Low self-esteem, unfortunately, is common amongst those in the gay community. Which perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider how difficult and sometimes even dangerous being queer in today’s world can be.
For gay people are one of the last groups in today’s society to still be openly derided and condemned, with many individuals facing homophobia within their own family, school, workplace or church.
As a result, research shows gays and lesbians are at greater risk of attempting suicide and having drug or alcohol problems than their straight counterparts.
Your self-esteem -“ the way you see yourself -“ has an impact on every aspect of your life, romantically, professionally and socially, according to The Gay And Lesbian Self-Esteem Book: A Guide To Loving Ourselves by psychologist Kimeron Hardin. In fact every decision you make is influenced by your self-confidence, Hardin said.
Thankfully, help is at hand. Community health organisation ACON runs a number of support groups for LGBT people, including Fun & Esteem which is aimed at men under the age of 26 (a group for young women is starting in a few months).
Some guys go to Fun & Esteem with a lot of negative baggage about what it means to be gay, said youth project officer Stephen Scott, who with his colleague Ben Bavinton organises the groups.
Bavinton added that some of the guys have had bad experiences within the gay community itself. For example some guys consider they aren’t good-looking or cool enough to be accepted by their queer peers.
The most important thing Fun & Esteem does is facilitate relationships between the young men who attend, Scott and Bavinton believe.
Our workshop content contains stuff on feeling good about yourself, but the most important thing that happens is the dynamic that’s created within the group of guys, said Bavinton.
That connection that happens is often the one thing that’s needed to push them past the stereotype that being gay means being unhappy and sad and being alone for the rest of your life.
Michael Nelson, co-president of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Counselling Service (GLCS), agreed socialisation is often the key.
With the GLCS receiving a lot of calls relating to low self-esteem, the Service runs its own Coming Out Groups, which are similar to Fun & Esteem but are open to men and women of any age.
Certainly having low self-esteem makes it harder to come out and harder to deal with any other problems that, as a gay or lesbian person, you may be dealing with, Nelson said. So a lot of the stuff we do in the Coming Out Groups looks at ways to build self-esteem.
Some strategies to help overcome low self-esteem are, according to Hardin’s book, trying to think positively, reminding yourself of things you have to be grateful for, and forgiving yourself for past mistakes.
Be more assertive and don’t suppress your feelings. It can also help to imagine what advice you would give someone else going through what you’re feeling.
And never be afraid to seek professional advice. The GLCS can suggest gay-friendly therapists.
Contact Fun & Esteem at [email protected] or call Stephen on 9206 2077.
Gay And Lesbian Counselling Service on 8594 9596 or 1800 184 527 between 5:30pm and 10:30pm Monday to Sunday.
The Gay And Lesbian Self-Esteem Book: A Guide To Loving Ourselves, $29.95, is available from The Bookshop Darlinghurst, 207 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, phone 9331 1103.