Transgender Self Acceptance
Is It Different For Trans People?
Not exactly different. The things that you need to accept about yourself might be a little different from a cisgender person, but the process and outcome tend to be mostly similar.
Self-acceptance is a cornerstone to well-being, not only for transgender people but for anyone. However, when specifically looking at self-acceptance among the transgender community, an excellent place to start is to establish whether you are still questioning your gender identity or whether you have come to terms with your unique gender identity.
Accepting yourself is not always easy and is often a journey on its own. When you are dealing with low confidence levels, when your body feels wrong, when your future is unclear, etc., the thought of having to embrace yourself can be pretty daunting. But do not despair; the best way to tackle this journey is one step at a time. Ultimately, there is no wrong way to do this, but breaking things up into much smaller steps and taking like a moment at a time can be a helpful first step.
Trying to address everything at once is too overwhelming, even for people who are not trans or non-binary. It might help to realize that cisgender people also often struggle with how they see themselves, and there are often things in the life of a cisgender person that they struggle to accept. It might help you to develop an understanding that the journey of accepting yourself for who you are is quite normal, and there are many people who are struggling in this same way.
Specific to the Trans Community
When exploring self-improvement and self-acceptance as a transgender person, you might benefit from getting familiar with other transgender people's stories and also getting comfortable with terminology related to identity and orientation. Getting a sense of what the future might hold or being able to make sense of feelings that you had in the past can be greatly helpful.
Mental Health Care Providers and Self Esteem
The struggle with self-acceptance and self-esteem can be challenging to deal with on your own, and it might be a good idea to seek professional guidance. Psychologists are specially trained in helping people to practice self-compassion, self-forgiveness and to work through any traumatic experience from your past.
Furthermore, in addition to taking care of your psychological well-being, a psychologist can also help you establish whether you are transgender and whether you want to transition, or in which way you want to transition. Some have an in-depth understanding of how transitioning works and what options are available.
In addition, especially if you are still underage, a psychologist can help you to speak to your parents, either during a shared session or preparing to talk to them on your own.
The Concept of Unconditional Self Acceptance
When you break it down, you will likely find that all self-acceptance is unconditional, but recently, therapists have been using the term "unconditional self-acceptance" to highlight the importance of it being unconditional in the first place.
The fundamental underpinning of unconditional self-acceptance is to not get stuck in the past and also to understand that you are separate from your individual qualities and actions. Meaning that you are aware of both negative and positive aspects of yourself, but you do not judge yourself based on these aspects.
One of the significant first steps to self-acceptance is not to see yourself as a victim. If you identify yourself as a victim, your negative emotions will continue to outweigh your progress to true self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. It is also a stance that disempowers you.
It is a crucial self-empowering step in your life to realize that you need help and then to seek out help and accept when offered. Remember that therapy is there for your benefit, and it can be very liberating to get things off your chest and to have a safe space to work through difficult matters.
The relationship between a therapist and a patient is highly confidential, and what is discussed in therapy is not divulged to others. This means that a therapy session can be the solid ground that you need to anchor you in between a time in your life that is otherwise plagued by rough seas.
Self-Criticism vs. Negative Self Talk
You remain your own worst critic, and this is where self-talk comes in. The difference between these two concepts is murky at best, but they are distinctly different. Self-talk comes from criticism of "the self" (a therapy term that refers to how you see yourself).
It is best understood this way: Criticism paves the way to self-talk. If you feel critical about yourself, then your self-talk will reflect this. If your criticism of yourself is positive or constructive, then your self-talk will be far more global affirmation-focused.
Self-talk is an active rhetoric that runs in your mind and is directed inward. It is one of the main components of depression but can also be addressed through therapy and behavior techniques. Examples of this type of self-talk that is negative include things like:
"I am useless", "I can't do anything right", "I am a failure".
The most common therapy technique that is taught to combat this is to change those bad things into a first step that can have a positive outcome. For example:
"I will do better next time", "I didn't get it right this time, but I will practice and try again later", "I have been struggling with this lately and need to work on improving it".
This especially helps people who are still having trouble accepting themselves and experience a lot of self-doubt. It is not an entirely positive statement, but its negativity is not a "finality"; there is room for improvement, room to move towards acceptance of self.
Any such change will take time and cannot be rushed. It is the most basic self-acceptance exercise and is widely used to improve low self-acceptance through the practice of self-compassion. It is often combined with journaling which further helps people to sort through their feelings and to put them to words. Furthermore, journaling will help you live in the moment and sort out where your focus needs to be right now.
