Some years contain more fun and good memories, and some years bring more challenges and sadness. I am frankly glad to have a new year to work with, and I'm grateful for the calendar turning to 2013.
While it’s the season of resolutions (usually broken within 3 weeks), I am hopeful for a year with real courage. Many of the habits we resolve to change — like too much eating, drinking, smoking, spending, hiding — have been triggered by something that leads us to feel afraid. Rather than fight to resist those temporary “feel good” and long term “feel lousy” behaviors, the better resolution may be to dig in, look at, and challenge the fear.
Individuals who are LGBTQ or HIV+ have often been told that they are not as good as others, or that they are inherently “bad”. This kind of judgment and the shaming experiences that accompany can make our deep-rooted fear reactions even more rehearsed and ready.
So what are we afraid of? If we can stop ourselves before taking that numbing drink or calming cigarette, we might find that it all started with a situation where something was said or done to us that led to thoughts like:
“I’m really stupid…or they think I’m stupid”
“I’m not as good as that person.” “Everyone is better than me”
“What if he/she doesn’t like me? I feel so vulnerable.”
“What if I mess up?”
“I’m being judged or made fun of.”
What comes next is our “fight or flight” reaction. We run, deny, avoid and get rid of the anxiety with one of our favorite temporary feel goods, or we fight with sarcasm, joking, anger or defensiveness. In the process, a chunk of our self-confidence gets chiseled off. We substitute disinterest or overachievement to overcome.
What we need is more real courage. Real courage stays with us and keeps us feeling strong. Real courage moves us ahead even when we are afraid. Real courage speaks the truth even when we are afraid. Real courage tries to do its best, even in times of uncertainty. Standing strong and moving forward and speaking truth and even trying are what build real confidence.
Some folks can recognize these patterns and embrace their courage, while others may need help in seeing their temporary feel good behaviors, their self-defeating thoughts, and their fight and flight reactions. If you or someone you know needs some professional guidance to find their real courage, please encourage them to call PERSAD at 888-873-7723.