Happy Pride Month! Every June, we celebrate our country’s progress in eliminating the stigma around the LGBTQ+ community and supporting equal opportunities for its members. Everyone should feel comfortable showing their true selves and not be ashamed of their gender, sexuality, or sexual identification.

We believe Pride Month impacts not only the LGBTQ+ community, but everyone who struggles with their self-image, including introverts, social outcasts, those with eating disorders, or who have negative feelings about their body, lack confidence, or have low self-esteem. It can be hard to feel comfortable in your own skin, but Pride Month’s message encourages us to embrace ourselves and be proud of whoever we are. Keep reading below for ways how to enhance your self-image!

“The first thing that comes to mind when I think of pride is the ability to freely and safely express oneself. For me personally, it’s being able to be the TRUEST VERSION of myself without having the fear of being judged.”

– Antoni Porowski

Avoid Assimilation

People have different reasons for not expressing themselves. They may fear others will criticize their likes, beliefs or abilities, or not want to disappoint them; they may not know how to express themselves, or they may feel they don’t really know who they are. Assimilating with your peers may cause inner tension between who you are and who you are trying to be. People often do things not because they want to, but because others want them to.1

Self-expression should not be concerned with seeking approval or validation from others. If others don’t like your beliefs, they’re probably not people you should be associating with in the first place. With all the resources available today, it’s much easier to find a group you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts with. Join a book club, cooking class, local theater production, or whatever group activity reflects your interests. There are also plenty of apps you can download to meet people, not just romantically!

 

“Fake it until you make it” does not apply

In this social media-driven world, it’s easy to pretend to be someone you are not. Likes on Instagram can seem to do a lot for your confidence and others’ perception of you, but what good does it do if it’s not a reflection of the real you? Misrepresenting yourself can also lead you down the wrong path and get you into uncomfortable situations. For example, fudging a resume to make yourself look more experienced can backfire when they call a reference that doesn’t back up your story, or if you get hired, they may expect you to do work you’re really not familiar with. If you were meeting someone you encountered on a dating app, wouldn’t you want them to look like the person on their profile? Your digital persona must match the person you are in real-life.

 

Challenge Negative Thoughts

Self-expression issues often stem from a lack of self-esteem. You may be someone who frequently has doubts, or who dwells on negative aspects about yourself rather than the positive ones. One way to boost confidence in yourself is by challenging your pessimistic thoughts and substituting them with more inspiring ones. For example:

  • “There are a lot of candidates interviewing for this position. I have no chance of getting that job.”
  • “The only reason I passed that test was because it was so easy.”
  • “She hasn’t answered my text yet. I must have said something to make her mad at me.”

Instead, try to rephrase your words to be more optimistic. Altering the language we use about a situation can help improve our attitude.

  • “There are a lot of candidates interviewing for this position. Regardless of the outcome, it will be good practice for future interviews.”
  • “I did great on that test because I studied hard and was well-prepared.”
  • “She hasn’t answered my text yet. She’s probably just busy and will respond when she can.”

Seek Therapy

Seeing a therapist may help you discover things about yourself you never knew, like what your real interests are, and which people mean the most to you. Therapy can offer the opportunity to express raw emotions that have been causing you stress or anxiety. It offers a safe environment where you don’t have to worry about being judged, giving you the confidence to convey your deepest feelings. Our latest blog post talks more about the power of therapy and mental health counseling.

 

Mediums to express yourself

Although our actions and words are the ways in which we typically express ourselves, there are other ways of doing so. Bottling up emotions is not healthy. If you are burdened by pretending to be someone you’re not, but don’t yet feel able to open up to others about it, you may want to consider trying some of these exercises:

  1. Art/Music

Art is proven to relieve stress and significantly decrease anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts.2 It also teaches patience and composure, and because art is subjective, skill isn’t required to partake in it! When people are given a blank canvas, they have free range to show their creativity, create colors, and tell any story they want – real or fictional.

Music can be a source of comfort when dealing with low self-esteem. Hearing authentic stories from artists about struggles they have had to overcome can be very motivating.* Sharing music you like on social media is a great way to express your interests and allows you to connect with people who also like that song/artist. Playing an instrument or writing songs are also great forms of self-expression.

*Check out our Uplifting Mental Health playlist on Spotify!

  1. Fashion

Caring too much about fashion may seem trivial and superficial to some, but our clothing is a part of our identity and can significantly impact first impressions. Whether it is a concert t-shirt, sports jersey, or a particular brand or style, clothing allows us to express ourselves and make connections by non-verbally showing off our personalities and interests. Studies have shown that fashion also impacts behaviors and improves self-esteem. By wearing an outfit we love and feel good in, confidence levels increase, which may help empower us to try something or talk to someone new.

  1. Online Presence

Posting on social media is a great way to express your interests and connect to communities of people with similar ones. A lot can be perceived about someone by just looking at their online profile. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and even LinkedIn all have tons of information about you, such as where you work, your birthday, what college you attended, who follows you/whom you follow, what pages you like, etc. Hence, it would help if you kept it updated and honest. Users can follow trends and accounts, search hashtags, join groups, and support those dealing with similar issues. Social media is also a place where you can vent, share thoughts on specific topics, and reach out for help if needed.

 

If you ask the average person what they are most proud of, they may refer to an accomplishment, job title, or possession. It is rare for someone to say they are simply proud of who they are. Nothing transforms your life as much as self-expression, and you owe it to yourself and the people around you to be your true self. It may feel risky in the moment, but the benefits are well worth it! Think about how boring life would be if everyone was the same. Our different personalities, appearances, and experiences are fascinating! We should love that the world is changing and embrace accepting people of all races, genders, identifications, and personalities. There is a place for everyone on this Earth; always remember that you belong here!

 

Does your behavioral health organization have LGBTQ+ clients? Arize has the tools to help staff members properly identify and label clients. Providers can record all demographic information in their online records, including birth gender, sexual orientation, and any aliases they have. They can also specify preferred pronouns in the notes section. Learn more about Arize by clicking here!

 

REFERENCES

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  1. Philosopher, The Master. “How to Authentically Express Yourself for Power, Confidence, and Influence.” Medium, 24 Oct. 2017, https://medium.com/@MasterPhilosopher/how-to-authentically-express-yourself-for-power-confidence-and-influence-7c16bd848ff9.
  2. “The Need for Teen Self-Expression through Art.” Michigan Arts Academy in the Woods – Acting Schools in Michigan, Macomb, 28 Sept. 2020, https://artsacad.net/the-need-for-teen-self-expression-through-art/.
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