Change is constant. The frightening reality of this leads to several conclusions you may never see coming. But change is constant: everyone goes through it physically and mentally while living out their teenage years, all of us at the same time, together.
But what if your change was something you never expected.
What if you started to have feelings for a gender identity you never expected to have feelings for? You may find yourself hurled into an arena filled with confusion, and you don’t know if what you're feeling is okay or not. Dysphoria may even set in while going through this new experience.
But you will always come out on the other side. Whatever you feel is always valid.
When I was 15, alone in a foreign country for a competition, developing feelings for another girl was the last thing I had ever expected. I’ve been sheltered for most of my life, not knowing a lot about the world due to my parents’ rules, so at that point in my life, I barely knew anything about the LGBT+ community. I never thought I would be a part of it.
I didn’t want to accept my new feelings. I kept telling myself that it was wrong, that I was wrong, and that if it were true, my family would never accept me. At that point in my life, nobody I knew identified as part of the LGBT+ community, so I was terrified of being different. This fear sat in my stomach like a rock. Self-hate crept in along with internalized homophobia, which lasted for months.
As one year changed to another, I slowly began to feel differently. It took a great deal of time, but I eventually coaxed myself to embrace the truth. I finally felt proud. Proud of being different, proud of not being scared anymore. I just kept telling myself, ‘you are who you are.’
I’ve come to know the hard way that you can’t lie to yourself when it comes to love. No matter where you live, what language you speak, your ethnicity, or even your favorite color, who you love is who you love. Don’t run from it, no matter how daunting it is. Whoever reads this, I’ll be cheering you on. :)
If you are questioning your identity, one of the most important things to do is to let yourself think. I had to learn this the hard way. Suppressing emotions only makes them harder to deal with later on. Don’t suppress feelings for a particular person just because they weren’t the one you were expecting. Allow yourself to understand whom you like and then decide what your next step will be. Doing the opposite closes a door that could’ve shown you a beautiful, undiscovered part of yourself. Focus on yourself to try to figure out what you really want. If speaking aloud or talking to someone is your game, try to discuss it with a friend or family member that you are comfortable with. Even chatting online anonymously to a stranger can help. But if doing so, be cautious as to what you say. Any personal details given out can be used to cause you harm. It’s also safer to contact widely used platforms. Below is a link to ‘The Trevor Project’, offering a 24/7 helpline. I hope this helps! ❤
The Trevor Project — Saving Young LGBTQ Lives
Secondly, something that is overstated quite often is finding a label. When figuring out and accepting your identity, you don’t have to immediately figure out a label. I thought I needed to find a name and hold it up to truly accept myself. But I don’t think it’s necessary anymore. Labels are meant to help others understand, including yourself, who you are. It should be a tool to aid acceptance. It’s not something to force yourself into. It’s natural to not know where to place yourself at first. If you are just figuring out about this amazing side, let yourself explore and experiment until you are comfortable with how you feel and are ready to adopt a label.
The bottom line is to simply give yourself time. This might seem like waiting it out, and to be honest, it may be. But as I have mentioned, this only works if you attempt to understand yourself. Discomfort won’t magically disappear, but if you try, you’ll start to feel more relaxed in your shoes. For me, it took me almost a year to understand and to start to come out of my shell, and in the end, I could not be more grateful that I was able to. Even though I haven’t completely accepted myself yet, the road ahead doesn’t seem so rough anymore.
Embrace love, because it's the sweetest thing when you let it live as it is.
Our friends can be the people that keep you afloat. They can be our entire world; they are people that help you stay on your feet even when you feel like you are collapsing. They would never show hesitation to act like maniacs with you in front of random strangers, peppering your life with the most absurd yet cherished memories. All of this is gift-wrapped and handed to you on a silver platter when you’re with the right people. Having your perfect friend group gives you a new home, someplace where you can always be yourself.
But what if you start to feel like the intruder? You’ve stuck with them for a long time but you feel uncomfortable in their company at times, and thoughts along the lines of, ‘I don’t belong here’, pop up. At times you may feel underappreciated and belittled. You don’t feel like you could share your world with any member of the group and hanging out with them turns into some sort of obligation. Now, situations like these can pop up in any friendship. People drift away from each other all the time. If the work is put in, you could eventually get back to how things were. But even after you try to make things better and try to get back into the swing of things, if you still feel unaccepted and unwelcome, what do you do?
A few years ago I had joined a new school. I didn’t have friends for a while, so when this one girl decided to talk to me, I jumped at the opportunity to gain a friend. This led to me eventually hanging out with that girl’s friend group, and for a long time I just stuck with them. I’d go to whatever place they all went to and did whatever they wanted to do. Whenever I tried to do something I wanted to with them, it never really happened, and the atmosphere turned into one that was condescending and patronizing. They made me feel small, weak, and that I was an idiot to even mention it. At times they’d all even ditch me and go do something else together, and that was what hurt the most. It was like I was just there existing and they’d come and go as they pleased, but I stayed with them because I feared the aftermath. I knew that if I left, I’d go back to square one, the loner. I also didn’t want me leaving the group to be followed up by rumors of how insensitive I was or how I was selfish because I wasn’t happy with being in their company. So, I stayed; I kept my mouth shut and I told myself that I should be grateful that I even have someone speaking to me.
I let myself be unnecessarily unhappy for a long time, but after a year, one of the group members changed schools and that caused the group to fall apart. I was relieved that it happened. I wasn’t sure I would have been able to keep up the act of me wanting to stay with them.
