This morning one of the support groups I'm a member of got a wonderful email from a wise and wonderful woman. In it she describes how the coming out process has put her more in touch with her real self. She concluded the email by asking, "How has YOUR SENSE OF SELF shifted?" It didn't take me long to formulate a response and I felt it is an important enough question and response to post here as well.
My "sense of self" has most certainly changed since I fully accepted who I am back in September of 2005. I am more self-confident, calmer (some people would argue this one, but they didn't know me before), and able to think more clearly and with a more positive outlook on life. It didn't all happen at once, but has evolved over the course of 2 1/2 years or so. Meeting and falling in love with Lisa has helped that "sense of self" even more.
Before I came out, both to myself and to the world, I'm not even sure I had a sense of self. I was HIS wife (then HIS ex-wife), THEIR mother, HER daughter, never Glenda, an autonomous, thinking, caring, feeling person. Since I accepted myself, I have also accepted that I AM Glenda as well as all those other things, but now I'm Glenda first. I am Lisa's partner, but I'm Glenda first. I am Labcorp's employee, but I'm Glenda first. And it feels good to know I am an important person, if only in my own heart, soul and mind.
Before I came out, I would NEVER have labeled myself an ARTIST. But guess what, I AM an artist and I'm not a bad artist either. When I was finally able to tell myself I'm an artist AND believe it was almost as liberating a moment as when I was able to tell myself I'm a lesbian and not cringe.
So, all in all, I would definitely say my "sense of self" has not only shifted, but has actually emerged since I came out.
It sometimes amazes me when I look back at the person I was "before" and the person I am now. In so many ways I was beat down, my creativity was denigrated and discouraged (even under guise of encouragement), and my "self" was denied me.
My ex-husband is not a bad man, but he is/was always afraid of being shown up. He always encouraged me to take pictures, but when my photography began to improve to the point of winning competitions over his, he became quite critical. Not only of my photography, but of my writing, my quilt-making, anything that was creative. I doubt he even realized he was doing so, but it made me doubt my abilities and I essentially gave all my creative endeavors up (except the photography. But since I doubted my skills, the photographs suffered and were no where as good as they had been.)
My mother and her "roommate" weren't much better. I had many teachers, from fifth grade on, who told me I was an excellent writer. But when I would write my stories at home, I was "wasting time" and "trying to get out" of doing my chores. And if I let either of them read what I wrote, especially my poetry, they would tell me it made no sense, to put it away and get on with my housework.
My brother and my sister and my mother are/were all talented sketch artists and my sister is a wonderful seamstress. I, too, love to draw and paint, but my art is vastly different from theirs', so it wasn't "any good." "Don't waste the paper and paint, Glenda. Leave it for your brother."
But now I've learned to encourage myself. And Lisa is a huge encouragement to me. Because of her I've had the courage to share my art. And because of the hugely positive response from friends and strangers alike, I now know my art, my photography, my writing, is all good. Of course there's always room for improvement, but that's the case with life itself.
I am learning to be positive about my life. I'm learning to turn negative thinking around and make something positive from it. I'm learning that to be healthy, I have to believe I AM healthy. Since I recovered, or rather discovered, my sense of self, I have found there is a lot of good stuff about and in ME. I have a lot to offer to Lisa as a partner (something I never knew about myself before); I have a lot to offer to society in the way of art; I am a good friend to anyone who wishes to be my friend!
I finally have a "sense of self" and I like the self I've discovered!