When I wrote my book, … And I Breathed, there were many in the book publishing business who told me some version of the same thing: “Women will be the only buyers of your book. Men don’t want these kinds of books.”
But I knew they were wrong. Why?
Well one, because I’m a man — and the book is my life story. And two, because since I started this journey of health, spirituality, and self-love not a week has gone by that a man with whom I had previously worked, been friends with, or who has recently discovered my blog hasn’t sent me a note, come by the house, or called to talk about the very subjects that all the experts say men don’t want to discuss.
What subjects are those?
- Our desire to feel truly fulfilled — mentally, physically and spiritually
- The fears and insecurities that bang around in our heads
- Our need to be loved for who we are, not for what we do
- And our exhaustion from a lifetime of trying to be Superman
I’m not saying there are throngs of men out there ready to discuss those feelings in a public group session.
What I am saying is that we’re all feeling those feelings and that, given a chance, men are looking for the same emotional and spiritual connection as women. We just don’t think it’s safe to admit it.
As little boys we were programmed against sharing our feelings. We were taught by parents and society to “suck it up,” “tough it out,” and “be a big boy” … and we all know grown men don’t cry. Except it’s not true. We do cry … and we do feel … and we do need love. We just don’t share it with others because to do so violates all that childhood programming. So we do as we were taught: we put on a tough face and gut our way through life … all the while inside experiencing the same fears and insecurities as women.
I was no different prior to my mom’s death five years ago from cancer. I suppressed my feelings, I worked day and night, and when asked how I was doing I answered the question by recounting the current situation at work. You know how it goes right?
“How are you?”
“Great, I just got promoted.” Or “Things are tough at work, but I’m gutting through it.” Or “You know how it goes, life’s tough but nothing good comes without struggle.”
But inside it was a different story. I was tired from a lifetime of work. I was scared about my ability to deliver. I wondered if anyone loved me for me, or if all my worth came from working hard. And I was convinced the responsibility for the welfare of my family rested squarely on my shoulders. So I worked hard and played hard and never paused to breathe or look in the mirror for fear that it would all come crumbling down.
But then my mom died and there was no avoiding the feelings. It broke my heart and the tears came pouring out. All the feelings I had stored up over the years now had to be dealt with.
Was I lovable regardless of my job?
Who was I when I wasn’t working?
And what did it take to feel truly safe?
Those questions humbled my heroic ego. They brought the story of invincibility I had been telling to its knees and forced me to look in the mirror to evaluate my own inner workings the way I evaluated business operations.
In this process I learned something important about myself and men in general. All the hard work, the sports, the fast cars, the chest banging and fist pumping, the insatiable drive to win at work and with the ladies, the bragging about sex, and the pretending to be unbreakable men of steel comes from one simple fact …
We just want to be loved.
I’ve learned something important about myself and men in general … we just want to be loved.
There I said it — for myself and for all the men who can’t find the courage to say it. We are no different from women. Deep inside lives a little child. A child who spent a lifetime trying to be good and lovable and to do the things his parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and societal standards said he should, all in the desperate attempt to be told simply, “I love you.”
Whether you’re a man or woman reading this, let’s take a deep breath together and really take that in. Just breathe and connect with the part of you who wants to be loved and say these words, “I love you for who you are, not for what you do.” Take another breath and repeat it, “I love you for who you are, not for what you do.” Really feel that, embody it and know that it’s true. Say it again and again until you can feel it in your heart.
This week as we interact with each other — men and women — I invite you to connect from the heart. Look beyond the societal stereotypes and roles and really see the human being standing in front of you. The person who, just like you, wants to be loved. In the end, what men want — what we all want — is to hear those magic words:
Big hugs of love,
Jason Garner is the author of the new book, … And I Breathed, My Journey from a Life of Matter to a Life That Matters. Jason is a husband, father, former Fortune 500 company executive, and spiritual student who spent the first 37 years of his life working his way up from flea market parking attendant to CEO of Global Music at Live Nation — never taking a breath in the belief that to be loved he had to be the best. He has worked with rock stars and sports legends and was twice named to Fortune magazine’s list of the top 20 highest-paid executives under 40. A series of events centering on the sudden death of his mother from cancer caused him to re-evaluate what really mattered in life … and to finally breathe. You can find more info on his website and follow him on Twitter or FB.