I've had an influx of emails in my inbox recently from gay men expressing their struggles with perfectionism, depression and feelings of loneliness for being old in a youth-centric gay culture.
Putting sexuality aside for a split second, these are pretty shitty struggles to face. It pains me to know that this is the reality that many gay men face. When I read stories of men coming out in their 50s after being married to women for years, and guys in their 20s who have been rejected by their parents for being gay, it doesn't come as a shock to me that we collectively hate ourselves for our shortcomings and insecurities.
Do we hate ourselves because we're gay? Or do we hate ourselves because of the way we've been treated, the choices we've made or the circumstances we've faced? I argue it's one or a combination of these claims.
Self hatred is a bitch. When we don't feel adequate or good enough because we know we're gay, our realities become heavy and burdensome. Unfortunately, most of us never had positive gay role models and we never got the education we needed to fully accept and love ourselves unconditionally.
Being gay is something we can't change. It's a circumstance we can come to accept or keep running from in a never ending game of denial. Life is much better when we accept it, but it doesn't mean that the process of acceptance is easy. Acceptance means that we see reality for what it is, not what we want or expect it to be. That means if we feel the desire to kiss, love and have sex with another man, we honor that with our whole entire being. We don't allow ourselves to miss out on the opportunities that our hearts and souls drive us toward.
I was sick and tired of hating myself several years after I came out of the closet, so I did everything I could to reduce the feelings of guilt, shame and loneliness. That's when I immersed myself in studying mindfulness, self care and positive psychology. From these studies, I learned how to reverse self hatred and love myself unconditionally. These are some of the lessons that you can use immediately to reverse any lingering feelings of self hatred:
1. Believe that people are good. We have a choice in what we think and choose to believe. Do you believe that people are genuinely good or genuinely bad? Freud wanted us to believe the latter, but positive psychologists encourage us to believe that the former is true. One of my professors in college always said, "You won the sperm race! The thousands of other sperm lost. You beat then and you won the race. You're a winner." It's true. Believe that you're a good person because you really are. Once you believe this, you're entire perspective can change.
2. Give thanks on a daily basis. The root of unhappiness is expecting reality to be different than what it is, or wishing you had something that you don't have. So many gay men think they're inadequate because they don't have a boyfriend or a partner. You don't have to feel bad about being single. In fact, you can have gratitude for all of the amazing benefits that come from being single! Being single allows you to date, enjoy alone time when you want to be by yourself and sleep around with different guys. Contrary to popular believe, sexual experimentation is in fact a good thing. Why? It allows you to figure out what you like and don't like... as long as you're safe and take responsible for your actions.
Relationships and sexuality aside, gratitude is a sure fire way to feel whole and complete. You can be grateful for simple things like the sunshine, your breath, clean water or your iphone. Don't over complicate gratitude... just write down 3 things a day that you can be grateful for and refer back to your gratitude list throughout the day.
3. Take pride in your accomplishments. We don't give ourselves enough credit for everything we accomplish. We tend to live in a state of lack and not feeling like we're good enough. There are too many messages in our culture telling this to us. It's time that we put a stake in the ground to stop these messages from filling up our subconscious. The way to reverse this is to take pride in everything that's made us the men we are today. We can list out everything we've done to bring us to where we are right now, including where we are in our careers, interpersonal development and life accomplishments like travel, hobbies and education. Every little triumph counts, including getting out of bed in the morning and graduating high school -- honor each and every single accomplishment.
4. Surround yourself with like-minded, positive people. When you find yourself surrounded by gay-hating bigots, get your ass out of the room and find some amazing, good hearted people who love you for who you are. There are plenty of healthy, sane gay and straight people to befriend from all different walks of life. They key is to align your values with like-minded people. Then you can make a conscious effort to share your unique skills and gifts with people who love you no matter what. It's our relationships that provide us with the utmost happiness and fulfillment in our lives.
Mindfulness and self-care practices teach us that we don't have to live in a state of self hatred any more. We can make the decision to become aware of our reality and love ourselves unconditionally for who we are today -- not who we wish we could be or what we want to be. Self acceptance means that we make observations about ourselves and others without any judgement and remain open minded. We are not born with the natural ability to do this, but we can train ourselves on a daily basis with conscious effort and dedication. All you need to do is start today.
Max DuBowy is the author of the Ultimate Guide to Self Care for gay men who are ready to break from stress and anxiety. Are you ready to be confident, make friends and love yourself unconditionally? INSTANTLY DOWNLOAD A COPY OF HIS FREE GUIDE HERE.