We have all heard it. Love yourself. It is the mantra at the core of nearly every self help book ever published.
But let's be honest! How often do we actual do it? For many of us, those two words are not always the easiest to live out.
In today's society, there are far too many things that weigh on us, seemingly preventing us, from loving ourselves.
How often are there emotional and physical demands that others put into our lives? We put, sometimes against our own will, the needs or wants of others (parents, friends, church, etc) at the head of the line before we put our needs into play. We bow to societies pressure to be something we are not and that my friends is not truly living.
It is an all too often of an occurrence that we hear the criticism and not the compassion. We hear “You should be _______” rather than “You can be _____”. We internalize the negative and shrug off the positive.
We see time and time again stories online and in the news praising the positive moments around the world like they are some nearly extinct bird captured on film for the first time in decades. The reality is that these stories should be the norm and yet we still see them as the exception.
With all the pressure the world around us puts on us, we add our own self doubt, loathing, low self esteem. It all can get in the way and it makes loving ourselves is a monumental task.
But it doesn't have to be that way.
Back in January, I had the opportunity to volunteer for VideoOut's story collection day in Chicago. They were there with StangeWaze Productions collecting the coming out stories of people all over the LGBTQ spectrum.
There was one young man at the end of the long day who said something that caught my attention. He was talking about the events around the first person he really came out to, the person who became his first boyfriend. That night after coming out, the boyfriend told him, “I hope you walk a little taller tomorrow.” And you know what, that young man did.
As he walked the halls of his high school the next day, he did walk a little taller. He walked knowing there was at least one person who loved him as he was – not for who anybody wanted him to be.
I found in that one act a huge life lesson. This is how we all should live!
Though we may not know it or feel it, why shouldn't we walk a little taller? Why shouldn't we walk, act and live as though we are loved?
When I came out on Facebook in July of 2010 after I officially changed my name, I called it my great social experiment. After growing up in the Baptist church in the most conservative suburb of Chicago, I knew in my heart of hearts that I would probably loose quite a few friends. There were a few people in my life I knew I could count on. And for the rest, well, let's just say they were a mystery on how they would react.
But honestly, in hide sight, none of that mattered. It was in my teenage years, back in the 80's, when I finally knew about transitioning. It was at that time I knew what I wanted and needed to do. But it wasn't until I had let the pressure of the world weigh on my so much that I finally knew what I had to do.
Transitioning for me was an act of survival. Just months before I came out, I sat in a Walmart parking lot with a jar of pills open on the dashboard. In my eyes, I had two clear choices – transition or end up six feet under. Transitioning was an act of loving myself enough to keep moving forward, to keep living.
From the moment I came out to my Christian parents, I knew I had their love. I knew I had the love and support of a few friends – including the love and friendship of the first girl I ever really dated back in high school. But Being loved was one thing. I knew I was loved. But it took me living like I was loved, embracing it, to over come that hurdle of fear.
Even after all this time, I still have to remind myself of this. Society isn't going away and it seems like the ignorance and hate for the LGBTQ community is growing day by day. There are going to be days when we feel absolutely alone in the world.
So for me, living like we are loved is an act of defiance. Living like we are loved stands in the face of those who would oppose us. We walk taller knowing that someone, somewhere, carries a pride or transgender flag for us, speaks for our rights, holds out their arms to love us in our time of need.
If there is one thing I can say to anyone who has experienced the pain of hiding; take a breath, stand up, and walk a little taller.
Live like the person you were made to be.
Live like you are Loved.
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