* As featured in Mind Body Network
Did you hear any of these messages as a child?
- You can’t have ice-cream unless you eat your greens.
- Put it back, we can’t afford that. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
- You need to go to school, get an education and get a good job.
- It’s just a graze. You are ok. Stop crying.
- Boys wear blue, girls wear pink.
- Don’t talk to strangers.
- Wait until your mother/father gets home.
- You are not good at art/maths/spelling. Stick to what you are good at.
- For the girls… When you get married to a handsome man, you can …
- Don’t play with dolls/dress up. You are a boy. Boy’s don’t play with dolls/dress up.
- You are so small/tall/fat/skinny.
How about success? Did you hear messages that success looks a certain way?
You know the vision; a big house, a good job with prospects/pension, a loving partner of the opposite sex, a white wedding, kids, the beautifully lawned garden, white picket fence and the cute little puppy. The definition of relationship success, right?
AND… the media broadcasts messages that make you think you need the latest iPhone, top of the range car and shiny new laptop.
Here is what I know.
What you believe to be true today as an adult is a result of the social conditioning and messages you heard as a young child.
Your beliefs (which are simply thoughts you keep thinking) create your experience. They affect how you feel, who you are, how you behave and what your experience is of the world.
By the age of around 6-7 years old, your belief system has been formed from what you experienced around you.
Your life right now (unless you have worked on your beliefs and you have done some inner work) is being lived based on your 6 year old beliefs.
Think about how old you are now. How many years have you been living your life with the beliefs that were formed when you were 6 years old?
Here are the most common beliefs formed as a result of social conditioning:
- I’m worthless.
- I’m going to be found out.
- I’m unlovable.
- I don’t deserve / am not worthy of … (success, love, happiness etc.)
- There is something wrong with me.
- I’m different (results in comparing yourself to others).
- I can’t be my real self or I’ll be judged.
- Everything is my fault.
- Fear of abandonment/rejection.
- I’m a failure.
When you dig deeper into these, they all point to the same thing; there is one belief that underlies all of these. “I’m not good enough”.
Behind The Scenes Of Social Conditioning In The LGBT+ Community
Mental health issues, suicide and substance abuse are significantly higher for the LGBT+ community compared to the wider population; with many experiencing low self-esteem, PTSD, loneliness and the feeling of never being good enough.
MIND, the mental health charity state 42% of gay men and 70% of lesbians experience mental health problems, compared to 25% of the wider population.
Why is there such an issue with mental health in the LGBT+ community?
Add into the mix the confusion, humiliation, shame and guilt you feel as an LGBT+ individual, combine it with the judgements from others and the homophobic and transphobic messages being broadcasted from the media and the government and what do you get?
Issues of low self-esteem, sadness and extreme loneliness resulting in anxiety, depression and identity issues.
Struggling to understand yourself, unable to be true to who you are and feeling isolated from a lack of deeper human interaction leaves you feeling vulnerable, helpless and powerless.
These are all commonplace within the LGBT+ community:
- Emotional abuse
- Fear of change
- The need to control things
- Attachment issues
- A lack of personal boundaries
- Having trouble saying no
- Being passive aggressive
- Anger management issues
What about relationships?
Many LGBT+ people report a fear of intimacy, experience co-dependent relationships and struggle to have an authentic relationship. It is not uncommon for LGBT+ relationships to be abusive and manipulative (from both parties). Many seek reassurance, approval from others and are people pleasers. For these reasons (and many more) a large number of people withdraw from relationships, choosing to maintain superficial companionship instead or avoid relationships altogether.
Issues with safety, feeling a sense of belonging, connection, self-care, self-worth, justice and fairness, loyalty, overcompensating, putting others needs ahead of your own, valuing yourself and others and a lack of self-awareness are other issues my LGBT+ friends and I have experienced.
This conditioning and your wonky beliefs about yourself, instil in you ineffective behaviours, toxic desires and unhealthy emotional reactions that dominate your adult life.
LGBT+ Mental Health
There are 3 mental health issues that are prevalent today in the LGBT+ community: body dysmorphia, substance abuse and suicide & self-harm.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales. In 2016, 5,668 suicides were recorded in Great Britain. 75% were male and 25% were female. LGB people are twice as likely as heterosexual people to have suicidal thoughts or to make suicide attempts. 48% of transgender people under 26 years old have attempted suicide and 59% have considered doing so. One of the key risk factors for suicide and self-harm is social isolation.
38% of transgender people have experienced physical intimidation and threats and 81% have experienced silent harassment (being stared at, whispered about etc.) 26% of lesbian, gay and bi-sexual people alter their behaviour to hide their sexual orientation to avoid being the victim of a hate crime. I am one of those statistics.
26% of LGB workers are not open to colleagues about their sexual orientation.
LGBT+ people are more likely to experience hate crime, homelessness, unemployment, social isolation, abuse and violence – all of which increase the risk of and have a lasting, cumulative negative impact on an individual’s mental health.
(Statistics taken from reports from LGBT Foundation, MIND Charity and Stonewall between 2015-2017.)
So what do you do about it?
- How do you break your social conditioning?
- How do you release the hold it has on you?
- How do you keep in tip top mental health as an LGBT+ individual?
It all begins with awareness.
Raise your awareness of the conditioning you have experienced and are being influenced by every day of your life.
What do I believe to be true about my…?
- How I show up in the world
- The influence of media on my life
Once you have answered these questions, reflect on what this highlighted to you. There will be so many insights you will gain from this exercise alone.
- Raise your awareness on what triggers you to feel down, rejected, unloved, not good enough etc.
- Raise your awareness on the thoughts you have. What are your recurring thoughts?
By reflecting on these areas you will highlight what you believe to be true.
Remember, what you believe to be true, is a direct reflection of what you experience in your life. If you don’t like what you are experiencing in your life, you have the power to change it. Change your thoughts. Change your beliefs. Change your life.
Raising your awareness is the first step.
The 2nd step is to release the old conditioning and associated emotions, stories and fears.
The 3rd step is re-connecting to the real you. Not the version of yourself that you think you need to be to fit in and be accepted. The real and true you.
When you raise your awareness, release and re-connect, you change your patterns of behaviour and thoughts, emotional responses and how you internalise the world and your experience of it. This is when you will experience life in a very different way.
Peace, joy, happiness. It is all there waiting for you.
If this resonates with you personally
… and you want support to go through the 3 steps detailed above (raise your awareness, release your old conditioning and beliefs and re-connect) check out my Soul Work group course.
This 3 month course consists of powerful strategies, ideas and activities to release your old beliefs and conditioning so you can show up as the real and authentic you in ALL areas of your life.
Relationships, career, family, finances, health, self-care, your thoughts, fears – nothing is off limits. This is a safe, inclusive space to talk about the things that you don’t discuss with those around you.
Details are here: http://www.ginabattye.com/courses
Celebrating Mental Health Awareness Week
14th – 20th May
Gina is available to speak and deliver bespoke workshops on LGBT+ issues in your workplace.
Gina specialises in LGBT inclusion strategy, transgender and non-binary issues and bringing your whole self to work.
In May and June these bespoke workshops/speaking will include strategies and tips for good mental health.
* The speaking/workshop content will be designed and tailored specifically for your organisation and your needs.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
About Gina Battye
Working with clients (both through 121 support and through group training and workshops) Gina, the leading voice for LGBT self help, is on a mission to help more of the LGBT community live their authentic lives.