Jay-Z Wants You To Be Vulnerable
“I suck at love, I think I need a do-over
I’d be emotionally available if I invited you over.” — Jay-Z “4:44”
We back at it! It’s your friendly neighborhood writer and storyteller Joel Leon returning once again with your weekly dose of “What Would Hov Do?,” the Medium weekly column that tackles life’s problems with a little help from some Jay-Z bars.
If there’s a topic or question you think could be answered with some assistance from yours truly and Hovito, feel free to drop your question here; you may see your anonymous response shared and answered.
For many of us, being vulnerable isn’t second nature. At all. It’s a space that might not feel safe. As children, our soft and tender parts can harden with pressure from our families, the media, or gender restrictions that keep us from leaning into love.
Love is our most natural state. For many, opening up to love’s possibilities feels like we’re opening ourselves to hurt and rejection. I’ve been on both sides of the fence — as a beneficiary of free and fluid love, and having that love quickly taken away. It took therapy, a lot of reading, and a lot of alone time (and a lot of dating) for me to learn just how much leaning into my vulnerability was a skill to invest my time and energy. Being vulnerable is my superpower.
In the title track “4:44” off the 4:44 album, Jay-Z makes a plea to Queen Bey. It’s a proclamation of love that says, “Hey, I definitely dropped the ball, and here’s what I would do differently. Mainly, I’d stop being a sucka and own my feels in the moment.” Men aren’t often afforded the space and freedom to be vulnerable in love and open about their wants and needs. That conditioning starts as early as childhood, whether in our neighborhoods or television storylines. Men are pictured as silently suffering archetypes who are physically strong but won’t display emotions since they are considered a weakness that is a womanly trait (which is unequivocally false). Men lean into the stereotypes placed before us.
Being emotionally available — in platonic, familial, and romantic relationships — means being vulnerable. That level of vulnerability, yes, may open us up to pain by those suffering through their own trauma, not yet equipped to sit with feelings that make them uncomfortable.
When we shy away from vulnerability, our fears keep us distant. There can be no fear where love resides.
At one point or another, we’ve all sucked at love — at giving, receiving, and communicating it. We get to own those instances and understand that there might be room for a do-over. Sometimes that do-over may not happen with the same person. The textbook definition of vulnerability does not speak to the layered ways it shows up in our hearts and our day-to-day practice of being more candid about how we feel. Sometimes, merely answering the question, “How are you today?” can open up a new level of emotional availability that can add to any relationship’s growth. Being vulnerable with the ones we care for also allows those on the receiving end to be just as vulnerable and creates room for a deeper connection.
So, here’s a pro-tip: Don’t suck at love. Be emotionally available, open, and vulnerable. Then see what happens. Our fears don’t have to dictate how we show up in the world. Listen to Hov (and me, too. But mainly Hov.)