Sunday, January 23, 2011

Step #2. How to Love Yourself When You're Gay: Live Consciously

The Story So Far:  We've covered that you know you have a, opportunity, which is what we used to call a problem when I worked for one of Canada's largest financial institutions. That is, an opportunity to improve your self-esteem, to learn how to love yourself.  That's half the battle--if you don't recognize you have an opportunity to improve, you'll never change.  But what now?

Please indulge me one last diversion.  I want to give you a tool you'll need during this process, one you can use throughout your life, not just while improving your self-esteem.  Bear with me--the good stuff is coming.

Before reading this step, please see the Introduction and Step #1, Recognize the Problem (and the Need to Change) (click here).

Step #2:  Live Consciously

Imagine yourself driving to work one morning.  Depending on traffic, your commute normally takes, say, about half an hour.  You arrive at work and suddenly realize you remember nothing about the trip.  You have little to no recollection of the time between leaving your apartment or house and walking in the door of your workplace.  But there you are, saying good morning to your colleagues.  You must have known what you were doing because you got there safely, after all, but that doesn't stop a shiver from running down your spine. What if you'd been in an accident and had injured or even killed yourself or someone else?    

This is the opposite of living consciously, and it happens to all of us.  So used to our daily routines are we, whether driving to work or preparing a meal in the kitchen or whatever the case may be, that we could do them in our sleep, which is literally what we do.  Somehow, our bodies are trained to move through our myriad of routines, while our minds are somewhere else altogether.  It's a miracle more of us aren't the victims of serious accidents, on the road, at home, wherever we might be.

If you're going to do anything constructive around improving your self-esteem, or learning to love yourself, you'll have to get engaged in your life again, or, at the very least, with the parts related to the negative feelings you have about yourself, and the steps you take to improve that. Because, the second your mind wonders and you're not one hundred percent in the moment, routine thoughts of self-loathing will move in, taking up their familiar place in your psyche, shifting your spirit in the wrong direction, and compromising the actions you take.

What I'm saying is, as you work through the five or six steps I've identified in raising self-esteem (based on my own experience), more than anything else, you need to be conscious of what's going on in your mind, because your mind controls everything.  You need to assume the position of your own champion, you need to be focused on the long-term goal (while not losing sight of the short-term ones), and, frankly, to use the driving-to-work metaphor again, you can't afford to take your eyes off the road.

This is especially true in the beginning, while you try to deconstruct the old routine while building the new one, comprised of turning negative notions about yourself into positive ones, and of manoeuvring your actions to support your new and improved thoughts.  It's all about breaking bad habits, and you can't do that if you live unconsciously, allowing everything to happen to you rather than taking a firm grip on the wheel of your life and going the places where you really want to be.

So commit to yourself here and now that, during the process of improving your self-esteem and learning to love yourself, you'll be present in the moment one hundred percent.  You'll be in tune with your thoughts, which can be your greatest enemy or your greatest ally, depending on how conscious you are, and you'll be in control of your actions.  This commitment to yourself is the only way you'll achieve your goal.  When the negativity starts all over again, as it will, you'll need to recognize it's happening, and you'll need to actively divert yourself back on the right track to respecting and loving yourself.

Stay tuned for Step #3:  Turn Intention into Action


  1. Hi Rick,
    As I was reading your latest post, I took a look at the blogroll, and read RuralGay's last entry. As I was reading it, I was thinking, "Oh, he should read what Rick's been writing, and Rick should talk to him!" I was happy to see you'd left him a comment. I was thinking about two things: Self-esteem, and also Dan Savage's advice to a young man who was looking for love. It was directed at a 15 year old boy, and basically said that the way you find someone who wants to date you is by becoming an interesting person yourself. Read, learn, join things, make your life full, and you will become the kind of person people want to date. I know nothing about RuralGay, obviously, but I do know from personal experience (I have family members who didn't get the extrovert "gene") that sitting at home and feeling isolated will not garner you new friends, nor does it make you more interesting (unless, of course, you're sitting at home teaching yourself Russian and how to tap dance, that could help...) Even if it's not your "default setting," you need to get out and participate, and have that day to day contact with people.
    to be continued...

