Quick Tips for Building Your Risk-Taker Muscles in Dating
There is probably no greater topic of importance to gay dating and relationship success than self-esteem. How you feel about yourself definitely translates itself in everything that you think, feel, and do. Having confidence and a belief that you have value and worth gives you that extra boost you need to take risks that will improve your life. It gives you that little extra sexy appeal and makes you feel positive and attractive to yourself and others. It also helps you in making sound and responsible decisions that will ensure you're living with integrity. Additionally, when you feel good about yourself, you're more likely to set boundaries with others to avoid being taken advantage of and helps you feel more able to be assertive and to go after what you need and what.
Much of the quality of our life comes from the choices we make. To grow as a person, we must be able to step outside our comfort zone to break free from stagnation and reach for progressively higher goals that lead toward self-actualization. The ability to take risks and "go for it" is correlated with a solid sense of self-esteem. In dating and relationships, being able to take risks is critical to being able to reach the visions you've set for yourself as it pertains to your love-life. Approaching that cute guy across the bar entails risk. Telling your boyfriend that you love him is another form of risk. Without having the confidence and motivation to conquer our anxieties and inhibitions about being vulnerable, we will never be able to realize and experience our romantic and relationship potentials to the fullest.
What follows in this short article is a tips list of things you can do to build your self-esteem and risk-taking muscles. The ideas may sound a little text-book and some suggestions may seem a little far-fetched, but I encourage you to pick and choose the points that make sense for you and apply those most relevant for your current life situation. Self-esteem is such a broad-based concept and once fixed, it can be difficult to challenge. Achieving positive self-esteem and confidence can't be accomplished from reading a tips sheet; it requires consistent practice and diligence in challenging oneself to think, feel, and behave in ways that are in greater alignment with the type of person you want to be. If you find that you struggle with low self-esteem or anxiety about making things happen in your life, it's important to be persistent in your efforts to overcome those things that bring you down and to enlist the services of a coach or therapist who can work with you to personalize your own program for self-esteem enhancement.
Self-Esteem and Growing Up Gay
We are all raised in a heterosexist society where heterosexuality is the norm. As gay men, we grew up being socialized into thinking that any sexual orientation other than "straight" was taboo and wrong. We internalized the negative messages that we were taught that our natural inclinations toward same-sex intimacy were sinful, sick, and perverted. This is the basis for internalized homophobia when we begin to experience ourselves as defective and deviant; a profound sense of shame is born and we begin to loathe ourselves and subject ourselves to criticism and judgment. We struggled between our inborn strivings for male affection and bonding and the fear of rejection and harassment from others should our "secret" be discovered. Hence, we were forced into hiding ("the closet").
We gay men were vulnerable and susceptible to self-esteem deficiencies from the get-go because of our cultural backdrop. It was a set-up for emotional torture and turmoil from the beginning, something we didn't have control over and had to learn to face and overcome as we grew into adulthood. Discrimination and the threat of potential violence for discovery of our sexual orientation are realities and these fears keep us inhibited and stifled, thwarting our development if we let it. In addition to the ordinary developmental tasks and challenges that all members of our society must tackle as we grow through the life cycle, we gay men must also cope with integrating a sexual identity that is not accepted by the society at large and learning how to function with a sexual minority status. Not easy!
It's no wonder that we might find it difficult to be uninhibited and take risks that could improve our lives! Many of us lacked affirmation and encouragement and there definitely was a lack of role models available to emulate. Without any training and legitimacy to support same-sex relating, we've had to feel our way through the dating jungle and make it up as we've gone along. And without any framework to refer to, much anxiety and insecurity can settle in when it comes to knowing how to pursue and function in a gay relationship. Taking risks, then, can feel extremely overwhelming and immobilizing.
But we don't have to be victimized by the system! In actuality, gay men and lesbians can take pride in the fact that we are quite resilient in the face of having to deal with so much stress to achieve the self-acceptance that can be more easily afforded heterosexuals just because their sexual orientation matches the expected mainstream norm. We rock! And that requires self-esteem.
8 Quick Tips for Greater Risk-Taking Efforts
If you find that you struggle with shyness, insecurity, anxiety, or inhibition about going after the things you want in your life, the following suggestions might help you in building more confidence and motivating you toward taking more initiative and being more proactive over making your desires come to fruition.
1. Taking risks builds self-esteem. The only way out of fear is through it. The more you avoid or run from fear, the stronger it actually gets and will continue to immobilize you until you face it and push through it.
2. Consider doing a life review and write about all the consequences you've had to suffer as a result of your difficulties with self-esteem or lack of follow-through in moving toward your goals. What losses have you had to endure? Perhaps also look at the kinds of benefits and secondary gains you may receive from failing to take risks to help you identify some of your emotional blocks or barriers you put up that sabotage your goals.
3. Taking risks requires that we move out of our comfort zone. You have the power of choice in what risks you decide to take. Whenever you experience uncomfortable feelings as you're stretching out of your comfort zone, realize that those are "growth spurts/growing pains". Try to avoid succumbing to the panic and learn from these feelings as they are telling you something. What skills do you need to feel more confident pushing forward? Do you need more information? Fill in the gaps and keep facing the anxiety head-on. You'll find that your comfort zone will begin to enlarge over time, increasing your sense of confidence and mastery. But risk-taking is very individual; everyone must determine for himself what risks he's willing to take and when.
4. Take an inventory of all the risks you've taken in your life that had positive outcomes; use these as evidence to prove that you are capable of surviving a risk.
5. Examine your anxiety. Is it a real or imagined threat? What's the worst possible thing that could happen and if it did happen, would it really be all that bad?
6. Build assertiveness. Know who you are and what you stand for by being aware of your values and act upon them. Realize the skills you need that will help you overcome fear. In the case of asking a guy out, determine your strengths and weaknesses as they pertain to your social skills and practice role-playing with a friend, join a Toastmaster's Club to practice public speaking, practice relaxation/visualization/rehearsal techniques etc.
7. Act as if you were confident. The more times you consistently behave in your desired role, your thoughts and feelings will eventually catch up with the more successes you have.
8. Watch your self-talk. Negative thinking can kill your efforts. Become conscious of the things you're telling yourself and develop positive counter-statements to dispute them. Sounds corny, but develop affirmations to help keep you motivated. Anytime you get a compliment o achieve something positive, write it down on a slip of paper and stick it in a jar. During times of low self-esteem or high anxiety, read the affirmation as a way to calm yourself and keep motivated to maintain your efforts.
You have the power to reach your potential. In what ways do you hold yourself back in your dating life or relationship? What are some small steps you can take this week to begin overcoming those barriers that keep you from having what you want? What will inspire you? Consider making a collage that creatively represents your ideal life and post it in a place that you'll see on a daily basis to help keep you centered and accountable for what you're trying to do. Begin developing structured goals and tasks to begin the process of making those dreams a reality. Go approach that hottie across the room and introduce yourself. Tell your partner how much he means to you. With every successive experience where you confront vulnerability and fear head-on, your risk-taker muscles will be throbbing with such strength and resilience that there will be nothing that can stand in the way of you and your goals. You totally can do it!
"Risk: You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore"
© Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach
Dr. Brian Rzepczynski, Certified Personal Life Coach, is The Gay Love Coach: "I work with gay men who are ready to create a road map that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right." To sign up for the FREE Gay Love Coach Newsletter filled with dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current coaching groups, programs, and teleclasses, please visit http://www.TheGayLoveCoach.com