minded men who have the skills to express themselves effectively, you eventually will, too.
4. Lingering past traumas
When we think about trauma, the first thing that comes to mind is abuse or neglect. These can cause men to shut down emotionally as a form of self-protection. The longer this goes on, the stronger the barrier becomes and the harder it is to break.
Many adults don’t realize that children experience emotions much more intensely. Adults have years of (for better or worse) experience regulating their emotions and can better articulate their feelings.
In other words, while a specific experience might seem utterly insignificant to an adult, that is a different experience entirely to a child.
So when you reflect on your past, realize that what constitutes a traumatic event doesn’t need anything noteworthy.
You may be able to look back on a childhood event and now realize it was inconsequential, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a contributing factor to building your emotional barrier.
The Importance of Emotional Expression
You may have read this far and thought, “Well, I survived [insert] years of my life keeping my emotions bottled up inside, so why can’t I just continue?”
Many people go through life with unhealthy habits, but that doesn’t mean they’re right. Just because you can survive without exercise doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.
Just because you can live on a diet of Doritos doesn’t mean you aren’t slowly damaging your body.
And just because you can exist with pent-up emotions doesn’t mean you should. Embracing vulnerability and opening up emotionally is essential for several reasons.
1. It improves your mental health
Repressing emotions lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression.
Now, you may be able to live with those emotions, but at what cost? Are you drinking to suppress those feelings? Are you spending your evenings watching the television to distract yourself from the real issue?
Again, just because you can live this way doesn’t mean you should be living this way.
In most cases, expressing what you’re feeling inside feels good. Where do you think the phrase “I just needed to get it off my chest” comes from?
When we walk around with a constant mental burden, it also takes physical effects on our bodies. You can improve your mental health and well-being by effectively communicating your feelings.
2. You’ll experience greater personal growth
Embracing vulnerability allows you to confront your fears, take risks, and grow.
If you can muster the inner strength to go out there and confront anything life throws your way, your self-confidence and resilience will skyrocket.
For a straightforward example, imagine you just got over a bad breakup that left you completely distraught.
Now, you have one of two options- to pretend everything is fine, bury those emotions, and put up a facade of strength, or confront them head-on, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and emerge stronger than before.
Which option would you choose?
Of course, the first choice will be easier, but the second will help you realize your full potential. Growth often requires difficult choices in life.
3. You’ll have better conflict resolution and empathy
When you shut yourself off from your emotions, you narrow your point of view. If you think you’re always right through life, you’re not facing the reality of your imperfections.
People do this because acknowledging one’s imperfections is often painful, so ignoring them is a defense mechanism.
But if you can work through your issues and acknowledge that you’re human like everyone else, you’ll be stronger because of it.
After all, how can you be mindful of others’ emotions when you can’t even be mindful of your own?
Practical Steps for Men to Open Up
Opening up and embracing your emotions requires practice, just like anything else.
The key is to practice in a way that is effective and efficient so you can bring real, lasting change to your life.
Here are some practical steps to guide you on your journey.
1. Practice self-awareness
Sounds simple, right? But is it? Try this little exercise: next time you get angry over something, take a moment to try to figure out why that is conscious.
It doesn’t matter if it happened at work, with your romantic relationship, or while driving to the supermarket.
Simply pay attention to your thoughts and physical sensations. Identify the thoughts causing the anger and trace them back to the source.
You may find that your feelings have little to do with the situation.
2. Develop emotional intelligence
As noted in The Harvard Business School, emotional intelligence can be measured through different assessments, much like IQ.
Emotional intelligence is marked by regulating emotions, pausing before responding, and empathizing with those around you.
How do you best develop emotional intelligence? There are several options ranging from books to courses to coaching.
If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach, seeking the support of a group of seasoned professional coaches can help guide you to a place where you are a more decisive emotional leader.
3. Cultivate a safe environment
For many men I meet, the problem with opening up is a problem of safety. They don’t have any place to go where they can express their emotions without fear of being judged.
Many men who join my program have tried therapy but feel empty after dozens of sessions.
The key is to have a robust emotional support group. Humans are social creatures, and when you surround yourself with other men who are understanding, empathetic, and nonjudgmental, their positive energy will rub off on you.
When you can talk openly without fear of criticism or rejection, it can make all the difference in the world.
You may consider a men’s retreat or dedicated coaching program if you’re still searching for a safe and supportive environment to help you become the best version of yourself.
4. Use “I” statements when possible
Whenever you express your feelings, focus on your experience and perspectives first and foremost.
Instead of defaulting to blaming external forces, focus your attention inward and figure out why you feel what you are.
Using statements such as “I feel,” “I think,” or “I need” allows you to communicate your emotions without blaming or accusing others.
In the long run, this will only help you strengthen your relationships.
5. Take baby steps
If you’re consciously aware that you have a lot of pent-up emotions, don’t think you need to get them out all at once. Diving in headfirst can feel daunting if you’re not used to expressing your emotions.
Instead, start with the little things. If you start feeling down every Sunday evening because you dread going to work on Monday, express that to someone you can confide in. Write it down if you’re not ready to confide it in anyone.
And don’t think you need to write a novel about it, either; one sentence on a Post-it note will work just as well.
You need to gradually work your way up to the point where you can discuss more complex and intense emotions.
6. Practice active listening
If you’re not adept at assessing your own emotions, you may be able to learn a thing or two just by listening to others.
When someone else expresses their emotions, please give them your full attention. Do this by asking questions and engaging with them to understand their perspective better.
And don’t overthink this too much, either. If you have that one coworker who complains about everything, start practicing with them.
Yes, you may be sick of hearing the same nonsense for the 15th time, but there’s no denying this person is skilled at expressing their frustrations.
Instead of getting frustrated yourself, learn something from it.
7. Seek professional help
If you don’t have adequate experience expressing your emotions, one of the simplest things you can do is find someone who does.
Life is about discovery and self-improvement, and there’s nothing to be ashamed of in asking for help now and then.
You need to realize that you are not the only man struggling with these issues—far from it.
Millions of guys out there from all across the planet are going through the same things that you are. When you connect with other men like yourself, they can provide guidance and support.
And when you couple that with professional coaching, you’ll have all the tools you need to embrace vulnerability and improve your emotional well-being.
You don’t have to navigate the complex world of emotions alone. As a men’s coach, I’m here to help you understand and overcome the barriers preventing you from becoming your best self.
By working together, my team and I can help you break free from the emotional shackles that hold you back and cultivate a healthier, more fulfilling life.
Remember, emotional expression is not a sign of weakness—it’s a sign of strength, courage, and personal growth. By learning to express your feelings, you can improve your mental health, strengthen your relationships, and become a stronger, more grounded man.
If you’re ready to take the first step on your journey to emotional freedom, I encourage you to reach out and explore the coaching options I offer.
To be clear, this is not something suited for those looking for an easy fix. In fact, this may very well be one of the most intensive experiences you will ever undertake.
But it will also be one of the most rewarding…
And if you’re up for the challenge, I promise that you have the power to change your life, and together, we can unlock your full potential.
Don’t let emotional barriers stand in the way of your happiness and success. Embrace vulnerability, open up, and discover the transformative power of emotional expression. The battle may be a challenging one, but with the right support and guidance, you can emerge victorious.
If you’re ready to get started, click the link below to learn more about me, my coaching program, and how you can become the best version of yourself.
Click here to learn more about my men’s coaching program.