Brennan Steele Talks Fatherhood, Healing for Black Men, and More.

Tell us more about who you are and what you do?

I’m a writer, speaker, entrepreneur, former educator, and therapist-in-training. I am most passionate about promoting the healing and wholeness of Black men. To that end, I create tools and content that center Black male wellness. This includes my first journal, breathe: a guided healing journal for Black men and my podcast a space to breathe: a podcast for Black men. Outside of my passions, I am honored to be a husband and father. My wife and one-year-old daughter have shifted my perspective and priorities so much, and I’m blessed to get to serve them each day. The last year has been so transformative that I aim to support other new Black fathers in my next journal entitled transform.: a guided journal for new Black fathers that will be released this May. Through my work, I hope to make mental wellness accessible and applicable for Black men specifically. 

What’s your relationship with your Dad and how did that impact your life?

Growing up, I felt my father was physically present but emotionally absent. There were several key moments where I needed to know that he was there for me, that he approved of me, and that he was proud of me, but he failed to communicate those things to me. That longing for affirmation from my father impacted me in a variety of ways and led me to find affirmation in several unhealthy ways. It also contributed to a fragile sense of self and tendency toward performance and perfection. Thankfully however, over the last 5-7 years, my father and I have started to heal our relationship. I confronted him about our relationship when I was in college, and he was understanding, apologetic, and took full responsibility. He also let me into his personal struggles with parenting me as his father wasn’t very present and died when my father was 9 years old. It’s been a long journey, but as a father now myself, I find myself closer to him than I ever have been.

What inspired your journal for black men?

I wrote breathe in the aftermath of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arberry, and Breonna Taylor in 2020. I felt that it had gotten so overwhelming for Black people, and Black men in particular, to continue seeing folks that looked like us murdered at the hands of police and others upholding white supremacy. Furthermore, I saw so many of my brothers hurting without the words or space to adequately express and process their emotions. breathe is a tool made for Black men to write their own stories, understand their identity, and develop an emotional intelligence as they navigate a society that views them as dispensable.

I wrote transform as a response to the identity shift I experienced as I stepped into the role of father. I felt like my entire life was changing in front of my eyes, and I barely had the space necessary to adequately process between sleepless nights, supporting my wife, and taking care of our little one. I also believed that the Black fathers of this generation are truly trying to shift the narrative. However, many of us have walked into this role without the best examples. I wanted to offer space for Black men to set their vision of fatherhood, process all of the emotions that come with their changing role, and feel supported on a journey that can feel lonely on the day-to-day.

Ultimately, with both breathe and transform, I wanted to offer spaces that weren’t presently being curated. When I wrote breathe, there were very few options for Black men to journal. Similarly, there still continues to be a lack of resources for Black fathers who want to be whole and present for their children. That’s exactly where transform comes in.

How did your personal healing help you become a better man and a better parent?

My personal healing helped me both come to terms with many of the childhood wounds I had not processed as well as opened me up to a world where I knew how I felt, could respond to unmet needs, and communicate better with others. My healing primarily began in therapy. Prior to therapy, all I knew was how to perform a version of me that I thought was acceptable, while numbing the rest of my feelings. After some significant work in therapy, I am now able to be authentic and vulnerable which allows me to be present with those around me wholeheartedly. More specifically, it has allowed me to relate better to my family and create safe spaces for my wife and daughter to experience the range of emotions they feel as well.
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Who is Brennan as a Father? 

I am a markedly different man than I was prior to my daughter being born. I am less selfish while also more protective of where my time and energy go. I am more in touch with how I feel at any given moment because I know it directly impacts my daughter. I’m even more affectionate and nurturing. As someone who typically doesn’t like too much physical touch, my daughter has most definitely pulled that out of me. Ultimately, Brennan as a Father is constantly learning from his mistakes, constantly learning how to choose presence over perfection, and constantly submitting to the transformative nature of the process.

What’s one thing you’ve learned about yourself since journaling? 

Since journaling, I’ve learned just how much I desire to be seen and known. I think many of us go around with masks and carry all of our pain in isolation. Once I started journaling, I realized just how much I was carrying and how much I did not want to be alone in the hard stuff. This led me to therapy, opening up with others, and overall prioritizing community more.

Any advice for men who want to journal but don’t know how to start? 

Two things:

1) Start with something as simple as identifying how you are feeling. If you struggle with that, there are feelings wheels you can look up online to get you started with some language. From there, do your best to write about the things that may have caused you to feel those emotions. Lastly, if you’re really into it, use those emotions and precipitating factors to identify what needs are present for you in that moment, if any. This simple process can get you started and lead you to writing way more than you anticipated.

2) Purchase a guided journal that is made for you and your lived experiences. In addition to breathe and transform, there are several other journals out there to help you get started if you want a bit more structure. View this as an investment in both yourself but also everyone connected to you presently and the future generations that will come after you.

Define what a Legacy means to you?

As men, we often think about legacy as the financial legacy we leave. Whether it is property, stocks and bonds, or life insurance, these are the types of things that typically come to mind when we think of legacy. I think this is connected to the fact that men, and in particular fathers, often believe that our worth is contingent on what we produce or how we perform. However, I am of the belief personally that legacy is so much more than that. I often ask other Black men when I speak or lead workshops this question: “What kind of emotional legacy are you leaving?” I ask this question because legacy is holistic. When I’m gone, I want my child(ren) to say that yes, I left them well financially, but I also taught them by example and through direct conversations how to process their emotions. I want them to say that I taught them how to have a healthy marriage by the way I related well to their mother. I want them to say that they learned how to be whole individuals because they saw me strive to show up as whole and authentic. The best thing about this kind of legacy is that it actually has little to do with what I produce and everything to do with who I am as a person inherently. In other words, while still weighty, this type of legacy allows me to just be who I am. 

If you could write a quick letter to your Dad starting with Dear Father, what would you say?

Dear Father, Thanks for doing the best you could when I was a child. Moreover, thank you for allowing your own wounds to be an explanation and not an excuse for the ways you fell short. Thanks for taking the responsibility to make things right, and realizing it’s never too late for a son to feel loved, approved of, and accepted by his Father. Now that I am a Dad myself, I understand the choices you made so much better. I understand the tension of needing to provide but wanting to be present. I understand that you did what you thought was the right thing in the absence of an instruction manual. 

I want you to know that the best parts of the type of Father that I am now, I got from you. And, I still aspire to be the type of man you were in so many ways. Thank you for paving the way. 

I love you.

Sincerely, Your Son 

How can people learn more about you, your brands, follow you, etc?

You can follow me on Instagram @iambrennansteele. You can also learn more and connect with me through my website at Lastly, breathe is available on Amazon. My next journal for new Black fathers, transform, will be released on Amazon on May 21. Follow my IG and website to stay in the know about the book launch. 

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