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Most of us have become aware of the many unfair competing cultural demands that women face but men don’t always have it easy either. One of the most perplexing and anxiety provoking areas in romantic relationships is the expectation that you be strong and vulnerable at the same time. Most women will agree it’s a turnoff to date someone who lacks self-confidence or constantly shows weakness, yet they want this same person to open up, expose his soft underbelly, and share his most private doubts.

How can you present the image of having it all together while admitting that you really don’t have it all together? It’s a stumbling block for a lot of guys and for many of them the outcome is either a lack of intimacy, making the relationship suffer, or ceasing to appear like a good catch, making the relationship suffer.

An important factor to keep in mind is whether the vulnerability expressed is global or specific. Is it an overall feeling of worthlessness and a lack of self-confidence about life, or is it tied to a concrete area like shyness at public gatherings? The first tends to weaken relationships because overall perception is negatively affected. The second tends to strengthen relationships because authenticity is increased, both people feel that it’s okay to be fully known, and ultimately the myth that there is such a thing as a perfect person is done away with.

No matter how you posture or present yourself, if your self-esteem is generally low then your attempts at intimacy and connection, at showing your vulnerability, will probably end up being perceived as further data points to show that you’re an undesirable partner. If your self-esteem is generally high, these same attempts will most likely be viewed in a positive light, as proof of your authenticity, and they will create feelings of connection. I don’t think there is really any way around this truth and it speaks to the importance of working on yourself from the inside out to raise your self-esteem instead of trying to derive these feelings from the relationship.

Even if your partner ends up rejecting you after you have exposed your vulnerability, if your self-esteem is high you’ll be likely to consider it her loss and look for a romantic partner who values and celebrates who you really are. When your self-esteem is low and you experience this same rejection, it acts as further proof of your worthlessness, and you will be likely to repeat the cycle with a new romantic partner who will end up coming to a similar conclusion. You can’t fake self-esteem and you can’t base it all on external validation because the validation might stop. It has to come from within and it starts with the conviction that you are a person who is worthy of love and respect, that no one is perfect, and that as long as you are in the process of growth and self-actualization you are on the right path and deserve someone who recognizes it.