Sometimes clients tell me that they are boring since they have no interests other than work.
“I wish I had hobbies but I just can’t seem to get interested in anything,” they say.
Or, “I’m jealous of the straight guys at work who are into guitar, Frisbee, and making craft beer.”
Some gay men have trouble figuring out what they love. As we examine this in LGBTQ affirming-therapy, sometimes we begin to understand that from a young age, what they loved was brutally shamed. If they loved Malibu Barbie, they were laughed out of the playroom. If they wanted to play dress up in costume jewelry, they drew the shades. And if they had a crush on the boy in their Cub Scout troop, they learned quickly to keep it a big secret.
No wonder it’s hard for them to trust that it’s okay to love what you love. They learned that, in order to be accepted, they needed to like what other boys liked. Their instinctual capacity to follow what interested them was taken from them.
Good at Work
Often, these same clients are very driven to succeed at work. At work, the rules are pretty clear. If you are successful, you will receive respect and praise.
When the need to achieve gets a little compulsive — like when it gets hard to relax or to do anything but work — then it’s time to take a deeper look.
Sometimes the need to be very productive can be a defense mechanism. A defense against a subterranean feeling of, “I’m not good enough.”
Somewhere deep inside they believe that if they stay on the treadmill of success, they will have the right to exist.
Of course they know (intellectually) that they have a right to exist. But sometimes that belief doesn’t get down into the heart where it belongs.
If This Is You
How can we allow ourselves to work a little less and to begin to discover things we love?
How can you learn to love yourself even when you are not achieving?
It starts by recognizing when the voice of the Inner Critic is present in the moment, telling you that you won’t be accepted.
There is no need to attack this Inner Critic, or in other words, to feel shame about having shame. The Inner Critic was created to help you, to keep you from being exposed or humiliated for being a little gay boy.
Just notice it coming up and name it as The Critic. That allows you to get some distance from it. After you get good at seeing it, you can begin responding with new thoughts that are much closer to the truth.
Practice true thoughts such as: “I have a right to exist.” Or “I am good enough,” or “I can just be, and I’ll still be okay.”
These new thoughts won’t stop you from being successful at work or make you lazy. In fact, ironically, they will make you more successful. When we are feeling better about ourselves we become much more effective in the world.
And the ride becomes so much more enjoyable.