Now, a few years later, I have a family of friends that are the stuff of dreams; people I know that would take the blame if I accidentally break a couple of lightbulbs in class by throwing around a ball of glass. I’ve learnt that there’s no point in being in the company of people that don’t respect you or understand you for who you really are. It’s better to not have them at all.
I understand that if you are in this situation, you might be scared of the fallout of leaving a group, just like I was, but making yourself unhappy is never justified. Being among people that don’t respect you, can bring down your idea of your self-worth and confidence. It can turn toxic very fast. Leaving a toxic group of people can only bring good in the long run. It is most definitely more appealing to be alone for a while than to have your self-worth attacked. If you leave, your new time can give you the valuable opportunity to focus on yourself for a bit. Do those things that you wanted to do. Build up your self-confidence and worth. I know for a while, being alone does hurt sometimes, but compare it to how you felt when you were with your “friends”, and most of the time being away from them is much sweeter. Trust me, it’s all worth it in the end. You needn’t be worried about the fact that you don’t have as many friends because on this planet with billions of people, a new friend could walk right by you every second. I know that after leaving a group it could be hard to put yourself out there and make new friends, which is why taking out that time to let yourself be alone is so important. Coming back with renewed self-assurance makes that process of starting over much easier.
Being in a toxic friend group, I know the level of confidence needed to break free of them. I didn’t have it, so I never did, but I want to tell you that no matter how daunting it is to stand up for yourself at times, getting away from toxicity is always for the best.
I know that it may be hard for a while, but as all things do, they change And they do it for the better.
Talking to new people has never been my strong suit, but over the years I’ve become more comfortable meeting strangers just by practicing. I still get jittery right before introducing myself to others but one thing that still causes me to panic is public speaking. Every time I hear the word ‘presentation’ or ‘speech’, I feel my insides collapse and beg for mercy. I detest not only the countless pairs of eyes fixed on me, judging, but just the thought of giving a speech. So how do I combat this rival? Is it even possible to overcome this?
Feeling like this is normal and many, many people go through it as well. The fear can manifest from a sour experience, or it can even be genetic. It can also be the product of other phobias, such as phobias for judgement, rejection, and embarrassment, while for some the fear may be irrational. This can spring up when giving a presentation in school or at work, at competitions, or simply speaking to other colleagues, teachers, and strangers. When speaking, you may feel anxious, uneasy, sweaty, nauseous, and you may start trembling. When all of these symptoms start to stack up, you can easily get overwhelmed. You’re trying to focus on the task at hand but you’re battling all of these other factors at the same time, which can cause a sense of internal chaos. The challenge is to reduce the extent of these reactions to help smoothly deliver a speech. Trying to overcome this fear (or any) can take a lot of work, perseverance, and practice, so it is vital that you do not give up. The biggest jump is when making that first active attempt to conquer your fear, but don’t let that hold you back. Every attempt, whether or not it yields good results, is a step taken to better yourself. And that is all that matters.
When I was 15, I took part in a Model United Nations conference for the sole purpose of trying to better my public speaking skills. On the first day, we had to give an introductory speech. This (and every other speech) is what made me fear the entire conference. As I made my way up to the podium, I wasn’t able to form coherent thoughts and I completely forgot my opening line. My entire body was shaking and I wasn’t able to look up at the audience even once. However, I tried my best not to back down. I kept giving as many speeches as I could, with each time, the experience was less intimidating. Looking back on the experience, I can’t help but feel proud of myself for simply making an effort. I’d like to share a few of the tactics I used to try to help you become more comfortable with giving speeches.
Have a mantra
It might help to have a type of mantra or routine to let your brain know that you are doing okay. Think about when you feel most relaxed during your day-to-day life. It could also help you zone out, something that takes up all of your attention and effectively make you forget about an upcoming speech. Take that and do the exact same thing right before speaking. It could be absolutely anything, a phrase, a little dance routine, or singing a song. I always play a specific song (girls-girl in red) on my air-piano before heading up. Keep trying out different things until one works its magic.
Try to get rid of excess energy while speaking. This can be hard to do at times but something that works for me is moving my feet or hands about. It can help you think clearly and respond better to slip-ups and questions. You could try to walk around the stage if that’s your game. But the bottom line is: let go of some of the pressure that’s built up.
Push yourself to speak first
Public speaking on its own may cause a panic, so speaking first amongst a group of speakers may add fuel to the fire. But no matter how daunting it may seem to speak first, doing so helps you boost your confidence and comfort by a larger amount. You would require yourself to gather up extra courage to give the same speech, which could make giving speeches, in the long run, feel easier.
Not Just Practice
Sometimes, no matter how well you’ve studied your material, when it comes to giving your speech in front of an audience, you could still freak out. This still happens to me once in a while, and the only way I’ve found to combat this is to get used to an audience. This can be done by actively seeking out opportunities to put yourself in the spotlight. This may cause frequent swarms of butterflies to appear in your stomach, but after a bit, they’ll find somewhere else to live. But make sure you keep practicing. If you give a speech once and stop for a while, you might find it harder to effectively improve. Getting used to the atmosphere around speaking publicly is like getting new shoes. You have to break them in. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll open yourself up to many more opportunities.
Conquering this fear isn’t a small feat. Even taking the tiniest step towards overcoming it can take a lot of effort and energy. Public speaking still scares me, and I don’t think it will stop scaring me for a long time, but I don’t want to let that discourage me. And this shouldn’t discourage you either. It's the fact that there’s still a long journey ahead that should push you to reach the end. Every little step, from walking confidently to simply saying the first sentence of your speech comfortably, is an amazing accomplishment that should always be celebrated, no matter where you are in your journey.
Good Luck! I know you can do it. :)