The Key to Coming Out

May 29, 2011 § 13 Comments

…is coming in, finding self-acceptance. Recently I have received numerous emails asking just how a gay teen should come out be it to their parents, siblings, or friends, and with each answer I always respond with a similar opening statement: before you’ve come out – have you come in yet?

Accepting yourself and increasing your self-confidence is the first thing I advise peers to do when offering them help. Gay or straight, self-acceptance is beyond important for everything we do in life, but for gay teens “coming in” can be the difference between a happy high school career, or one that feels more like Hell. What follows are my tips for accepting yourself and some tools you can use to boost your self-respect when coming out and facing turbulence.

How to Accept your Gay Self

1. Accept that you were born this way:For gay teens in particular, just coming to terms that you are gay can be hard enough. But understanding that you were born this way can be a great start to accepting your gay self. You’re homosexuality is neither the negative consequence of your parents’ sin, nor the devil lurking in your soul, so don’t feel as if you’re sexuality is a punishment. Take pride in knowing who you are and that you are great. Also acknowledge that there are hundreds of thousands of others just like you out there. You are not alone.

Positivity

Another Tip: Try smiling in the mirror - it will help you like what you see!

2. Write down all your positive attributes and experiences: My friends call this a “pocket full of sunshine” approach to beating the blues, and it’s a pick me up which never fails. Spend some time writing down all of your positive attributes. If you like your eyes, smile, or hair – write it down! If you can name all 50 states in alphabetical order or have a knack for baking cakes, write that down too! And lastly, if you have an experience say – medaling at states in the open 800, or a fond memory of hanging with friends – write it down. This list can be used no matter what mood you’re in to remind yourself that you are great and that you have been happy before (if you’ve been happy before, you can be happy again!)

3. Begin cheering yourself on every day: By far my favorite step to accepting yourself and boosting your confidence is to cheer yourself on. When you walk down the hallways of your school, remind yourself of your positive attributes. Say to yourself: “I can bake a mean red velvet cake, and that makes me great,” then own your talent and feel good about it! You deserve to!

While it’s important not to become egotistical, the aforementioned positive thinking strategy can help combat negative responses to your homosexuality. If you’re being bullied, it can be hard to just walk away and drop that experience. But reminding yourself that you aren’t a lesser human and that you do have good qualities and deserve to be happy can help offset such negativity. At least cheering yourself on should always leave a smile on your face, and that is worth it.

4. Accept your imperfections: Each of us has imperfections which, no matter how hard we try, we are unable to change. I, for example, am blessed with a pointier-than-usual right ear which, aside from surgery, will always be pointier-than-usual. When I was little my sister used to poke fun at me by making me believe I was an elf due to it and was part of a secret elf clan – ridiculous, yes, but I believed it! What’s even more ridiculous? Others believe that a blemish on their face or a less-than-perfect body somehow makes them inferior to everyone, and it’s not true! Accept what imperfections you have that you cannot change and like yourself the way you are.

5. Deem yourself a work in progress: While we should accept our imperfections, our acceptance is not permission to stay flawed in all areas of our life. Recognize that we always have the potential to improve and that we should strive to be the best we can. While I can’t change my pointy ear, I can and should try to better myself in other aspects of my life. Acceptance is not complacence, it is permission to become the people we are meant to be.

6. Learn to Forgive: The final part to accepting yourself is forgiving. Forgive yourself for mistakes made in the past, things you may have said, and those who have slighted you. Once you have forgiven and have let go any baggage you may have, you can move on and accept yourself wholly

To the community: what are your tips or suggestions for accepting yourself? How did you go about finding self-acceptance?

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§ 13 Responses to The Key to Coming Out

  • Kent says:

    Craig,
    This entry is so thoughtful, wise, and well-written. You have acquired an amazing amount of wisdom (in just a few years), Craig. Congratulations.
    Tips that I would add for increasing self-acceptance:
    — Practice gratitude. Make a list every day of 5 things you are grateful for. They can be big, broad, important things…or small, simple, seemingly inconsequential ones. But making this a daily habit will increase your focus on the good, positive things you have in your life.
    — Actually practice Craig’s suggestions again and again. Focusing on your positive attributes… Accepting your imperfections… Practicing forgiveness… are not just ‘one-time’ things. Revisiting them — repeating them — as often as possible, will increase the benefit that they bring, prevent setbacks, and keep you from falling into negative habits.
    Thanks, Craig, for your immensely valuable reminder to ‘come in.’

