Q: The tragic suicide of that gay teen who made the "It Gets Better" has made me really think about my own bullying experiences as a kid. I'm a 28-year-old gay man, and I realized that I'm so sick of acting like I'm inferior, and being afraid of people. I've been in therapy and have gained insight, but I know my own behavior and beliefs still need to change. I don't want to feel pushed around anymore. Any suggestions?
A: My friend, you have taken an important stand -- whether you know it or not -- to grow and evolve past the wounds of your past. You would not have written this question had you not taken that stand.
And because you’ve done that, you can expect that you will be more and more aware of when and where you’re acting out of those past wounds. That’s good news! Just make sure that when you do become aware of the things you want to change, that you don’t throw yourself right back into the pattern with another dose of judgment and blame. That said, I've made a list of suggestions you might find helpful as you seek to change, and empower yourself in the process:
10 things you can do to start changing self-defeating behavior:
- Catch yourself in the act. Building your awareness is key to change.
- Resist the urge to judge yourself, to make yourself wrong for doing what you’ve done, even if it’s for the umpteenth time.
- Celebrate every time you catch yourself in the act. Celebrate the wisdom and awareness it took to see the thing you want to change.
- Create a vision of who you are becoming. In your new way of being, how will you begin to trust? How will you respond to people? How will you handle conflict? Disappointment? What thoughts and feelings will you have about yourself and others? Know where you are headed and what you are aiming for.
- Get support. Hire a therapist or a coach that specializes in this kind of work.
- Feed yourself. Make a practice of reading books or listening to audio recordings that inspire you to grow and transform. Educate yourself on the process of change. Knowledge is power.