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Confidence and LGBTI people

The benefits of feeling confident in life are endless.  It is a distinct advantage when deciding what you want out of life, how you are going to do it and actually successfully pulling it off (so to speak). Confidence can also give you the ability to stand up for yourself, and be more assertive. However, there is a distinct difference between those who wear a confident mask, and feel insecure about themselves underneath it all, and those actually feel OK about themselves.

Lacking confidence can effect your ability to come out, ask for an overdue promotion, and can be a major factor in keeping you in a rut in a relationship and work situation that are well over their used-by date. If you lack confidence, there can often be quite a difference between the positive things others say about you and how you feel about yourself. There may also be a difference between feeling confident about the role you play at work as opposed to feeling positive about yourself in social situations where others can see “the real you”.

Where does confidence come from? People develop a sense of self through the filter of the messages they get about themselves as they grow up, and this then strongly impacts on confidence. Children who are frequently told that they can achieve anything and get lots of affirmation and emotional intimacy from significant people around them, often seem to have a natural confidence and a strong sense that they can achieve whatever they set their mind to. They also tend to not limit themselves and regularly set realistic and challenging goals.

Unfortunately many children who have a gay or lesbian orientation seem to get more than their share of put-downs. If you often got the message from parents and others at school and home, that you were somehow different and not as good as others, it is easy to see how you would feel less than confident as an adult. It is therefore important to think back to the types of messages that you picked up about yourself as you were growing up. Try and see a parallel between the way you feel today and the messages you absorbed growing up Another way to combat low confidence is to face fears by taking small risks outside of your comfort zone.   Do something that feels difficult such as saying hi at the check out counter. Be aware of how you are feeling, and what you are saying to yourself.  As you are chatting to this person, be aware of the voice that we all have inside our heads that will tell you things about yourself.  If you don’t have much confidence, you can bet that it will be like a cranky parent who is constantly criticising you:

“Oh my god, this person thinks I’m ridiculous, he looked away and obviously isn’t interested, I must look like such a dork…  I can’t think of anything witty and he thinks I’m boring… God, I can’t stand this anymore, he’s going to walk off and I’ll be left here looking really stupid, this is terrible, I knew I shouldn’t have done this, it always happens and always will.”

When you’ve identified these thoughts, don’t just give yourself positive affirmations, as they work on an average for 3.58 seconds, you really need to be challenging  also to be gentle on yourself if you make a mistake. If you trip down the steps don’t go home, and beat yourself over it while telling yourself how bad you are. Making mistakes just means you are just part of the human race.  Just because you may fail at some things, it doesn’t mean that you yourself are a failure. Criticising your behaviour as opposed to the essence of who you are can be a step towards confidence and self acceptance.

Delany Skerrett | CFHP
Delaney Skerrett

Delaney is a senior registered psychologist working with people of all backgrounds and with a special interest in LGBTI+ people, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and Indigenous people.

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