If you have recently decided to come out to others, are thinking about it, or coming out to yourself for the first time, you may feel scared and nervous and this is totally normal. You may feel uncertain as to how your family, friends and colleagues will react. Perhaps you worry about what you stand to lose or wonder if you will be judged. These are totally natural reactions.
All life transitions can be anxiety provoking and cause us to feel off balance. Thinking of leaving home, finishing university and starting to support yourself, ending a significant relationship, or the highs and lows of becoming a parent all contribute to stress.
Coming out as LGBTQ can make you feel extremely anxious, but the good news is that you can take steps to help yourself a lot during this process. Compassion Focused Therapy (CFT) is one of these ways. It draws upon scientific understandings of how our human emotions, thoughts and behaviors work and interact.
Here are a few CFT elements you can use to make coming out as smooth as possible for yourself and your loved ones.
Be Patient and Kind with Yourself
CFT relies heavily on the importance of being kind to yourself. One way you can do this is by cultivating patience and responding with compassion to what you perceive as your failings or faults.
You may have built expectations for what your coming out journey will be like based upon experiences from friends or celebrities or what we see on TV or social media. But when your transition doesn’t go exactly like theirs did, you can feel frustrated or embarrassed. Maybe those around you are less than supportive.
When this happens, instead of blaming yourself, remember that establishing a new authentic identity can takes time. No one’s journey will be the same.
Remind yourself that you’ve been able to move through other life transitions successfully. For example, you’ve most likely moved from adolescence into adulthood. You’ve learned how to support yourself and take care of yourself. Was this process flawless and easy? Probably not. But that’s OK.
Consider your coming out journey with the same perspective. It’s a big life transition. There may some bumps along the way, but with time, you’ll become more confident and sure of who you are. CFT makes room for this and teaches you to be kind and supportive to yourself.
Center Yourself with Self-Soothing Techniques
CFT views human emotion regulation as falling into one of three systems at any given time. These include drive (motivation, getting things done), threat (trying to protect yourself from threats), and self-soothing (kindness, patience, rest).
You’re probably not surprised to know that most of us tend to stick in the drive and threat systems. Our self-soothing system is often ignored—not because we don’t want to self-soothe, but because we’re not even aware that we have the option to self-soothe. For others, the idea of self soothing sounds good but it unfortunately becomes a reward for getting things done, rather than being a non negotiable part of caring for oneself.
CFT can help you learn to be more aware of which system you’re in. With practice, you can catch yourself when you’re stuck in threat mode and decide to employ soothing techniques instead. These include deep breathing, mindfulness, and learning to pay attention to what your body is telling you in times of stress.
A core element of CFT involves sending yourself positive messages. This habit doesn’t come naturally to most people, but it helps so much.
Take the time to write letters of encouragement to yourself (even just a text is fine too). Build yourself up. Recall times when you got through a rough patch or achieved a goal. Tell yourself the same things you would tell a friend going through your situation. This intentionality will go a long way as you move through your coming out journey.
As a therapist trained in CFT, I’ve personally seen how truly effective it is for people going through transitions and other times of upheaval. If you are coming out and feeling overwhelmed with anxiety or negative self-talk, please know that it doesn’t have to be that way. I’d be honored to talk with you about how this approach can help you. Please contact my Honolulu office or my London office for more information or please sign up for a free test drive to see how CFT might be life changing for you.