I’ve always had ambivalent feelings about the It Gets Better campaign. While its aim to give LGBTQ children and teens hope about the future they can live as LGBTQ adults is laudable, I’m also aware that being a queer adult isn’t always easy either. Queer and trans adults are subject to minority stress, discrimination, and in some cases family rejection and structural oppression — and as a result, we have higher rates of mental health challenges and substance abuse struggles compared to the general population.
There is certainly a lot of freedom and joy you can create for yourself as a queer adult, but considering those complexities I’m not sure I’d describe it as it gets better… more like it gets different. Given this reality it’s important to build your emotional resilience, so that you CAN enjoy all that is beautiful about being a queer adult and minimize the impact of the struggles. Here are some tips that can help you on that journey.
Having a strong sense of who you are and being able to affirm that identity within yourself is so powerful. Take the time for self-exploration on a regular basis, using methods such as journaling, trying out new ways of presenting, etc. You are a marvel and a treasure — learning more about yourself is a great way to show yourself that!
Engage with media that portrays LGBTQ people positively, especially those with characters you relate to or share your intersectional identities. This can help you feel more affirmed in who you are and help you imagine the different options and possibilities life may hold for you.
Challenge yourself to set goals that are important to you — such as learning a new skill, decluttering your home, or developing a self care routine — and intentionally celebrate when you accomplish them. This will help you build your self-esteem and give you a sense of empowerment in creating the life that you want.
Find spaces that support and reflect who you are
Spend more time with friends, family, and community members who know and love all of you, including your queer identity, and less time with those who are unable or unwilling to do so. Feeling understood has a positive effect on mental and emotional wellbeing, whereas feeling like you have to hide a part of yourself or like a part of you is constantly put down or invalidated has a negative impact on mental health.
Getting involved in the LGBTQ community can be a way of finding spaces that support or reflect you. Consider joining a queer book club or sports team, or volunteering at a LGBTQ organization.
If you haven’t yet come out or if you live in an area that doesn’t have much of a community, dive into books and articles about LGBTQ people. This is a different way to feel connected to queer people who share similar experiences and can help you learn more about the larger LGBTQ community.
A caveat — as you seek out LGBTQ community, be alert for spaces that have been created out of trauma bonding and people who may be seeking a trauma bond with you. It’s important to recognize that queer people are victims of anti-LGBTQ attitudes, actions, and policies. However, acknowledging that reality is not the same as adopting an identity of victimhood. Operating from the place of a “victim” identity puts you at high risk of trauma bonding with others — that is, forming connections that require maintaining the trauma in order for the connection to stay alive.
Unlike healthy forms of peer support through trauma which convey a sense of empathy and empowerment, trauma bonds trend toward enmeshment and keep both parties locked in a place of powerlessness and pain. Remember, you are more than your trauma — seek connections that speak to the whole of you, not only the unhealed part.
Don’t be your own bully
Life already includes haters doing queerphobic and transphobic things that make your existence stressful — avoid adding onto them. Challenge any negative self-talk scripts stuck in your mind, and ask yourself if they are true and helpful. If not, work to replace them with more accurate and useful thoughts.
Get in the practice of learning from your mistakes. Getting stuck in the pattern of doing the same self-destructive behavior over and over again is a form of self harm. Taking active steps to change your behavior when needed will help you grow.
That being said, remember that life is more than an endless pursuit for “wellness”. You will always have both strengths and weaknesses and focusing more on your strengths and what you are good at will help you feel more confident and capable. An urge for endless self-improvement is often indicative of feeling that on some fundamental level you are “bad” and need to be fixed. Letting go of this mentality clears the way for you to love yourself exactly as you are.
Building emotional resilience takes time and effort, but it is worth it — it will make you more likely to be happy, healthy, and successful. If you’ve been having trouble with emotional resiliency, working with a therapist can help target any barriers that are getting in the way and identify solutions specifically for you and your life. Start the journey today — click the button below to schedule a phone consultation with one of our LGBTQ therapists.