As an LGBTQIA+ individual, there was probably a moment when you were the only person who knew of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Worries about others’ feelings and prioritizing them over your own may have delayed your decision to share your identity as gay, bisexual or transgender. You may even be in that moment right now.
Difficult emotions often stem from prioritizing the feelings of others over yourself: guilt, denial, fear of rejection, shame and uncertainty. You are not responsible for managing other’s opinions of your LGBTQIA+ identity. Instead of hiding to make others feel more comfortable, accepting your own identity is actually liberating for many. Doing so will greatly reduce these intense feelings, and can also allow you to build a beautiful life founded on pride, compassion and confidence.
Give yourself the unconditional love that you deserve through the self-compassion practices below.
7 Ways to Practice Self-Compassion as an LGBTQIA+ Individual
1. Make intentions to fully embrace who you are.
Choose to be yourself every day. Pay attention to your negative thoughts and practice saying positive affirmations. Coming out to yourself and inwardly embracing your identity is often the first step. The more comfortable you become in your own skin, the more comfortable others will be as well.
2. Move away from unsupportive conditions.
Sharing your identity with others can feel celebratory! Sometimes people celebrate with you, and sometimes they don’t. . .it’s a risk you have to be willing to make. The fear of this pain and loss can sometimes influence the decision to stay in the closet — it feels more comfortable to be inauthentic than to live without the acceptance or the relationship.
When you are ready to come out and you find that some loved ones are unsupportive, it is your right to choose the people that you surround yourself with. Does someone make you feel ashamed or unsafe? You can step away from that relationship or redefine it by setting boundaries. Also, unfollow social media accounts that leave you with negative thoughts.
3. Find an affirming community both online and offline.
When you do not feel seen or represented in your day-to-day endeavors, it can compound already challenging thoughts. Surround yourself with a supportive circle and an affirming community. Participate in a local PRIDE celebration, join an inclusive organization and patronize businesses that openly support LGBTQIA+ causes. While online, create a positive social media experience by following uplifting LGBTQIA+ people, activists and celebrities.
4. Learn about LGBTQIA+ history.
Read books, listen to podcasts and watch documentaries that share inspiring stories of queer activists. Learn about the fight for LGBTQIA+ rights to marry, to become parents and other public policies that support LGBTQIA+ individuals and help end the stigma. You will be even more proud to belong to such a powerful, loving community.
5. Journal your thoughts and feelings.
Work through your feelings and get them all out on paper. When you keep thoughts inside your head, it’s easy to spiral into negative thinking. Pick up a pen and focus on writing one word at a time to slow down your mind. Accept any intrusive thoughts that come to you, then let them go just as easily as they came.
6. Grieve the potential loss of support and acceptance from others.
It can feel excruciatingly painful to have friends and family members reject you after coming out. You may attempt to protect yourself through isolation or denial. But it is essential to process the loss of your relationships and feel the emotions of grief. Though it may seem impossible to overcome, know that those who have gone before you have learned to manage the grief and found joy in life again.
7. Speak with a therapist.
Work through your thoughts and feelings with a professional. A therapist can help you break through the shame, guilt and grief that keeps you from living your best life.
Mental Health Concerns in the LGBTQIA+ Community
Great strides have been made to improve LGBTQIA+ equality and acceptance, but there is much more work to be done. Individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community experience a disproportionate rate of mental health disorders due to the stigmas, discrimination, oppression, homophobia and hate crimes that make it difficult for some to live authentically. If you are feeling anxious, depressed or experiencing other intense emotions, you are not alone:
- LGB youth and adults are twice as likely as heterosexual individuals to experience a mental health condition.
- Transgender individuals are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition.
- Individuals in the LGBTQI community experience a significantly heightened risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Members of the community with intersectional experiences, including those who identify as LGBTQIA+ in addition to identifying as a woman, a person of color, a person with a disability, or other underserved communities, are at an even higher risk for mental health concerns. A mental health professional can help.
Learn the Skills to Manage Grief and Foster Self-Compassion through Therapy
Through self-compassion and kindness, you can overcome the mental barriers that keep you from living a joyful life. When you choose to live your authentic self, you are free to celebrate life to the absolute fullest without worries of other’s opinions.
Sparlin Mental Health is a safe place for the LGBTQIA+ community. Our supportive therapists are experienced with helping people overcome mental health issues related to trauma and grief. Contact us to learn more about Sparlin’s commitment to provide high-quality mental health services with a compassionate, trauma-informed approach.