One of the affects of my abuse that has followed me into my adult life until just recently is being accepted. Often, male survivors not only face an internal battle for self-acceptance, but an external one as well. Because I could not accept myself internally, I sought external acceptance. From the very first time I was molested, I never felt like I fit in. I felt dirty and tainted. I felt like an outcast within my family and amongst friends.
Actually, the first time I felt like an outcast and had been rejected by my schoolmates in school was shortly after my father died. I returned to school after taking a week off of school to attend my father’s funeral services and have some time to grieve. Upon my return to school, a group of my schoolmates approached me and asked where I had been. When I told them that my father had died and I was with my family, they laughed at me, calling me a liar and telling me that my father did not die. I was devastated and crushed. Worst of all, I had no one I could talk to, not even my mother. So I carried the searing pain of those schoolyard comments with me until just a couple of years ago.
Growing up, I loved playing baseball. I played little league and high school baseball. In my freshman year, I was one of the better hitters and fastest runners on the team. I was one of about four players the coach would keep after practice for more batting practice. I felt accepted and yes, even special. You would think that would be good enough – it wasn’t. Where was my family support? It’s not like the practice and games were in the middle of the day; they were in the late afternoon. After all, other parents were there supporting their sons, but my parents were not there.
As time went on, I must have driven my teammates crazy, always asking them if they thought I was good enough to make the starting line-up. Without a father figure present in my life feeding into me, I had no one else to turn to. What made all of this worse was the fact that my brother was playing football and had the full support of my mother and stepfather. I never felt good enough. It felt like nothing I did was ever good enough for my mother and stepfather. Nothing I did seemed to make them proud or happy that I was their son.
Spring break 1974, I was seventeen-years old. My mother and stepfather were going to Hawaii for the week and my stepfather was letting me use his truck to drive to Mammoth Mountain to go snow skiing. I had returned home a day or two before they were scheduled to come back, and in appreciation of my stepfather letting me use his truck, I washed and waxed it for him. I also thought it would be nice for them to come home to a clean house, so I cleaned the entire house – including the windows.
I remember clearly the day they came home. As my mother and stepfather arrived, I was filled with excited anticipation. After all, I had washed and waxed the truck and cleaned the entire house. Surely they would be grateful and show me some appreciation on this day. I met them in the driveway, greeting them with a smile and asking how their trip had been. My stepfather walked by his truck and glanced at, but did not say a word. As they entered our house, he looked around, walked up the stairs, came back down into the kitchen, and after looking at the kitchen windows, he had only one thing to say – “you missed a spot!” There was not one word of thanks expressed; only what I had missed or did wrong. The motive behind what I had done for my mother and stepfather was twofold: first it was out of appreciation, but the deeper motive was a last ditch effort at getting their approval.
To this day I have never received unconditional approval from my mother or stepfather. While he has not been a part of my life for over thirty years and has since passed away, my mother is still alive and says I have to accept my part of the responsibility of being abused. This is baffling to me because even as rebellious as I might have been as a teenager, I never deserved to be abused, let alone have a part in it. It is never our fault.
Whether we are still seeking approval from our invalidating parent, or we are looking for approval in a romantic relationship, or we are seeking it out from our own children, we cannot replace the internal need for validation through external sources. But there is hope.
I have been in recovery now for nearly eleven years and I am finally accepting and approving myself, but it took a village to get me here. I surrounded myself with people who loved me and taught me to love myself. My sponsors were two phenomenal older men who helped me navigate through the lies I had been telling myself for thirty-plus years, all while showing me unconditional love. My wife and children both love and accept me unconditionally and have modeled that love acceptance in ways I never knew possible.
Most importantly, I am a child of God my higher power, and he has always loved and accepted me, therefore what right do I have not to love and accept myself? Today I love, accept, and approve of myself. Oh, I’m not perfect and I still stumble, but what is it they say? Progress, not perfection.
By Randy Boyd
Randy Boyd is a licensed California Alcohol and Drug Counselor, the founder of the Courageous Healers Foundation, and an associate of “It Happens to Boys.” He speaks at conferences, schools, and treatment facilities, about the effects of abuse on men, and how men can heal from those effects. Randy is the author of the new groundbreaking book addressing the sexual abuse of boys entitled “Healing the Man Within”, a book for male survivors written by a male survivor.