How do you practice self-acceptance?

Discussion in 'Coming Out' started by Liv Liv, Feb 24, 2015.

  1. Liv Liv

    Liv Liv Member

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    Recently, I have come to terms more and more with my sexual orientation after several relationships dating men because, honestly, I was in a place where that validation felt good and they were (mostly) the ones hitting on me so it was easy to, in essence, hide from myself. For 24 years.

    I've known for a long time I like women, however. I was just never willing to admit it this fully to myself... as in I think I like women way more than I like men. It's a bit scary to even type that... wow. Anyway, I am trying to not force a label on myself before I'm ready but I'm somewhere between bi / pan and lesbian. I have talked to a few friends about this and have mostly been met with support, which has been great! There have also been some slightly less than enthusiastic reactions but no straight up negative ones, thankfully. The most difficult thing was telling the man I was with... yeah, you read that correctly. He was a slightly less than enthusiastic reaction and we still don't know exactly what to do because we have a strong connection where I consider him to be like a best friend and he also values that connection, he just wants me to be, well, heterosexual.

    Anyway, that situation is not exactly why I'm writing. In talking to supportive friends, I realized that maybe I don't fully accept this version of myself I've been coming to terms with in the past year. My question is really do any of you have thoughts on how to practice self-acceptance? What did you do to accept who you are? Has anyone else had a deep inner dialogue that has been somewhat negative when they've been in the process of coming out or just in general and how did you deal with it? How can I better accept myself and this situation and show myself some caring and self-love? What do you do?
     
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  2. Spygirl

    Spygirl Well-Known Member

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    Acceptance is a process; it doesn't happen overnight. That being said -- I really struggled with who I am. So much so that after I came out in my early 20's, I went back into the closet and dated a guy for 4 years. No matter how hard I tried, though, I couldn't make my feelings for women go away. Pretending those feelings weren't there was harder than acknowledging they existed. I didn't want to be gay, and I really tried to live a straight, heterosexual life I failed miserably.

    There's no miracle solution for everyone. Maybe see a counselor -- it doesn't mean there's anything wrong with you, but it might help for you to have a "forced" conversation with yourself.

    The one thing that I can say is that in having whatever dialogue with yourself..you need to sit down and just be honest with yourself. Find truth in small things...so that one day...truth in all those small things add up to being comfortable in your own skin.
     
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  3. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    OK. Let's start at the beginning.

    What you are talking about is usually refereed to as "coming out." Coming out has two portions - an internal one, coming out to and accepting oneself and - an external one, coming out to the rest of the world.

    No two people come out in exactly the same way. Some people totally come out to themselves, then come out to the world. Some people get outed to the world, before they are really comfortable with themselves. But for most it is a process of many steps.

    Internally, it can be very painful to come out. It is very common for people to do it in little stages or steps. Like first saying "I think girls are pretty" and then slowly admitting one's feelings are sexual and not just admiration, then admitting you want to act on those feelings, etc...

    It is OK to take the process slowly. If you push too far, too fast, you can wind up overloaded and running back into the closet. This doesn't do any good.

    One stumbling block to self acceptance can be what is called "internalized homophobia." Basically, we (I'm saying we, because we're both in the US) are in a culture that is somewhat homophobic. We may see real explicit homophobia -like gay bashing. Or maybe we see implicit homophobia - like we don't see happy gay people in our communities or on TV. We take those messages in and they become part of our beliefs. "Gay relationships never last." "If I come out, I will be a second class citizen."

    In most cases, this process is pretty subconscious. We don't fully realize that the beliefs are there, but we wind up having emotional reactions - freaking out after having a wet dream about a girl, for example.

    Part of coming out is to work on internalized homophobia. If coming out is really painful, a counselor or support group can help. But lots of people also come out just fine on their own. One way to work on internalized homophobia is to (like @Spygirl says) try to work on and challenge our inner beliefs. If you catch yourself thinking "I will loose my friends if I am gay," or "I won't have a happy life," "gay people are deviants and perverts," make a note of those. If you get really upset about something, ask yourself - "why is it so upsetting to say I am bi, I am lez, I am pan leaning towards women, etc...?" Over time, you can challenge those beliefs. Are your friends really homophobic? If they are that homophobic, do you really want them in your life?

    Another way to help with coming out, is to do some things in the gay community. This can be pretty low key, like going to a concert where there will be lots of gay people (Brandi Carlile, Tegan and Sara, etc...). Or you can do things like go to an LGBTQ group or meet up. This allows you to challenge internalized homophobia by seeing the people around you. Do they look happy? Do they have friends? A cute gf to hold their hand? Do they seem like their life is over, or that they are second class citizens?

    I've been out a long time and honestly, it's just not as big of a deal anymore. Well, in liberal areas like Seattle, New England, etc... I can't really speak to the deep south or what have you. People just don't care. I can't even remember the last time I got a weird reaction or had anyone care. I wear a wedding ring and am pretty open about my life. My wife and I are affectionate together in public and clearly together (though not gross PDA).

    Internalized messages of shame or judgement can be harder to overcome. "Gay families aren't as good as 'traditional' marriage." "Intercourse is real sex and oral sex isn't real sex." "Lesbians just hate men." But those external messages are based on shame, fear and control - not on a realistic view of the world. Over time, you can learn to counter and push back those real shame based external messages.

    I know that this post was pretty long. I hope that it helps you in some way. I think you are doing a very good job with things and feel free to post more if you need.
     
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  4. Johille Anderson

    Johille Anderson Well-Known Member

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    Self-acceptance is a process, like @Spygirl said, learn to understand that first. What are you coming in terms with? You might in between labels right now, and it's totally fine. In my own experience, I didn't know how to label my strong attraction to women growing up until I knew that they called it 'being a lesbian'. Now when I knew of it, the harder part was around the corner of which I never expected. That is, telling my family. With a big surprise, while telling I was to pee on myself but instead I swallowed my spit with joy when they were supportive of who I am. The rest didn't matter, because I was now confident of my identity and not afraid to show it. @Bluenote summarized it well, by saying:

    Also:

    That's just about it. As simple of a start, but the reward in the end is comforting. Trust me! Been through the process.
     
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  5. Liv Liv

    Liv Liv Member

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    Thank you for your responses! They really are helpful, even if it might seem somewhat obvious like "take it slow" or "try being around more gay people". It actually does help hearing it from someone other than myself.

    I am seeing a counselor, actually. Some of his best advice on this matter has been simplistic in nature. "Let it be" is one of my current mantras and he's said to be honest. Vague but actually helpful for me, as in for the inner criticism, just let it be and be honest with myself when I can be and it's uncomfortable but ultimately doing good work so I try to stay with it sometimes. Not sure if that makes as much sense as it did in my head but, yeah, I am seeing a therapist and it's helpful.

    I'm the type of person who tends to want to rush though uncomfortable things but I'm trying very hard not to (*alright vipassana meditation training, time to kick in*). Your responses really have been good for me to read, thank you!
     
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  6. mzander

    mzander New Member

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    Do you like yourself?
    It is a simple question, but it can be difficult to answer. When it comes to self-acceptance, people are either completely accept themselves flaws and all or they do not accept any part of themselves. It is an all or nothing situation.

    When you accept yourself, you are accepting your unconditional self. You are providing yourself with unconditional love. That is why when you want to accept yourself, you have to love yourself. Learning to love yourself is an ongoing process that has to be nurtured for the rest of your life.
     
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