Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash

3 reasons why, as a guy, I’ve dedicated my life to emotions

I can’t promise you this won’t be all touchy-feely.

And I can’t promise you that because of one reason: this is who I am.

Guys aren’t supposed to talk about this kind of thing.

But I haven’t always been this open with talking about emotions.

Being vulnerable takes practice, and it takes a lot of self-awareness.

And being self-aware takes time; it’s an ongoing commitment to figuring out who you are as a person.

It was only after I got crushed by life a handful of times that I came to realize something.

Life is one hell of a proving ground, but the tools for personal growth are your emotions.

Emotions signal for you what you need to learn. They pinpoint your weaknesses, your frailty, and your opportunities for growth.

If you deny them, they get stronger. If you succumb to them, you lose yourself.

But it’s only if you openly accept them and work with them that they will teach you what you need to know.

Listening to my emotions led me down this path.

I’ve found my calling, that job that doesn’t feel like a job.

I’m almost done with a master’s degree in social work, and then I’m off to the races.

Except I’m already in a race with myself, and I’m doing my best to discard that inner competitive streak and just exist in the world instead.

I stumbled into social work because it’s in extension of who I am. It’s a profession that literally prides itself on never knowing everything, on always learning.

That kind of mission makes me all emotional inside, in a good way.

Social workers work with emotions.

They mold them like clay and transform them in the searing-hot kiln of life experiences.

The process can burn at times, but the result is something greater, stronger, and more resilient than it was before.

And it all comes back to emotions

1. An emotion is your body’s sign that something is meaningful to you

I’ll give you an example. You were having a perfectly OK day. Nothing too remarkable about it, just an average day. Everything was going fine, you were pretty proud of yourself. You were carrying along, feeling competent and in control, when THUD, you got hit in the chest with a passive-aggressive comment by a coworker.

“Maybe if I could come in late, then I would feel as relaxed as you do.”

You see red, and your mind immediately starts racing. He doesn’t know how I spend my time. He doesn’t know that I take care of my kids and my mother-in-law and do my best to balance it all. I’m stretched thin, and I get more done in less time than he does. How could he say that?

You’re in emotion mind. That verbal barb from your coworker has lodged itself in you, triggering an emotional-mental cascading effect.

You don’t like this feeling.

But you don’t have to like it. You just have to become aware of what you are feeling.

Awareness is the first step.

Becoming aware of what you are feeling keeps you in the present. It gives you the opportunity to do something with your emotion, to proactively decide what happens next.

2. If something has value to you, there is a good chance that it has value for others

Good or bad, emotions show us what we value.

When someone makes a comment we don’t like, it’s because it goes against something that we value.

If we beam with pride and flooding emotion after winning a competition, or getting a raise, or winning an argument, we tend to feel pretty good about ourselves.

But why? What’s really going on?

An event happened that had a direct effect on the image that we have of ourselves. Our feelings impact our thoughts, which impact our behaviors.

And emotions tell you what you value.

They don’t tell you if what you value is right or wrong. That’s for you to figure out.

I never told you working with emotions is easy.

But I have found something that makes it easier.

3. Making an emotional connection can be one of the most — if not the most — gratifying of experiences

Your wedding. The day your child is born. That time when you hit a home run to win the game for your little league baseball team. Showing up to a support group meeting. The simple action of smiling at someone on the bus.

What do all of these situations have in common?

They all have an emotional component coursing through them, and connection with others is the binding thread.

The times that we put ourselves out there and allow an emotional connection to take place are the times we become present in our lives.

The sharing of an emotional experience is like holding a map to buried treasure. If you can stay present and objectively look at the emotions being exchanged, you’ve already found the gold.

Practice analyzing emotions, and you get better at knowing what you value. Show up and be a nonjudgmental witness of others’ emotions, and you know what they value.

Together, shared emotions create meaning. They are the life force behind the greatest works of art, the most memorable product launches, and the most effective speeches.


Emotions are powerful. They change the world because they are the world. Life without emotion is mechanical.

I’m committed to working with emotions because they are color in the painting, the pulsing bass line in the background.

But I’m just one person. All I can do is put myself out there and see what happens next.

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