How Proud Are We?
Part of our Real Chemistry series – connection, wellbeing and chemsex recovery.
This page introduces information about the theme of ‘Pride’ and asks the question: How Proud Are We? Since how we feel about ourselves in terms of holding difference can be a reason for problematic chem use, and engagement in chemsex. After you have read through the information there are some exercises for you to work through, thinking about your use of apps and social media, and whether and how it has a role in your recovery. You may find it helpful to have a notebook to use as you work through the exercises, or you could use the function on a phone or tablet.
Being Different = Labels
When we think about Labels, we are thinking about the characteristics that come with association of being part of a group, or the views of others who hold opinions and judgement about what it is to be part of ‘that’ group, and these views or ‘Labels’ that we are given may impact our self-esteem.
To continue to build our self esteem then, it is important to take steps to negate any negative Labels we may hold about being different, so we continue to accept ourselves, develop a positive view of oneself, and celebrate who we are.
Take some time to think & reflect on the following:
Think about the messages you may have internalised from society about being LGBTQ+. Were these messages mainly positive or negative?
Did you ever feel rejected by others because of your sexuality? Have you ever hidden your sexuality from others because you were fearful of the consequences?
Be curious of what came up for you, and consider if there is any support that may benefit you when dealing with these themes.
Often, the negative messages we pick up on, about being LGBTQ+ become SO internalised that they do not sit in the conscious mind, instead they stay outside of our awareness until we become ‘triggered’ by a look, a word, or an event which will result in feelings of shame about who we are.
Shame is such an overwhelming, disturbing, physical experience that often we will go to great lengths to avoid it.
Take some time to reflect on the following questions. We understand that they may be difficult questions to answer straight away and we encourage you to perhaps share these questions with a friend or family member if you are able to.
How do you relate to the word ‘Shame’? What does it mean to you? What parts of you, or your experiences may you be shameful about?
How about in relation to your sexual & gender identity? What shame have you (or do you) experience with this aspect of yourselves?
When are these particular feelings of shame heightened, and when are they reduced or more manageable?
Chem Use & Chemsex to Support Feelings of Shame
Using chems may dissolve any feelings of shame about our sexuality and our view of who we are, and it becomes clear why the use of chems to facilitate sex may have become problematic.
- To engage in MSM sexual experiences.
- To deal with toxic masculinity.
- To ease the shame of asking for the sex we want.
- To ease any negative feelings we carry about our bodies or how we perform sexually.
If we consider how we feel about ourselves as Gay/Bi/MSM four stages, then it’s important to reflect on the following frame or stages to support awareness
- Denial of who we are - When we are unable to hold our difference with any feelings of Okayness.
- Tolerant of who we are - When we acknowledge our difference but have difficulty in having a positive view of it.
- Accepting of who we are - When we are able to hold our difference in a positive manner internally, with limited feelings of shame, but may have difficulty expressing it in the world.
- Celebration of who we are - When we are able to hold our difference positively both internally & externally.
It is important to be mindful of how we feel about ourselves and to take steps to talk about any shame we may carry about who we are. Some find engaging in counselling/therapy can support in redefining any negative feelings about ‘self’ into something more positive and accepting.
It's also important to draw a line under past chem use along with any experiences that impacted on your general wellbeing & mental health.
What Happened in the Past is Done, and What’s Important is Now, and Today.
Some simple techniques that may help you improve feelings of self-worth, and that may lead to feelings of Pride are:
- Interrupt your inner critic - Try and turn some of the negative things you tell yourself about yourself, into something more nurturing.
- Develop positive mantras - An example of this would be ‘You are good enough’ and it can be repeated each day, or written down and put up somewhere to remind you that this is in fact a true statement about who you are.
- Don’t aim for perfection - Good enough is good enough, and being Okay rather than amazing all the time helps set a realistic expectation of how you can achieve what you want to in life, and be in the world.
- Set reasonable expectations for yourself in terms of how you look after yourself - Eating well, some daily exercise, and being connected to others who support you in feeling good about yourself and who you are can be much more beneficial than those who don’t.
- Question any behaviours you engage in that cause you emotional pain, or physical harm -
Are there further techniques that you have employed to support you with living with difference, along with anything you do to support any negative feelings, emotions or shame that arises because of the difference you hold?
- Thinking of the 4 stages of how we relate to our difference in terms of our sexual orientation:
Where would you place yourself in these stages?
What stage would you like to achieve?
What support might you need to put in place to support you in moving towards your desired stage of being?
How Proud do you feel about yourself?
What may be getting in the way of living with Pride of who you are?
How do you deal with any negative views associated with who you are?
What additional support might be beneficial to you, to support your growth & development in this area?