In June, I had the chance to do impromptu interviews during the Gay Pride Parade in Pittsburgh. Despite the rain, the day was uplifting, lively and entertaining. Some people where over the top excited and anxious for the opportunity to share what they were feeling while others were enjoying themselves, but were more subdued. Many I spoke with were experiencing a sense of transformation because this was their chosen day to come out to the world AND their loved ones.
For some, while the day was cause for celebration, it also brought up painful reminders of a sense of loss, regret, remorse and fear. For me personally, hearing their stories of the reality of the loss of love and acceptance from the very people who are suppose to love and accept them, their parents, was painful to witness and made me teary eyed. Many I spoke with still experience raw emotion about being rejected and abandoned by family members when they came out even though many years had gone by.
Personally, the most painful people to speak with; however, were the parents who had not taken the initial news of their son or daughter being gay very well, often taking years to accept it. Today, many of those parents find themselves struggling with the guilt of abandoning and rejecting their children when their children needed them most. Many of those parents say they feel a sense of responsibility to repair the damage their initial rejection created and struggle with feelings of guilt for how they reacted to the news.
While most people do not struggle with their sexual orientation, many people do struggle with who they are and a sense of being authentic and living in alignment with their true sense of self. When we don’t let our true selves out for the world to see, we are lying to everyone, but most importantly, we are lying to ourselves.
Living a lie never gets easier because the longer you live the lie, the harder it is to step into your truth because there are always consequences to living as someone you are not. Unfortunately, this is a choice that it is all too common in the gay community.
However, the challenge of being who you really are is not limited to the gay community. In my work with people, clients may share their unhappiness in following the family business, a career path that their parents expect of them or perhaps a spouse expects of them or because of the status their career brings. Turns out it is not uncommon for people to follow a life path, marrying and having children, simply because “hat is what you are “supposed to do.” Others may struggle with being defined by a profession that is not congruent with how they see themselves, but fear the loss of acceptance of those they love or fear being who they really are will result in the financial ruin of a lifestyle or loss of social acceptance.
In a world that can be driven by harsh judgment, media influences, artificial success markers and fear of the unknown, being true to yourself can take courage, but the price you pay for not being true to yourself is high. Whether you are pretending to be straight”when you are not, continuing to build a financial life based on a career that goes against who you really are or in any way that the life you have created for yourself is not your truth.
Here are 5 tips for not only being who you really are, but fully stepping into it with pride!
Take responsibility for your own life. Whatever your struggles, chances are others have faced the same issues and made different choices. Recognize that we all have choices, not liking or being comfortable with your choices doesn’t mean you don’t have them. In the journey to be who you really are, there will be discomfort (big and small)… learn to be more comfortable with your discomfort.
Recognize the people in your life who will accept you and draw support from them. If you don’t have anyone in your life who can be there for you, make it a priority to connect and build relationships with people who will.
Accept that just like you want acceptance and struggle with fears, so do others. Don’t take it personally when friends or family pressure you to continue with the status quo or try to pressure you to be something you are not. Everyone has different life experiences and beliefs that shape their expectations and everyone has their own “demons to struggle with.” Work on yours and leave others to theirs.
Practice forgiveness for yourself and others. Mistakes will be made and disappointment in life is unavoidable.
Practice being mindful and staying in the moment. We can only really be in the moment at hand. Don’t project into your future or stay stuck in your past. When things get tough intentionally going moment to moment can allow you to see that you really are doing okay and the next moment can be a little better.
Being who we really are is not selfish. By being true to yourself, you are offering up a unique opportunity to the world to benefit from your one-of-a-kind strengths, experiences and perspectives. I recently heard a song lyric, “a hundred years goes by faster than you think… “, don’t let your 100 years or how many years you do have leave you with regret.