What do you think of when you hear the word “sensitive”? Chances are, some of the first words that come to mind are things like “weak,” “overly-emotional,” or “unmanly.” Even if your first thought isn’t negative, you probably still don’t think of words like “strong,” “masculine,” or “courageous.”
I’m using words like “unmanly” and “masculine” because today, I want to talk about sensitivity in men. At this point, you might be wondering why a female blogger is writing about how men think about sensitivity. Even with this outside perspective, I’ve seen how cultural definitions of sensitivity affect the men in my life. And even though the way that other men view sensitive men matters a great deal, how women view sensitive men also matters.
When Brené Brown started studying shame and vulnerability, she did not interview men for the first four years. Then at a book signing, a man came up to her and said this:
“You say to reach out and tell our story, be vulnerable. But you see those books that you just signed for my wife and my three daughters? They’d rather me die on top of my white horse than watch me fall down. When we reach out and be vulnerable, we get the shit beat out of us. And don’t tell me it’s from the guys and the coaches and the dads because the women in my life are harder on me than anyone else.” (from Brené Brown’s “Listening to Shame” TED talk).
This man wasn’t talking about high sensitivity but I think a lot of men (including those who are highly sensitive) can relate. Our culture puts unreasonable expectations on men for how they handle anything that makes them seem vulnerable, because for them “vulnerability” (much like sensitivity) is considered weakness. That perspective really needs to change.
Also, if you’re still thinking this post would benefit from the addition of a man’s perspective, I agree. You can read a couple articles like that here: “The World Needs Highly Sensitive Men Now More Than Ever” by Ted Zeff and “The Double Whammy of Being a Highly Sensitive Man” by Quentin Stuckey.