Who are you really?

We can’t know what we don’t know, right? Let me ask you, have you ever felt deep shame, guilt, or fear just for, being you? If this resonates, you will know the struggle of belonging to the LGBTQ+ community. Everyone has a story and how they see the world, in a way, that is totally unique to them.

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I purposefully keep a photo of my younger self on my office desk. I keep it there, so I have a daily reminder of when I was totally unknowing. I had no clue whatsoever of who I was or what I was about. I believed everything my parents taught me regardless of what anyone else told me and I never questioned it because I held such a strong belief that my parents were always right no matter what.

I grew up in Scotland, during the 1970s, within a culture that felt very oppressive especially, for people like me, who were classed as “different” or even worse, “not normal”. From a very young age, I felt I had no choice but to follow traditions that had already been set out by generations before me. Same-sex relationships never mind the extensive terminology we have come to know today was just not on my radar. I didn’t know of anyone around me that identified as anything but heterosexual.

Back then, in my early school days, I certainly felt there was something seriously wrong with me because I wasn’t especially attracted to boys and whilst my friends were all talking about their latest crushes, I felt nothing but fear, guilt, and shame because I knew I wasn’t like anyone else. I liked girls and struggled daily with that unknowing of who I was and why I wasn’t like all my other female friends. 

At around 14 years old, my thoughts and feelings were all over the place and I started to throw up everything I ate, the medical term is bulimic. I also felt depressed, anxious most of the time and found myself isolating more and more. I barely resembled a human being and was just about holding on to life. I didn’t want to ask or even know where to go for help if I did. At the same time, I craved attention from anywhere I could get it, in the hope that someone would see and understand me. 

My mother who stood 5ft tall, was a very proud and private woman. Her mantra was always “don’t tell anyone, this is a family matter”. I observed her over the years and was astonished at how she got through any obstacles that were put in her way and believe me, she had many without me adding to them. She dragged me along to the local family doctor because she could see what was happening right in front of her but was getting nothing out of me in terms of talking about what was wrong.

The doctor asked me a lot of questions that I just couldn’t answer. I was so scared to say anything, of being found out and being told that I “wasn’t normal”. It was agreed, without my input that I would be referred to a psychiatrist. I remember, even though it was over 30 years ago, being asked “what is it you are trying to throw up Annie?” I didn’t understand what she meant and so just shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know!”. 

I was so scared of being admitted to hospital because I had heard, back then, that once you were admitted to a psychiatric hospital, you just didn’t get out. My fear of being admitted, into what I visualised, a psychiatric hospital would look like, a stone room with bars on the door and being medicated was so strong. So, I started to eat a little food, slowly at first and I was lucky enough, after some time, to come back to full health. 

Fast forward 20 years or so and I finally began to understand what the psychiatrist had meant, I was trying to throw up all my feelings of fear, guilt, and shame. You may have or are experiencing something similar and don’t know what to do. 

One of the most crucial steps, I learned on my journey, that really stands out for me is that of unlearning what I already believed. I say crucial, because if I hadn’t unlearned what other people had made me believe, I would never have been able to explore who I really was and what I wanted to achieve in life.

It wasn’t until the late 80s, in my early 20s married to the guy I had been in a relationship with since I had been 17 that I began working for an organisation that was big on personal development.

The 80s were very much about women “dressing for the job they wanted, not the job they had”. Women were being empowered to be their own person and engage in any personal development activities they could find. We wore clothes with huge shoulder pads that shouted “I am powerful” and we just couldn’t get enough of development opportunities. The competition to climb the career ladder was fierce! I remember, Dale Carnegies, “How to win friends and influence people” being a very popular read in the quest to stand out and be the best version of ourselves that we could be.

Through this journey, I was engaging with many people and attending various development courses. I began to question who I was, what I thought and felt. I felt anxious for a time as I began to unlearn everything I had been taught. It was a challenging time, but I found the courage and resilience to trust the journey I was on and that I would come out and survive the other end. 

