“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” — Frederick Douglass
I am a broken man, or at least I was for a long time. I didn’t realize how broken I was until I left a hurricane-sized swath of destruction in my relationship past.
I was dismissive, closed off, and quick to walk away. I didn’t love me, so I struggled to love anyone else. Inside, I knew I was unlovable.
Growing up, boys didn’t cry. Boys were tough and didn’t complain about pain or internal struggles. I was a 1970s child trying to grow up into society’s definition of being a man.
But society was wrong.
In time, I learned that you have to feel. You have to love yourself before you can recognize love from others. You have to face and accept the pain before you can move away from it.
Maybe if I knew that as a child, my twenties might have been different. No one can change the past, so instead, I share my stories to help other men (and women) heal and teach their children to be better.
It’s manly to cry in front of others. Only by being confident in yourself and feeling loved can you achieve true vulnerability.
It’s brave to say someone hurt you. If I could have told my stories as a child, the abuse wouldn’t have gone on for so long. Maybe my mental illness would have been recognized earlier instead of halfway through my twenties.
It’s healthy to love yourself. Learn to take care of you so you can better take care of the ones you love.
I was a broken man. Some of my cracks still need to heal, but I’m learning to meet my potential. You can do it, too.
This post originally appeared on Medium on June 17, 2020.