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Overcoming the challenge of emotional expression

By Daniel Francis

Recently, I have been vigorously working on my newest book in the Millennial series of books. This one focuses heavily on mindset and how it informs decision-making.

There are a host of interconnected factors that come together in our childhood years to form the sum of our mindset; the experiences that we go through day in and day out, whether these experiences are negative or positive; the type of conditioning we acquire because of these continued experiences.

For example, a man might be conditioned to not want to share his feelings because it was always met with a negative response growing up.

The next layer would be our beliefs. Based on our beliefs we set our subjective reality.

Now these beliefs could be fact or fiction but based on all these different factors, we accept these beliefs as truth. If you heard over and over growing up that money does not grow on trees, it is no wonder that today you subjectively believe that money is hard to come by and that then becomes your reality.

A famous quote comes to my mind as I write this. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

His sentiments ring true here. Whatever you tell yourself is what you believe, it informs your mindset, and that mindset translates into your behaviour. You see how important it is to understand how your past has affected your present.

As males growing up, we are more likely to be encouraged to conform to traditional masculine norms which often emphasise stoicism and discourage vulnerability.

Our gendered socialisation tells us that certain emotional expressions should be bottled up and if expressed openly we are seen as weak.

This socialisation is compounded by what we see in the male figures around us. If the male figures in our lives exhibited limited emotional expression and avoided discussing their feelings, then as children we may have internalised this behaviour as the accepted norm.

On top of all that, you add the different environments where young boys experience peer pressure to conform to certain behaviours associated with masculinity, which can include avoiding portrayals of emotional expression or vulnerability.

If throughout your life you are told expressing your emotions and being vulnerable is weakness, you see that same understanding in the men around you, and the majority of the young boys around you were pushing you to this same understanding, this should lead to a clearer understanding of why men have a hard time opening up.

I have many male friends who will confide in me about the issues they are having with their romantic, familial, and platonic relationships. They will describe a situation where the person simply does not understand them, and they get frustrated.

They try their utmost to work through the altercation, but they do not understand what they are missing. Often it is simply having the ability to be vulnerable in that moment and express emotions through effective communication. The thought of doing this can be agonising for some men.

I have my moments even with my deep understanding of how all this affects behaviour. That’s how mindset works. It becomes your personality, your very being. But from the breakdown I have given, you also understand that it is through your past experiences, your conditioning due to these experiences, your beliefs, and all together your mindset, dictate this part of you.

Self-awareness is key in identifying those experiences that start the chain into who you are today. There is a level of responsibility that we must all take for our behaviour as adults. No longer can we simply blame the past and accept that “this is just who we are”.

God has called us to be better, not only in our spiritual lives but overall, in the different areas of our lives. That means taking the road less travelled and asking yourself important questions.

Why is it so difficult for me to be open? What can I improve in myself to be a better, more communicative partner? What in my past has negatively impacted my behaviour in the present?

Be more than your conditioned behaviour. Take the small yet uncomfortable steps to better express yourself emotionally as you grow to understand that being vulnerable is not a weakness but a necessary step to individual growth and healthy relationships.

Start by opening up to God. Then ask Him for guidance to open up to those important to you.

Men, we do not need to accept the socialised norm that we are emotionally costive. The ability to be more is within our grasp. It starts with a little vulnerability.


Daniel Francis is a millennial helping other millennials. He is a two-time author of the books The Millennial Mind and The Millennial Experience, and an entrepreneur. Over the past four years, he has served as a Personal Development Coach whose work targets Millennials and helps them tap into their full potential. He is also a Self-publishing coach and has guided hundreds on self-publishing their book successfully.

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Email: themillennialmind2020@gmail.com