You may already have begun your own journey in finding who you really are, or you might feel stuck, in a dark place, trying to figure out how you can live your life just being you without judgement and rejection.

My journey of uncovering my passion and what I believe is my purpose in helping others began. However, I knew I first had to help myself, so I studied and qualified as a counsellor and offered sessions for many years. 

Later, I came across coaching and was very curious to know what it was all about, so I booked myself in for a few sessions. After about three, I knew without a doubt I wanted to coach other people because, unlike counselling, which explores the past and where you are now, I found coaching much more valuable in that it helped me explore where I was in that moment and where I wanted to be. I studied hard and qualified as a life coach working with my clients in all areas of their life. I understood my passion and purpose was to help as many people as I could to just be who they are, achieve what they want and live a life they are excited about. 

Coaching others gives me the opportunity of working with my clients, in a way that helps them to unlearn what they have been told as well as uncovering their own purpose. That way, they can make choices and decisions that are right for them and live their lives feeling happy, content and fulfilled but also, in a much more confident and assertive way that enables them to follow their own instincts because they know exactly who they are and what they want to achieve.

I am fully aware and believe that the LGBTQ+ community has problems just like anyone else, but I also truly believe we face additional challenges, like not being widely accepted and being disowned by those we love. One of the most critical times in our life can be when we decide to ‘come out’. Feelings of fear, guilt and shame as well as not knowing how we will be received by the people we love can often lead to shocking consequences such as a decrease in our mental health as well as an increase in suicide, violence, and homelessness with nowhere to go and all because of who we are.

Human beings need connection but, more importantly, need to form those connections with people where we feel happy, safe and secure. However, many people in our community end up forming relationships with people, they wouldn’t normally be friends with just as a way of being accepted into the community because they just don’t know where else to go. 

Listening to my clients over the years, they tell me they have many people around them but that when they are honest with themselves, they know these relationships are superficial, fake and have absolutely no trust at the core of any of them. However, they just don’t know how they can move forward, forming relationships with people who genuinely care about them. 

They also tell me that it’s safer not to care about anyone else because the ending is always about being hurt in one way or another. It saddens me that so many people put their dreams and passions to the side because of fear. 

I ask you to take just a minute and ask yourself, "How am I living my life truly being me?"

Most of us, at some point in our lives, do not have as much confidence or belief in ourselves as we would like, so we end up limiting ourselves in achieving what we are capable of. I believe this is especially true for those who belong to the LGBTQ+ community. I have found that when we know what it is we believe, confidence naturally grows within us. The truth is, we are all capable of making choices and decisions that are right for us because the only people in charge of us is ourselves!

I love the singer Pink’s quote “Once you find out what respect tastes like, it tastes better than attention but you have to get there”. This resonates with me and may also resonate with you. I felt lost in the early days and thought getting attention, sometimes unhealthy, meant I was liked and accepted. 

We live in a society where we are constantly judged and rejected but understanding the difference between attention and respect made all the difference to who I was and what I achieved. 

Arrive at the present day. Experience tells me that people make a conscious and sometimes an unconscious decision to not seek out the support they really need. For example, coming out can the most frightening step someone in our community takes so the decision between coming out or not can be put aside for many years and sometimes, not addressed at all.

There is no doubt the journey in finding self is a challenging one. However, if we find the courage to unlearn everything, we thought we believed, only then can we begin to understand who we are at our core, what our purpose is that enables us to get up out of bed in the morning excited to start our day and live our best life.

Life Coach Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, EC2A 3AR
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Written by The Coaching Cart, Annie McKinnon, PGDip, MAC
London, EC2A 3AR

I am Annie McKinnon, I grew up in Scotland but currently live in East Sussex. In my spare time, I love walking my 3 1/2 year old Border Terrier, reading fiction and nonfiction, writing and networking with my peer coaches and counsellors. I am thinking that as the years creep up on me, I quite fancy relearning outdoor bowls!

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