The Benefit of a Support System on Self Esteem
It is extremely challenging to practice self-compassion and self-acceptance if the input you are receiving from everyone around you is consistently negative. In addition, you are already trying to deal with your inner critic, so having to deal with negativity from outside sources makes that more difficult.
It becomes essential to have support in some way. This might not always come from your parents, but it can likely come from friends. Having someone who can help you to see positive things about yourself can boost your confidence and overall well-being. Supportive people can help you gain a more balanced perspective and can help boost low self-acceptance because they tend to bring the good qualities that you have to your attention far more than you would. What is important here is not only that these people exist for you but also that you accept their viewpoint and that you do not ignore the positive things that they say about you.
For most trans people they will likely deal with transphobia at some point in their lives, which is complicated because self-acceptance alludes to the prerequisite of being your authentic self as far as possible. You cannot fully accept yourself if you are not living true to yourself, which you might not be readily able to do as a trans person if your personal safety is put at risk through doing so. In most places, the law will be on your side, and if you are being harassed, it might be good to make a report. It can help you a lot if there is at least one person with who you feel accepted and safe.
Difference Between Self Esteem and Self Acceptance
Self-esteem refers specifically to how you see yourself in relation to others, whereas self-acceptance refers to internally separating your actions and qualities from your concept of self-value. It then follows that self-acceptance runs deeper than esteem. Unlike self-esteem, self-acceptance is not conditional.
A major problem with society at large is that most of us only feel that we are conditionally acceptable within ourselves, that there will always be something about ourselves that we cannot accept. It is a challenge that many people face, and it is vital to address it so that it may be resolved.
We have to acknowledge that if we do not fully accept ourselves, then it will be difficult for others to accept us or for us to make peace with being accepted by someone else.
Trans Identity and Self Acceptance
While a lack of self-acceptance is universally bad for your overall mental health, it can also serve as a solid stepping stone towards the improvement of overall mental health if you decide to improve your self-acceptance.
As much as self-accepting feelings can significantly improve life for many of us, we must still acknowledge that at some point, you will face discrimination in some form or another, and that kind of discrimination leads to pain. Unfortunately, when we are in pain, especially young people, we can do stupid things to try and escape the pain.
We also need to understand that discrimination might not be outwardly apparent. This is true for most people and is not only true for trans people, although that being said, we cannot deny that discrimination is also very likely simply because you identify as transgender.
Discrimination often stops complete acceptance of the self and our success or failure in the face of this adversity. No matter how we look at it, being discriminated against, for whatever reason, makes you feel bad, especially the parts of discrimination that is already causing you personal distress without someone else pointing it out in a negative way.
Hopefully, at some time in the future, we will live in a world where discrimination is a thing of the past, and we can all freely live and love. But until that happens, all we can do is keep working on the things that we can actually change and to, try and surround ourselves with supportive people, and to keep working towards a place in our lives where we can accept ourselves for who we are.
Once you have mastered self-acceptance, there are some psychological benefits to look forward to. These are:
- Higher levels of a sense of freedom for self-expression
- Increased willingness to take risks and more pronounced ability to make important decisions
- Decreased fear of failure
- Living for yourself as opposed to living to please others, which leads to a more authentic life
- An increased sense of self-worth
- A higher level of inward compassion for your own failures
- Feeling more autonomous in your life choices
- Less need for others to approve of your choices and circumstances
- Higher levels of self-esteem
Although self-acceptance has a lot of positive elements to offer, and even though the journey is long, there are some calls to the reality that we have to acknowledge.
In your journey to self-acceptance, it might be helpful to separate gender-related identity from sexual orientation and to break up other aspects of your life accordingly. You will also need to come to terms with the reality that transition will not fix all of your problems. Although transition can result in no small degree of relief and joy, it would be a mistake to state your happiness on it completely. Basically, transition is not the key to self-acceptance; it is only a small part of it.
The last thing that needs to be mentioned as thought about self-acceptance is that your parents might not always be able to accept you fully, as one would expect from a parent. In the end, what is most important is that you need to live your own life; you cannot surrender your happiness and peace of mind to please parents that will likely not be there for the rest of your life anyway. While we always encourage respect and love between a parent and child, we do also realize that is not always attainable, and although it is not ideal, it is okay to cut people out of your life if they are causing more harm than good, even if they are your parents.