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How to stay confident when your family doesn’t accept you for who you are

Now, more than ever, young people are coming out to their parents as early as the age of 14. When families are supportive and accepting, this can be an enormously beneficial experience to the person coming out.  Family support increases self-esteem and often helps prevent or minimize feelings of depression, suicidal thoughts and risky behaviours. But, not all parents are accepting and some are downright hostile. Some parents may reject their kids altogether.  They may cease financial support and others may even react with physical violence. Coming out and being rejected by your parents is an incredibly traumatic and hurtful experience.   It is easy to lose confidence in who you are and the choices you make when your family rejects you. So how do you work at loving yourself and staying confident?

Stop judging yourself and appreciate your inner beauty. You have the power of choice over the self-talk going on inside of you.  You are a special and unique person regardless of your sexual orientation, gender identity and the expectations of your friends and family. Remind yourself of your special qualities and what you have to offer to those who love and care for you.

Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. The way you treat yourself sets the standard for how others treat you. You are a beautiful person inside and out who deserves respect and kindness. Treat yourself with respect and kindness and others will follow your lead.

Care less about what others think and more about what you are telling yourself about you. There will always be supporters and there will always be those who do not accept you for who you are. Try not to lose yourself in your quest for approval from others.

Focus on the positive. Try not to let negativity take its toll on you. Focus on the positive things you have going on in your life and the people that love and care for you.  Begin a daily practice of expressing three items you are grateful for in your life each night before you fall asleep.  The size of the item is irrelevant.  What is important is finding three items (people, places, things, thoughts, emotions) each night that you can express gratitude for.

Walk the walk. If you have decided to come out, then be out and be proud. It isn’t necessary to flaunt your orientation in everyone’s faces, but do not shrink back into the closet. Be proud of who you are and treat yourself with respect, acceptance and gratitude.

Get some backup. Hang out with those who support you and if you need to take backup with you to family functions then go ahead and do so.

Join support groups. If coming out and being rejected has given you a serious knock, make sure that you find yourself a support network that can show you that you are not alone. If necessary, seek professional help. Depression and suicidal ideation are real risks and easily treatable with the right support. Seek help if you need it.  Your general practitioner doctor can refer you to a psychologist. Many health care plans cover some or all of this counseling.

If you have come to a point of deciding to come out to your family then you are comfortable with your own sexuality and orientation. Whether or not your family can accept your orientation has no bearing on your self-worth or the type of person that you are. Stay confident. Their level of acceptance is their issue, not yours.  Be patient with them as they adjust.  Most important, be proud and grateful for who you are, even if your family may find it hard to do so.