If you’re a gay man who would like to feel better about yourself, a practice of self-compassion can be transformative. There are so many of us in our community that suffer from poor self-esteem. We want to look different or feel different because we’ve learned on some level that who we are at our core is not ok.
Being different is bad or dangerous
Instead of celebrating our differences, we learned that being different was bad or dangerous. This could be as a result of an unsupportive family or community growing up. It could be the result of social media use or a toxic group of friends. Whatever the reason, you’re now left to feel that who you are at your core is bad or wrong.
Who we are is not ok
From a young age, we know we’re different than most of our straight peers. Often times we don’t understand fully why or have the words to describe it until much later in life. But during those young years, we learn that who we are is not ok.
If you think about people in your life who are thriving, gay, straight or somewhere in the middle, they probably have accepted what makes them unique. In fact, they probably have not only accepted it, they’ve embraced it. They’ve built a life to celebrate it. Differences can make us stand out from the crowd. If you like to sing showtunes at the top of your lungs (like me) or make your own clothing or whatever it is that makes you special and unique, that deserves to be celebrated.
I need to change. I need to be a different person.
Unfortunately, may of us learn that our differences are shameful or bad. We learn to hide them and keep them a secret. This leads to pain, suffering and poor self-esteem. It prevents us from communicating clearly with our partners and friends. It can make us turn to problematic substance use or sex to fill the void.
Self-acceptance is a practice of accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are today. Whether you feel like you need to lose five pounds or be more honest with your partner, acceptance is a crucial step toward relieving your suffering. The self blame, criticism, and judgment does little to help you achieve your goals. Often times it only makes you feel worse or seek out some substance or activity to make the bad feelings go away.
Think about how much mental space would be opened up if you stopped beating yourself up.
Think about what it would be like to look in the mirror and actually have some compassion for the person looking back at you.
Having compassion for ourselves means that we have empathy for our own suffering. We acknowledge that suffering is a part of the human condition and instead of trying to make it go away, we notice it.
Think about it, if you saw a child fall down and start crying, you’d probably have compassion and empathy for the kid. You may even give them a hug or ask them if they’re ok. However, when your inner child is in pain, how often do you try and sooth them?
This is a great quote from Gabor Mate about self-compassion. The sentiment he expresses can be applied to the fact that you’re reading this post right now.
The very fact that you’re here, means you love yourself…. There’s a possibility of transformation, there’s a possibility of being human and by being human I mean being comfortable in your own skin. And I’m worth it enough to be here.-Gabor Mate, Self-Love
Loving yourself doesn’t have to mean that you buy expensive gifts or post tons of shirtless selfies. If you’re actively trying to improve the way you treat yourself, that’s self-love. Maybe the only act of self-love that you did today was read this article. That’s fantastic! That means somewhere inside is the capacity to care for yourself. Nurture that. Encourage that. Support that. Getting your finances in order, seeing a therapist, taking care of your health, these are all acts of self-love.
Dealing with the pain
Practicing self-compassion doesn’t mean that we ignore the pain. In fact, being compassionate with yourself makes it easier to tolerate the suffering. Pain and suffering are a part of the human experience. Perhaps you’ve felt a great deal of pain in your life for being gay. Maybe you had a bad childhood or suffered a great, life-changing loss. Can you be kind and patient with yourself as you grieve and heal?
Here is a great quote about being kind and making space for your pain.
Becoming intimate with pain is the key to changing at the core of our being—staying open to everything we experience, letting the sharpness of difficult times pierce us to the heart, letting these times open us, humble us, and make us wiser and more brave. Let difficulty transform you. And it will. In my experience, we just need help in learning how not to run away.
― Pema Chödrön, Practicing Peace in Times of War
Take a moment and think about a recent time that you’ve been kind or compassionate toward yourself. It doesn’t matter how small that moment may seem. If nothing else comes up, you’ve read this whole article. That’s something! You’ve spent a few minutes here thinking about how you can have a better relationship with yourself. And that’s ok. That’s acceptance. That’s self-love.