    • Craig says:

      Thanks for the comment and tips Kent! Would you mind if I added them to the post – and give credit where credit is due?

      • Kent says:

        Of course, Craig. No credit is really necessary though… I’m just happy to offer my support in a small way.

  • Ben D. says:

    This is a great post Craig… I am going to pass it along to some folks I know who need it… several of which haven’t been teenagers in over 20 years!

    Great wisdom, well said.

    Thanks!

    – ben

  • JC says:

    I’m going echo Kent by saying this a very thoughtful post.

    Set goals. Be SMART…specific, measurable, attainable, ‘ritten, and timetabled. In other words, don’t generalize and post them somewhere that will serve as a regular reminder.

    Similar to #3 (cheerleader for yourself), create Positive Affirmation Statements. I am smart, I am fast, I am strong, I am awesome…Similar to that story read to you as a child, “The Little Blue Engine That Could,” If your PAS become your mantra, you will resemble them.

    Think of your brain as a computer where you can delete or install your own programming. Delete the negative thoughts, install the positive thoughts.

    • Craig says:

      That’s a great way to put it JC! Programming your brain is exactly what it is – in the sense that we’re altering our thinking habits and subsequently our actions. The more we do repeat our positive actions, the more likely we’ll be to continue them. Thanks again for the comment!

  • Ryan M. says:

    Another post knocked out of the park. Well said.

    I’m 23 and have been out since my freshman year in college. Even having graduated from college (let alone high school) and now living with my boyfriend of over 4 years, I don’t think I’ve fully completed the process of “coming in,” as you put it. My biggest struggle is with number 6: I continually beat myself up for past mistakes even if they have no bearing on my life anymore. It’s an ongoing struggle (or a work in progress, I guess).

    All of these are great tips though. Definitely gonna try doing number 3 more. I could be my own personal cheer leader. Ha! Never thought about it like that before.

    • Craig says:

      Thanks Ryan, I’m glad you find these tips helpful! Number 3 is one of my favorites and I find so many people forget to offer themselves some support. It’s a simple yet effective way to turn your day around – and it takes such little effort!!

  • Robin says:

    Hello, Craig!

    I thought your article was well-written and thought-provoking. So many teens fail to understand the concept of “coming in” before “coming out”! TeenHelp.org has decided to share your article with its members via Facebook and Twitter in celebration of Pride Month. Just thought you might like to know! =)

    Take care,
    Robin

  • Nora Olsen says:

    This is a wonderful post!

    Happy pride month,
    Nora

  • Ciao Bello!
    Caro Craig! (Dear Craig)
    I’m going to as others did before me, have to echo Kents’ assessment above, because I see utter sagaciousness (wisdom) in the advice offered to others
    grappling with the “Coming Out” process! Please allow me to say, without meaning to patronize in the least, that it’s remarkable for someone of your age! That I would see such a changed world, where young “Out” folks could thoughtfully assess their futures as queer (LGBTQ) people, remain fully committed, utterly unapologetic,and with an eye toward becoming productive and integral members of the society at large, simply takes my breath away! I came out so long ago friends, into such a different world, that I beg your pardon for my over effusiveness! You make so darn proud Craig!
    Con L’Amore e Molti Baci! (With Love And Many Kisses)
    Il Suo Nuovo Amico Per Sempre! (Your New Friend Always)
    Blaine

  • Bill in Oakland says:

    Craig,
    Really am enjoying reading the blog.
    As an older gay man and one who has gone from being a “young, gay activist” thirty-five years ago to just assuming that everyone realizes that I am gay (and being surprised when they don’t), one of the views I rarely hear is people seeing being gay as a blessing. Although it took me a while to accept myself as gay, once I did, I ralized that not only was it not not a burden, but it was a good thing. I looked around at my peers and realized that there was nothing in their lives to make them question the status quo. Nothing in their lives that would make them say, “Hey, if society is wrong about this (gay being bad), what else have I accepted that might not be the way it really is?” Being gay isn’t easy – it does get better (most of that comes from not living for the approval of others), but there will always be someone who will want to shoot you down. But, and it’s a big but, it can be a catalyst to question society’s beliefs as well as your own.

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