The Lounge | You’re Not Ok, and That’s Ok

In his biweekly column, Langley Shazor speaks to issues important to men within the territory.

Admitting that we are not ok may be one of the toughest things for men to do. I heard a social media influencer say that we suffer from the “I’m good” syndrome. We have been conditioned for generations to never speak about the issues we struggle with. Vulnerability has been perceived as weakness, and transparency a mechanism to allow others to have leverage. Thus, anytime we are asked, we are always “good, straight, ‘aight’, ok”, etc. We bury those emotions and thoughts deep within ourselves, lock them away, and continue to stack upon them with every incident.

I suffered from this most of my life. As I have mentioned, I was raised in the stereotypical “bootstrap” household. As the son of a Marine and a family where many of the men on both sides served in the Armed Forces, talking about and showing emotions was taboo. There wasn’t time to deal with how we felt, and to a degree, no one cared. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and keep going. One generation removed from civil rights, I understood the ideology and necessity of remaining steadfast and stoic in the face of oppression. I realized that this demeanor was born out of the social requirement to never give anyone the upper hand. Outside of the home and community, this makes perfect sense.

It was not until much later in life that I realized how much of a detriment this concept was to interpersonal relationships. I was at a severe disadvantage and ruined many relationships, romantic and platonic, familial and communal, with people who were only trying to be good to me. I certainly take this moment to apologize again to everyone who dealt with any residual emotional stress from my actions. It wasn’t malicious, I simply didn’t possess the tools or the knowledge to manage myself, my emotions, or my behavior appropriately. Many of us still suffer from this deficiency today, but there is light at the end of the tunnel; the light of choice.

Like many of the discussions held at The Lounge, the capacity and ability to change directions is the single most important tool at our disposal. As we often are reminded, before we can employ this tool, we must take accountability for our previous actions. Another point of note is this: eventually, we can no longer use not having a role model, father figure, or our environment as an excuse to justify poor behavior and choices. There comes a time where you can see how you are affecting others and can choose to change the impact of those interactions. This is the path to maturity and new version of what a man is and should be.

Once you have committed yourself to becoming different, you will open yourself up to a multitude of options and pathways. Many of us failed to see that programs, processes, and assistance exist because we don’t believe anything is wrong with us. Newsflash, we all have issues, we have all been through unfortunate and traumatizing experiences. We have all been slighted, victimized, discriminated against, and judged. We have all projected our perception of these experiences onto others, particularly the ones closest to us. You are not special in that regard. However, where you are special is in your ability to not remain a statistic and begin writing new chapters in your book.

I am personally an advocate of professional therapy. I believe that having an objective view and opinion is important in our road to healing and transformation. This was a huge step for me to begin seeing a professional. Especially in the black community, we have a misperception of what therapy is and how beneficial it can be. These individuals’ purpose is to help others. I recommend seeking one out if you can use this service. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that therapy only works if you are going to be honest and if you are dedicated to the process.  If this is not an option, evaluate your circle. Surround yourself with people you can trust and will help you navigate your situations positively and constructively. Make sure they are pushing you to be better, to mend relationships where necessary, and to remove yourself from others. These changes don’t happen overnight, but they do happen. I am a witness.

It is perfectly acceptable to not be ok. Your emotions are valid. Your emotions are important. You ARE important. Disregarding your feelings only leads to implosion or explosion, both of which are catastrophic and both leave collateral damage in their wake. A better life, better relationships, greater fulfillment starts with a better you. We must support each other on our road to both recovery and elevation. You are still a man when you are struggling, upset, heartbroken, tired, anxious, lonely, and bitter. You are still a man when you express yourself properly, openly, and transparently. Not only are you still a man, but you’re a man that has conquered himself, that exudes self-control, communicates more effectively, and is one that will leave a positive legacy.


Langley “Casual-Word” Shazor is a poet, author, publisher, entrepreneur, public speaking coach, podcast host, and pastor who is an advocate for youth and men. His goal is to enlighten, empower, and liberate those who are silenced, marginalized, and enslaved to self-destructive thoughts and behaviors.