LGBTQ therapy to help LGBTQ people love themselves and each other.

Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals, and Transgender People: What If You Loved Yourself?

What if you really loved yourself? The concept of loving yourself has lost its power to inspire us because it was overused in cheesy popular media. We are in an ironic time and loving yourself sounds sappy, and very 1980s.

Start talking about self-love and people will immediately make masturbation jokes.

It’s embarrassing to talk about self-approval. It sounds narcissistic.

Loving yourself is not self-indulgent. It doesn’t mean you stop loving and caring about others. It just means adding yourself to your inner circle of loved ones.

We are so hard on ourselves. That becomes immediately obvious to any LGBTQ affirming therapist. I believe we are experiencing an epidemic of self-hate. It can lead to mistreating our bodies, procrastinating on things that could benefit us, attracting people who belittle us, and plenty of anxiety and depression.

Being Perfect

Perfectionism is one way of being mean to the self. You don’t expect your friends to be perfect, and yet some of us demand perfection from ourselves.

Do you ever expect any of the following? Perfect muscles, perfect clothes, perfect social life, perfect house, perfect vacation, perfect hair, perfect wedding? Do you need to be the perfect daughter, employee, lover, or boyfriend?

What if it was okay to be less than perfect? Or average?

Perhaps our competitive consumer society feeds this striving for perfection so we’ll buy more products to feel better.

The prevailing social message that “you are not good enough” impacts everyone, but LGBTQ individuals are particularly susceptible to accepting these untrue messages. From the moment we figured out our LGBTQ sexuality or gender we learned: “not good”.

Being perfect sounds like an excellent strategy to combat that message.

Until it sucks the joy out of most days.

The Chorus

Are you performing for the invisible chorus that you pretend is watching and judging you? Without being aware of it, many of us carry around this imaginary group of people whom we believe are evaluating us. These fantasy “friends” often are vestiges of the feedback we received a very long time ago from our parents, siblings, or high school classmates.

In our minds, the chorus may be rolling their eyes on any number of our actions. We may feel the sting of the make-believe chorus when we judge ourselves for being “uncool”, “too feminine”, “too masculine”, or “boring.”

With all those judge-y people in there, it can get crowded.

Healing from Self-Hatred

So what if you really did take self-love seriously? What would that actually look like? Expanding self-acceptance is a life long process. It’s something we can always keep learning about.

Daily self-approval practice only makes us stronger. Which of the following are you willing to try?

  • Notice when you are having critical or unkind thoughts about yourself. Ask yourself: would I say this to a close friend? A beloved relative? A child? Dog?
  • Practice saying loving things to yourself for just ten seconds per day. What if you said to yourself “I love spending time with you and hanging out”. Perhaps you have said that to a friend, but I bet you have never said that to yourself. Assume that this will feel ridiculous at first.
  • Consider believing people when they say nice things about you. Catch yourself when you find yourself pretending that they are just “being nice.”
  • Keep an appreciation journal. List a few things each day that you appreciate (like summer fruit, sexy dancing in musicals, or art deco), and then make sure you add a few things about yourself (your ability to laugh, your calves, your commitment to flossing). Notice how your perspective changes when you play the gratitude game.
  • Read Louise Hays’ You Can Heal Your Life. Take in what feels helpful in this new-agey book and leave the rest.
  • Pay attention when you feel guilt. While we need a little guilt to let us know when we’ve breached our moral values, most of us carry way too much. Use the experience of guilt to ask yourself questions such as, “Am I allowed to have boundaries? Am I allowed to take up space in relationships?”

All of this sounds so basic and simple. And yet nothing could be more important than loving yourself when it comes to improving the quality of your life.

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Peter Heatley
Peter Heatley
10/02/2023 3:18 AM

Good article. I first realized how harsh my inner voice was when I went on a 5 day silent retreat. With all the distractions peeled away, the harshness of my own self talk came to the forefront, and it was a revelation. That began the process of trying to be kinder to myself, and over 10 years later it still continues. Thank you for the simple yet powerful reminders about how important this awareness is, especially for those of us who identify as LGBTQ+.

17/02/2023 2:27 AM

Self love is very important because I don’t get it from others

17/02/2023 2:29 AM

Being gay is hard enough I’ve been looking for a guy I’ve never found what I wanted and needed

06/09/2023 12:49 PM

Not enough

I was watching a vid where Gabor Mate was a guest on a podcast. He spent the first 12 minutes talking about “not enough”

Mate suggested that the best response to “Are you enough” is “Who is asking”

Am I enough?

No. Not often. Sometimes.

I don’t have a problem with “who is asking” To me a better question, or at least one I have more difficulty with:

What is enough?

Enough has to be earned. I am enough while I help people. I am enough when I go out of my way. I am enough while I provide meaningful work for local kids. I am enough when I talk to a troubled teen and help him sort his life out. I am enough when I push my own internal shitstorm aside, and help Laura after she broke her hip.

There are three states: Above is how I can, temporarily be enough. When I’m useful, helpful. When I’m a resource. I defined my job in the Math department: “My job is to make it possible for everyone to do their job.”

I can be static: A hermit. Alone with my books, my music. I am not enough in this state, but it’s also a time to recharge. And I’m not a burden.

I can be a burden. I take energy from others. i absorb their time. When I’m in therapy, I’m a burden. When I ask Laura to pick something up, I am a burden. If I complain about supper, I am a burden. When I leave a mess behind, I am a burden. When I say I’ll do something, and it’s still undone, I am a burden.

I can be a burden at times and enough at times in the same day, in the same hour. If I’m “enoughing” more than I’m “burdening” it’s an ok day.

Maté considers all people “are enough” he considers this as much of the package of being a person as having red blood cells. I’ve run into this before: Rogers notion of “worthy” is in this same basket.

If you subscribe to Mate/Rogers then if you tell me that so-and-so is “enough” you haven’t told me any information about them, that I didn’t know already. It has no merit as an external evaluation.

Therefore it only gives information when used in a self referential context. I do not find this useful either.

So, as mentioned in my earlier rant, see being enough as a ephemeral condition depending on what I’m engaged in at the time. There are classes of activity that contribute to this: helping others, showing kindness, concern, creating beauty, making the world a better place chief among them.

I don’t have to be enough all the time. I see it as a triune balance between being enough, being a burden, and recovering for the next bout in the arena. If my enoughness exceeds my burdening, I’m ok for the time being.

I can live and work with this version of enough. By Rogers and Maté, it’s wrong, but I will point out that Rogers is a philosopher, a field that has little in the way correspondence to reality.

Alas I didn’t write this down when I got home. While driving, and considering the various ways that various people told me, “not good enough” my response was, “You had a chance to attempt to give correction, and perhaps make me better. Maybe you tried, and I was blind. Maybe I rejected your attempts. But more likely you didn’t bother. Ok.

Lots of truama folk have long term harm. One of the too oft quoted phrases, “it made you stronger”

That one is ambiguous. Most of us were harmed in ways that left us less capable at dealing with the world. Some of us became stronger or better in specific domains. Calluses on your psyche? Innured to pain? Greater fortitude? Greater self reliance. I’m big on both these last two. They are both strengths and weaknesses.

There are lots of ways I need to learn and grow to become fully human, but I can tell the world that *MY* striving to be *MY* version of ‘enough’ has left me stronger, more capable, harder working, and braver than many of my judges who told me, “not enough”

So to all those who messengers who told me that I wasn’t enough for some standard of theirs: Fuck off and die.

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