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Growing up, I didn’t have a man in my life, be it my father, my brother or love interests, who treated me well and who I could look up to and respect.

My relationships with them are broken and a few have been full of abandonment, physical abuse and rejection. It has shattered, damaged and devastated me more than I care to admit and has totally distorted my views and opinions of men.

When I was young, I was desperate for a man’s love and attention, and I couldn’t it get no matter where I looked or how many times I tried. But as I have grown older, and as my heart became even more battered, that desperation turned into hostility, hatred and distrust of men. I have became increasingly anti-men and overly feminist to the point where I even take pleasure in hurting them.

Maybe you can relate, but when there is any sign of a man getting too close or intimate to me, a blaring alarm goes off in my head signalling imminent danger. Suddenly, without any warning, I will push the man away until I feel safe and the alarm in my head stops. Being alone, which is necessary for me everyday as in introvert, is safe. Not loving is safe. Being single, even when you are feel lonely, is safe.

But something I have realized not too long ago is that my behaviours and attitudes were only hurting myself. It was as if I was locking myself in a cage and throwing away the key. That fear of getting hurt again only paralyzed my ability to find love with a good man. It’s a fruitless cycle and one that has taken all my emotional and mental strength to unlearn.

It hit me while reading ‘Father Fiction’ by Donald Miller that just because the vast majority of men in my life has treated me badly, it does not men that all men will. It is unfair to project my past hatred and distrust on men I haven’t even met or given a chance to yet.

What makes me keep that ounce of hope that there is good men out there, however, are my loved ones. My God and my friends love me more than I feel I deserve and slowly, I am coming around to believe that I am worthy to be loved, respected and celebrated. Nothing less. The very selective friendships I have with a few of my guy friends have been especially helpful, too. When they are the perfect gentlemen and tell me I don’t deserve to be mistreated, it touches a neglected part of my heart. That’s something I need everyone who has been hurt by men to know: one of the best things you can do to heal from that is find and surround yourself with people who are going to treat you more than you feel you deserve. Because when you are so deeply loved like that, it doesn’t matter who doesn’t love you back.

I know that it’s not easy to unlearn something that has been instilled and hammered into you since childbirth. It’s easier to allow the pain of your past experiences to close your heart and build walls to keep it safe and unharmed. But I also think that vulnerability is the only way to know deep, fulfilling, enriching love. It’s good to protect your heart (those alarms that go off in your head are self-protective measures), but you also must know when to open it when the right men come along. There are good ones out there, and as bitter as those words taste, it’s true. There are men out there who can treat you right, respect you and remain loyal to you – but only if you allow yourself to be vulnerable first.

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Top image via Coast and Pine
Bottom image via Pinterest