A Letter to Your Younger Gay Self
Many gay men grew up without the support and affirmation that children need during their development.
All children need to have their worth reflected back to them while they’re developing an understanding of who they are.
This process happens directly through the interactions children have with other people, as well as indirectly through the larger societal messages they receive about what types of people and relationships are valid in the eyes of society.
A straight child will look on the TV and see many heterosexual relationships. They’ll also get asked by adults about crushes on children of other genders, and often be supported in play activities that involve straight dynamics such as “a mom and a dad.”
A gay child often has the exact same set of experiences as the straight child. Except in the gay child’s case, these experiences aren’t fully affirming that child’s identity.
While you may not have realized you were gay as a child, gay children need to have their worth reflected back to them in the same way that straight children do. This is how people develop a healthy sense of self-worth.
What happens when gay children aren’t supported and affirmed?
When gay children aren’t supported and affirmed, they grow into gay adults who can have an unsupportive and unaffirming relationship with themselves. This can look like:
➡️ A low sense of self-worth / self-esteem
➡️ Critical self-talk
➡️ Getting into abusive / unhealthy relationships
➡️ Substance use issues
➡️ Body image issues
Although you can’t go back in time and change the past, it is possible to give yourself some of the support and affirmation that you didn’t get when you were younger. This process can be incredibly healing, and help to lessen the pain from the past.
How to support and affirm your younger gay self:
One of the ways I help my clients give themselves the affirmation and support they never got is through an exercise called compassionate letter-writing.
Compassionate letter-writing is a very intentional way of writing a letter to yourself from your calmest, wisest, most caring, most confident, and most courageous perspective.
You can write these letters to your adult self about some current challenge, or to your younger self about something in the past.
You can ask yourself: “what might my adult gay self say to my younger gay self to give them the support and affirmation they needed?”
Once you’ve written the letter, save it in a place where you can access it easily, such as your phone. Then in moments when you’re feeling upset, you can read these letters as a reminder of your capacity to support and affirm yourself.
While it might sound a bit strange to write a letter to your younger self, it can be a surprisingly powerful healing experience. I say this from writing my own letters, and from the transformative impact I’ve seen it have on my clients.
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