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Gay People Have Been Taught to Be People-Pleasing Push-Overs

Ask Adam

Our love and sex columnist offers advice on how to start making yourself priority number one.

Dear Adam,

My sister recently accused me of being a "pleaser." She said I am too nice and that I let boyfriends walk all over me. I think she may be right. I'm pretty tired by Sunday night when I've spent the week running around being what people want me to be. How do I start to turn this around?

Tired in Toledo

Dear Tired in Toledo,

When you grow up telling the lie of "I'm not gay," you sometimes become an adult who has a hard time knowing who he really is. It takes a lot of energy to pretend you are straight or to make believe that it doesn't hurt when you are rejected.

When other kids were celebrating and exploring what they love, you put your resources into hiding out. Hiding can become a life-long habit if we don't take the time to unlearn it.

This early pattern of lying to others, or to yourself, can result in the following adult experiences:

-Pleasing others instead of pleasing yourself

-Staying very busy so you don't have to look inside

-Always planning the future rather than enjoying the moment

-Drinking or working or shopping or Grindr-ing too much

-Anxiety or depression

How do we turn this around and move beyond the habit of hiding? Or, in other words, how do heal from an abusive relationship with the self?

Above all, the process of self recovery comes from your commitment to you. No one else in the world (except your therapist) is monitoring your relationship with yourself. So you'll need to do this for just you, not for anyone else.

Doing something for you that may not immediately bring you more money, friends, or sex can be a radical act. Most of what we do is directed towards outer results rather than inner results.

The irony is that we typically do end up with more money, friends and sex when we learn to stop hiding. You might not get any praise for this work, and in fact, a few snarky or insecure people in your life might try to shame you for your self-care.

However, if:

-You firmly believe there is more to life than what you are currently experiencing

-You are tired of being tired

-You see the absurdity of constantly trying to get somewhere and not enjoying the ride

-Then you might have the building blocks and motivation to change your relationship with you.

-There are many ways, of course, to begin the process of figuring out who you are, what you like, and valuing your inner voice. You can read books, watch videos, do therapy, or experiment with meditation or yoga.

Here's a process I recommend that has been helpful to millions of people and is based on Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. This very popular book (4 million sold) is designed to help people get in touch with their creativity. Since you can't be creative unless you respect your relationship with your inner self, the program also works quite well for self=development.

The following process will sound obvious and simple. Self love isn't complicated. I've tried these tools and found them to be profoundly helpful. It's a two-part process.

Part One: Journaling

Start writing in a daily journal for five minutes. Write anything. Even, "This is boring and I have no idea what to write." The writing should not be grammatically correct, coherent, or readable. No one will ever read it and you don't need to go back and read it yourself. Let yourself put anything on the page, to get out the "gunk" of your thoughts.

If you like, you can ask yourself questions and answer them. Over time the process mysteriously frees you up, clears the mind, gets you in the habit of reflection, builds a dialogue with the self, and helps you make good decisions.

It's a way to begin a private conversation with yourself. It's also gotten me out of lots of bad moods. Start with five minutes. Then increase it to 10 minutes and expand it from there. Make it a habit for life.

Part Two: Walks

Spend some quality time with yourself by going for a walk once a week for 20 minutes or more. You must go alone to get the benefit. You already know that you are supposed to spend quality time with your partner if you have one. But did you know you are supposed to spend quality time with yourself as well?

Walking makes it easier to listen. If you have a problem you can walk it out. Solutions appear. This process of discovery has been tested by humans for centuries and we used to call it "pilgrimage."

When you walk, your breathing becomes rhythmic. The same is true for meditation, but walking is a much easier, and more accessible practice than meditation.

Feeling resistant to these ideas? Perhaps you, like most of us, have a fear of self-intimacy. It's a speed bump of fear you'll need to go over to get to the other side.

Does journaling and walking take time? Not a lot, but yes it does. There is no quick fix when it comes to growth, especially when you spent your formative childhood in a cauldron of self-restraint.

The more time you spend on this kind of self care the better your life will be. It's a simple math equation of 1+1=2. Think about the people, past and present, that you admire most. Chances are most of them put a considerable amount of time into this kind of self-relationship building.

Are you busy and feel like you don't have time for self-care? The first place to look for more time in your life is your screen time. You are on a screen now. Perhaps dear reader, you put the screen down and go for a walk.

ADAM D. BLUM, MFT, is a licensed psychotherapist and the founder of the Gay Therapy Center, which specializes in relationship and self-esteem issues for LGBTQ people. The center offers services in its San Francisco, New York, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles offices, or by Skype and phone worldwide. Visit its website to subscribe to its e-newsletter and free e-class on building a better relationship with yourself. Follow the Center on Facebook and read its blog. Email Adam your questions for possible publication. (Questions may be edited.)

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