If you have grown up as a male in our society you’ve been taught one very clear message: emotions are a weakness, big boys don’t cry.
Being “strong” means you have to be forceful, aggressive, competitive and largely unemotional. If for some reason you are born sensitive, cooperative and compassionate, you are perceived as “weak,” “effeminate” or “weird.”
Throughout history, men have gained their identity, peer respect and self-worth through status, sexual prowess and money all of which contributed to their sense of power. In a physically demanding hunter-gatherer and agricultural world, men had to be the warriors that shouldered the responsibility of providing for their families. But now as women have become more independent with our society shifting to value mental labor over physical labor, men are struggling to let go of their old warrior habits and role dynamics.
However, regardless of our external bodies and sexual orientations, we all carry different degrees of masculine and feminine energy. Some people will carry equal amounts, others will carry more of one than of the other (which might oppose their physical bodies), as can be seen in females referred to as “tomboys” and sensitive men.
It saddens me to see so many fellow men who outright ignore their sensitivity, or are aware of it but choose to reject or hide it. Many people associate sensitivity with neuroticism or low self-esteem, and courage with “numbing the pain.” Sensitivity and courage are not mutually exclusive. To be sensitive is to be aware of the feelings and perspectives of other people as well as your own. To be courageous means to be completely aware and to feel fear yet to still fight for what you feel is right or what you want.
In fact sensitivity and courage can complement each other; the greater your sensitivity and fear is, the greater your courage has to be to fight through it.
In psychology, Carl Jung was aware of the differences between masculine and feminine energy, and divided them into his Anima and Animus Archetypes. Personally, I’ve found that by embracing my sensitivity as a male and using it alongside my logic and courage, I have become a much more whole human being. In the end, to be intelligent is useless unless you can combine it with sensitivity. When intelligence is filtered through sensitivity, it becomes wisdom.
5 Things Every Sensitive Man Should Know
Here are some vital lessons I’ve learned as a sensitive man that I want to pass on:
1. Sensitivity Helps You to Grow Deeper Connections
When a man is capable of transforming his insecurity about being sensitive into something empowering, it can allow him to create deeper connections with others. For instance, I’ve found that when I go beyond simply sharing factual information and opinions with my male friends, I see a whole new side to them which is more meaningful and creates a deeper long-term bond.
2. Sensitivity Encourages Emotional Maturity
I feel that the evolution of men will be one towards a balance of strength and sensitivity. One of the biggest struggles for men in relationships is to openly express their emotions or show vulnerability in an emotionally mature way. This emotional distancing is done to display “strength,” but quite often the more sensitive female lover perceives this as ambivalence, being “unavailable” or even a phobia towards commitment. To be able to give love, show love and receive love freely is incredibly attractive.
3. Sensitivity Makes You More Body-Conscious
Sensual awareness is not limited to sex (although it does make you a better lover), but rather, it extends to the body as well. The greater your sensitivity is to your body and its senses, the more you’ll learn about yourself, the better you’ll be able to take care of yourself, and the healthier you’ll feel. However, I’ve observed that often many sensitive male students of mine have tried to drown their emotions out with food as an unconscious buffer.
As a sensitive man, I’ve discovered a variety of foods that I can feel my body quickly rejects by making me feel subtly ill. I’ve also learned that having long hair not only allows me to express my Anima externally, but it also serves as an extension of my nervous system amplifying my empathic senses. It’s no surprise that the Incas, Mayas, the Samurai and the Native Americans were aware of this (the latter using their hair almost like “antennae.”)
4. Sensitivity Allows You to Become More Creative
Creativity is not the result of logical empirical deduction, it is the child of playfulness and sensitivity. Creativity is born in the right side of the brain instead of the left.
To be a painter, writer, musician, actor, photographer or anything creative requires a sensitivity towards beauty and emotion.
5. Sensitivity Helps You to Grow Spiritually
A thirst for wisdom and truth can only come to those who possess a spiritual sensitivity. To strive toward a better society and the peace of man demands an immense amount of courage to stand up against the status quo and a great spiritual sensitivity to question it.
Jesus, Buddha, the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. were all figures who possessed this quality to speak the truth and question cultural morality, virtue and justice. Many people who have embraced their sensitivity will know that they are often the ones whom their friends come to, to ask for counsel and advice.
How to Embrace Your Sensitivity
In our society men are rarely taught how to express their feelings, and so it can be very difficult to know where or how to begin. In fact, if you are like most men, you’ll find it difficult to even become aware of what you’re feeling in the first place, e.g. how the mood of your boss may be affecting you, or how the stress from your busy schedule is making you short-tempered. And when someone asks how you are, you are so disconnected from your emotions that you’ll resort to the habitual “I’m fine,” making it harder for anyone to provide any support.
Ignoring feelings won’t making them disappear though, in fact, the more we ignore our feelings the larger they’ll grow. I’ve often seen men who appear to be well and calm before they burst out in an explosion of anger or rage when something bad happens. It’s often these very same men who become isolated and depressed due to their tendency to avoid and limit their social contact to avoid emotional vulnerability.
How do we embrace our sensitivity? Recognizing and accepting ourselves as sensitive men is the first step. No matter what “macho” ideals you’ve been taught, sensitivity is a gift, not a weakness. To be more empathetic and to be able to appreciate art, music and beauty, is a blessing. While burying our feelings is certainly easier, acknowledging our feelings helps us to empower ourselves which requires much more courage, and is a lot more rewarding. Can you imagine how many wars and ecological forms of destruction could have been avoided if we all cultivated greater sensitivity?
The next step is to examine your feelings about sensitivity. Is it a “weakness” or some kind of illness to you? You’ll have to change the core beliefs you hold about masculine sensitivity in order to accept it. Only after this can you integrate aspects of your sensitivity into your daily life. You can do this by changing your old habits of ignoring or hiding your sensitivity and instead decide to slowly process through them, expressing them to yourself and your trusted loved ones.
Eventually, accepting your sensitivity will lead to living a life that honors and utilizes all the strengths within you, the courageous and sensitive sides, to live a life you find fulfilling.
It takes time and effort, but changing our personal paradigms is essential in order to embrace our own sense of personal power. It’s time to change this outdated male ideal of aggressiveness, thick-skin and emotional retardation. By empowering sensitive men with self-confidence, we’ll all contribute to a more peaceful, balanced and healthy planet.
Once you become aware of your feelings and have learned to express them, you’ll begin drawing loving people into your life, you’ll be able to help others through their own problems, and you’ll be able to feel as though every part of you is living life to the fullest.