  2. ...continued...aka: "too long for Blogger :)

    The second thing: How the self esteem issue plays into all of this. My two older children were bullied in school, for different reasons (my son, for --get this-- not swearing enough and being too polite, and therefore, not one of the "guys" --believe me, he remedied that in high school, sadly :( and my daughter for having the nerve to be the pretty and confident new girl at school --girls bully for very different reasons than boys do) Anyway, they both handled this very differently. My son had a really tough time, I think because he very much wanted to be part of a group that rejected him, and his self esteem was tied up in other peoples' opinion of him. He took it personally. My daughter, on the other hand, who has always been as stubborn as the day is long, and has enough self confidence for 3 people packed into her 5'2" blond frame, saw the bullying as other peoples' problem. Where did these girls get the nerve to bully *her*? Clearly, they just didn't know her, or they wouldn't do that. (I'm not suggesting it didn't get her down, but overall, how she viewed it was very different.) She made it her mission to get "up in the faces" (I think that's the term!) of these girls, told them they were wrong to treat her the way she the space of a few months, she pretty much worked everyone over to her side, except for one holdout, who then became the outcast until she relented. I think the degree of bullying was the same (if anything, my daughter was bullied by more people than my son was), but how my kids viewed
    themselves had a lot to do with how they perceived things. There are downsides to being overly confident, of course, you don't tend to admit mistakes very easily, but overall, the confident person sees other peoples' snarky behaviour as the other guy's fault, whereas the less confident person experiences snarky behaviour and thinks, "what's wrong with me?" I was just thinking it might be interesting for you to see these two outlooks. I think I'm pretty confident, too (which means the same problems my daughter has--hard to admit that I'm wrong!) and there are times when I'll think to myself, over some issue, "Oh I'm just so stupid." Then, it's like I'll hear myself say that, and think, "No I'm not! Sheesh, that's crazy talk!" It's like I'll say it to myself, and "myself" rejects the thought as ridiculous (the curse of the confident egomaniac, I guess :) It's like my reaction is the exact opposite of what you are saying about people with self esteem issues: They believe the internal monologue, and have to tell themselves not to. I don't know if it helps to hear how the internal monologue works for the person with high (too high??) self esteem, but I thought I'd toss that out there...that basically, if you keep telling yourself how awesome (ha) you are, your subconscious will reject negative thoughts all on its own...

  3. PS. In rereading that first comment, I realize it sounded a little snarky...I didn't mean it that way, I just meant that it's tempting to get into a negative frame of mind when you spend a lot of time alone, and that being interested in a bunch of different things helps make you interesting to others...

  4. Hi, Sarah. So good to hear from you again.
    Okay, honestly, when I read the post RuralGayGuy wrote, I confess I wondered about his self-esteem, as I do whenever I read a post on any blog written by a gay man having difficulty meeting the right person for him. I wonder if these fellows love themselves enough to receive love from someone else, in the way it should be received, and if they're really ready for long-term relationships. I'm sure not everyone with a healthy level of self-esteem has the relationship he wants, but, at the very least, he already has love in his life (his own), and he's in a better position to love someone else and to be loved in return.
    It's funny about self-esteem. When I think back on how I was filled with self-loathing years ago, no one with high self-esteem could have told me how feeling good about myself would change me and my life. You honestly don't see it because you've never experienced it before; you don't know any different.
    But the impact completely changes who you are, giving you a peace of mind, a calmness, a deep fullness about yourself you didn't have before, leaving you open and ready to receive love from others, whether family members, friends, or a partner. Your whole orientation is different; there's no substitute for it. And what so many people don't realize, you can only give this to yourself. No one else can give it to you.
    The illustration of the differences between your oldest son and your daughter--that is, in how they processed bulling--is a brilliant one, demonstrating without a doubt how the opinions of other people don't bring you down if you love yourself. Because you already know you're good and worthy, and you don't have to rely on the opinions of others to give you those feelings.
    Thank you for your considerable contribution to what I'm trying to do here by sharing this. You've also inspired another post I'm eager to write. Stay tuned for that.
    Thanks again, my dear.

  5. Sarah, I did not think your first comment was snarky at all. I know you meant it in the spirit of being helpful, and that's how I took it. Dan Savage (and you) have a great suggestion.
    If I may add one thing, along the way to making yourself a more interesting person (so you're more attractive to someone you might be interested in), I think you begin to realize, while you take your mind off trying to meet someone, just how interesting and attractive you are to yourself, and how much you can really do on your own.
    When you realize this, I think everything you do reinforces the reasons why you should love yourself. Because, it turns out, you're a terrific person after all. You love your own company, and you know when the right person comes along, he'll love your company, too.
    Makes sense, huh?
    The comments both you and Doug continue to make really get me thinking, which is great, because you help me to see things I hadn't before, and because you help to enrich the dialogue on this subject for all my other readers to take in.
    My sincere thanks to you and him.