If you’re reading this, I’d like you to take a moment and think about all the things that make you different from other people. Your special gifts, personality quirks, and all the little details that are uniquely yours that you hold on to, cherish, and celebrate. Think about the things that make you proud of yourself. Focus on what makes you great and be honest about what you need to work on. Take all of this in and breathe deeply for a moment and center your thoughts on the present and ask yourself are you comfortable and happy with who you are? If so, think about how fortunate you are.
Now, try to imagine what it would be like if someone told you to stop being you, conform to their expectations, hide your true self, and reject your very being with scorn and shame. This is what it feels like all too often for so many in our society who are told that they are different and that their lives and dreams have no value. This is what it often feels like to be a gay, transgendered person or any other minority in a society that wants us to be invisible, unheard, vilified, and shamed.
When I was growing up, I knew I was different, and I was okay with it. I spent a lot of time in a world of my own imagination, read any book I could get my hands on, and gradually realized that there was a bigger world out there just waiting for me. I was self-aware enough from my earliest years to know that my parents knew that I wasn’t like the other boys my age and I knew that it caused them concern. My Father overcompensated by always treating me as if I should be invisible in public, that I needed to act more manly, and would often scold or shame me in front of others for my stutter or merely for the crime of “being in the way”. I felt out of place and awkward and retreated further into a world of gathering knowledge, long bike rides, and walks with my beloved German Shepherd Gretchen in the woods by my home.
Although I was often lonely, I was happy in my own way and knew that one day I would have a better life and live on my own rules. But the damage was done, and I lived under a fog of anxiety and unhappiness while I waited to be old enough to leave home. I knew that my destiny was greater than my reality and longed for someone to talk to and share my dreams with. It would take many long and confused years before I felt the power of pride for myself and the ability to reveal my truths.
As I grew older and went to school, I noticed other boys who were different and stayed on the sidelines like me. We all had similarities in behavior which frightened me, and I went out of my way to hide who I was and lived in a constant fear of being discovered. My hidden secrets were always on my mind, and I lived in a state of vigilance for fear of letting my guard down. It’s no way to live for anyone, but at the time I thought it was the safest option that would cause me the least pain and embarrassment.
The late nineteen-seventies in the South were never a welcoming place for anyone who didn’t conform. Racism, homophobia, and misogyny were part of the daily conversation and always made me feel more alone and angrier inside. Being different could get you killed, or your car run off the road. Just an accusation of being a gay man or lesbian was often enough to make you lose your job, friends, family, or home. So much has happened to change this in the last decades but we still have a long way before we are done!
I’ve been around long enough to remember when celebrating Pride was both a joyous and defiant act where we found our collective power and fought to be seen. The struggle to be accepted as a human being by the world around us was a daily fight filled with danger that we took for granted. Violence and hate were familiar in our lives, and we needed a place where we could hold our heads high and gain courage in our unity and self-acceptance. I remember having tears in my eyes at my first pride for the sense of community that lightened my heart and gave me hope.
The great tragedy of our world is that there are still too many people who feel marginalized and are pushed into the shadows of life. Pride has different meanings for each of us, but we can only be our best when we can appreciate the beauty of our uniqueness and shared experiences.
WE ARE UNIQUE
Every human being is essentially unique and important. Our uniqueness is characterized in three ways--our exclusive DNA, the way our brains are wired, and the summation of our life experiences that are unlike any others. Our uniqueness is the internal blueprint that’s imprinted at birth to provide us with opportunities to grow and follow our path in life.
Our uniqueness is our greatest power and helps us make more out of our lives. We can create and dream in our own single experiences and join others who lift us up to make the world a happier place for ourselves and others.
Know that the healthiest cultures and most celebrated are those that encourage diversity and shared wisdom. This is what it means to live and be happy with pride in who we are.
Loving ourselves and embracing our authenticity is the way to create a new renaissance where ideas and information are freely shared and different experiences provide us with opportunities to collaborate and gain wisdom.
When we are proud of who we are we add to the spectrum of life and create a vision of self-awareness and happiness. When we are connected our purpose grows and we can build a better society where we empathy and respect come from within our souls and are evident in our spirit and actions.
SELF ACCEPTANCE IS THE WAY
For most of us self-acceptance is the answer that we’ve struggled with our entire lives. Self-acceptance can feel like it’s almost wrong, but it feels so right when we can let go of our ego and love who we are. Life is magical when we live in our authenticity and minds are only changed when we show up for our lives with courage and conviction. Self-acceptance is love in its purest form and the foundation for a happier life. With pride we can be ourselves without apology or need to hide. Pride is both love for who we are and our connection with our communities and loved ones.
WE ARE BETTER WITH PRIDE
We are perfect just as we are, but we can always be better. No matter how good we believe we are there is always something inside of us to rise and be better. Self-acceptance is as important as self-awareness, know the difference and empower yourself with energy that comes when you know yourself. Live with gratitude and intention and make your dreams come true.
When we are different, they always want us to fail. They want us to stumble and appear weak to support their prejudices and preconceived judgements. They assume we are weak and easy to disrespect. The road might be a little harder and the path might have more perils but when we rise and do our best, we are unbeatable, and we show them who we are. As unique and special humans we can choose to show up for our lives and triumph!
PRIDE IS YOUR SUPERPOWER
Turn pride into self-esteem and never question or limit yourself again. Remember that our worth comes not from perception of our external qualities but from the value we have for our spirit and what makes us unique. Pride isn’t about making us better than others but helps us claim our place in the world and awakens our authenticity.
As The Happiness Warrior I believe that pride starts now in the present and is something that we can always use to our advantage to create happier, more fulfilled, and more connected lives:
1. Identify and challenge any negative beliefs, self-limiting patterns, or behaviors that are holding you back. Acknowledge them and realize that they are not who you are!
2. Develop a daily positive affirmation and say it aloud before starting every day. I believe that this is the first thing we should do when we wake up and are conscious in the morning. Say your name aloud and tell yourself that “it’s going to be a great day and that you are awesome!” We are more powerful and more likely to show up for our lives when we believe in ourselves.
3. Focus on relationships that make you happy and remove those that drag you down or make you feel uncomfortable. Follow your intuition and you will never be disappointed in others.
4. Learn to say no and when to speak up. Respect yourself by being your own best advocate.
5. Improving physical health is a great self-esteem builder and can make us happier and lifts our spirit. Small steps lead to big changes.
6. Take on challenges and don’t be afraid of rocking the boat. Tell yourself that you’re at the wheel and focus on what you want to change and why it will help others as well.
7. Take pride in your eccentricity and personal choices. What you wear or enjoy doing with your time is your business and no one else’s!
Pride isn’t about being better than anyone else or boasting about our capabilities. Think of pride as a victory for telling the world who you really are and sharing your great ideas and visions. We are all prouder when we can see others as who they really are with good will, intention, and a sense of humility. Pride is love for ourselves with love and acceptance of others!