"I've learned that loving yourself requires a courage unlike any other. It requires us to believe in and stay loyal to something no one else can see that keeps us in the world - our own self-worth" (Book of Awakenings by Mark Nepo. January 25th)
On Tuesday, while folding laundry, I put on the Oprah show. It was a retrospective show on the evolution of the discourse on being gay and coming out over the 20 years of the Oprah show. It spanned the changes in the public discourse from when "being gay" was taboo and shunned, to the present time when the public discourse is more focused on acceptance and an open dialogue. What allowed the evolution of the discourse was the courage of many individuals, including high-profile celebrities, to speak out and come out about being gay. One such individual featured on the Oprah show was Greg Louganis, who in 1995, chose to live an authentic life by coming out publicly and announcing that he was also HIV positive. At the time of his interview with Oprah in 1995, he said that his reasons for coming out were that he was tired of living life as a fake, constantly having to edit himself, and living with the fear that "How could anybody accept me if they really knew me." But after many years of living as a "fake" and hiding of his true self, Louganis realized that he wanted to live his life "openly and with honesty".
When Louganis came out as an openly gay male, he mostly did so for himself, in order to live authentically no matter what the reaction from others would be. By choosing courage over fear, he declared that he was worthy just as he was. What he didn't know was that his courage would inspire others to live an authentic life. On Tuesday's show, Oprah talked about a young man, Michael, who was 12 years old when Greg Louganis appeared on the 1995 show. When Michael heard Louganis speak about the reasons for his coming out and the need to live life authentically, he realized that being gay still meant that you were worthy of love and was no longer something to be feared. "I'd never seen another gay person. I thought I was the only one." Validation, inspiration, love and self-worth, were gifts that Louganis gave this young boy that day that allowed him to live a life without questioning his self-worth in the world and without fear of the day when he came out. He talked about how his mother asked him "Do you think you're gay?" and his response was "No, Mom. I don't think I'm gay. I know I'm gay." That is the response of a confident, self-assured young man.
Watching this show and the story of Louganis and Michael was a joy for me. It really showed how beneficial it is for your "self" to embrace who you are and to live your life with authenticity. It takes great courage to embrace our differences, our weaknesses, our vulnerability and expose them to others, but it is necessary to do so if we hope to live a life of authenticity, rather than a fake life in which we desperately try to morph into the socially-accepted norm in order to fit in.
By the way, as Dr Brené Brown explains in the video from my previous post, the word Courage from it's linguistic roots means "telling the story of who you are with your whole heart." Dr Brown also realized that the happiest people are those who "were willing to let go of who they thought they should be in order to be who they were (....) who fully embraced their vulnerability because they realized that "what made them vulnerable is also what made them beautiful."
So don't be afraid to spread your wings, embrace who you are, and shout it to the world. You happiness will be increase and you might become a role model who inspires others to do the same.
What are you going to do for your "Me" today?