Seven Ways to Accept Yourself as LGBTQ+

Coming out as LGBTQ+ is a journey. It's about accepting yourself and seeking a safe and welcoming environment. Feeling at home with yourself comes with challenges, especially from society, to "fit in." Shame comes in many forms, but the worst is feeling ashamed of who you are. However, accepting yourself as LGBTQ+ is a way to strengthen relationships — with yourself and others.

Key takeaways:
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    Authenticity has positive health benefits for LGBTQ+ people, which is why accepting yourself is vital.
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    Acceptance is complicated because of societal norms, relational pressure, and internalized homophobia.
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    Seeking safety, processing challenging emotions, and taking time to know yourself better leads to acceptance of being LGBTQ+.

Being in the closet versus authenticity

There are potential side effects of being "closeted" or not coming out to yourself and others. These include lowered self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Living authentically, on the other hand, leads to better mental health. Best of all, being open about your LGBTQ+ status helps connect with the queer community.

Why acceptance is hard

Societal norms, family pressure, and internalized homophobia all contribute to difficulty with self-acceptance.

Family

Regarding family pressure, religious upbringing and conservative values are enormous hurdles. Instead, seek out family members and friends who are accepting of LGBTQ+ people. Statistics from the Trevor Project show that affirming environments at home, school, and the legal system create better mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ youth.

Society

Representation in the media (TV/movies) helped 89% of LGBTQ+ youth feel supported. Seek out supportive representations of LGBTQ+ folks to begin your journey of self-acceptance. It will make it easier. You'll discover your authentic self and realize new ways of accepting others when you realize all the options available!

Internalized homophobia

All of this contributes to internalized homophobia, which manifests as self-disgust or self-hatred. Internalized homophobia can make coming to terms with your sexual and gender identity even more challenging. However, there are several ways to combat this. Much of it involves mental health interventions and a lot of self-reflection!

How do I accept myself?

Acceptance is challenging for everyone, though being LGBTQ+ poses unique struggles. Here are seven strategies that can lead to self-acceptance as you embrace your queerness.

1. Seek safety

"For youth to thrive in schools and communities, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported." — The CDC.

When coming out, feel it out and do what feels safe. Create an environment of safety internally (within yourself) and externally (in your environment).

Sometimes, people in your life will send many mixed messages. Unclear and hurtful messaging can occur before and after you come out. Remember, it's not about you, though it may feel like it. Feeling safe is a crucial starting point to total acceptance of oneself.

2. Express yourself

Express yourself in a way that feels gender-affirming and good for you. For example, cut your hair, or grow it out. Something subtle may be so shockingly better; it kicks your self-esteem into high gear.

Shame keeps us stuck and fearful of living an authentic life, which lowers self-esteem. And lowered self-esteem makes it harder to find acceptance. Unfortunately, a big part of coming out has to do with shame. It's helpful to reflect on what you've learned about homosexuality throughout your life.

Tip
Try journaling and envision your true desires and wants. Being authentic starts with examining internalized beliefs, both positive and negative. This leads to expressing yourself authentically, which builds confidence.

3. Growth and exploration

Allow for growth and exploration. You don't have to have it all figured out right away. Growth is never linear. Don't feel bad for changing, especially as it leads to a more self-actualized version of you.

At times, you may have experienced homophobic messages. Homophobia deters many folks from openness regarding being LGBTQ+. Homophobic attitudes cause stress for LGTBQ+ folks, according to the American Psychological Association. It's essential to connect with people who support you.

Remember that you are on a journey. There's no right or wrong way to come out. What's important is to continue to grow and explore to find inner acceptance.

4. Process challenging emotions

Hiding grief and emotions is toxic to your soul. It's vital to process feelings before moving ahead. So take time to process the hard stuff. Processing can be accomplished by journaling, meditation, therapy, or other support. Talk with a friend, or look for LGBTQ+ affirming therapists or counselors.

If you’re struggling with acceptance, you’re not alone! Unfortunately, shame is common for LGBTQ folks because of societal stigma.

Tip
Try writing down what you feel ashamed about. Then, write down what you're proud of and what you've accomplished this week, month, or year.

5. Practice being vulnerable

Vulnerability is challenging but essential for self-acceptance. Deepen your relationship with yourself through meditation or peaceful reflection. Sit with yourself and just be. This is practicing mindfulness — noticing the feelings and emotions you are experiencing, then accepting them. Mindfulness also improves memory, focus, and mood.

How does it feel to "just be" with yourself without any distractions?

6. Affirm who you are

Many LGBTQ people report altering their lives to avoid…discrimination and the trauma associated with unequal treatment.” — The State of the LGBTQ Community 2020.

Just because someone doesn't value your feelings or identity, it doesn't make it less valid — no matter who says it. Surround yourself with support. Attend pride, "dyke day," and LGBTQ+ support groups.

7. Celebrate

There's nothing shameful in being vulnerable and authentically you. Celebrate your uniqueness and newfound self-love. Enjoy the confidence that comes with fully accepting who you are. And don’t forget to celebrate how far you’ve come!

Be brave and stay safe when coming out. It's better to face yourself wholly and authentically than to be trapped in a closet forever. Use this time as an opportunity to foster a stronger relationship with yourself. It will lay the groundwork for a happier and more fulfilling future.

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