Embracing and Engaging with Identity – The Individual

It takes courage….to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.” – Marianne Williamson

My dear queer children,

Last time, I wrote about exploring and finding your identity through your communities. I’ll admit, this may seem to be a strange place to start. Do we not find who we are first, and then bring our identity to our respective communities?

While I do believe we need to have some knowledge of ourselves in order to know what communities we belong to, I also believe that basic knowledge is already within us. When we take this foundation of our identity to our communities, we are given resources to go off on our own and discover ourselves more fully and deeply.

For example, as I said in my first post, I always knew I was queer since I was four or five years old. At the time, however, I didn’t know a label or identity that I could associate my queerness with. While I would later understand myself to be gay, I had just scratched the surface of my identity. By engaging with the LGBTQ+ organization at St. Louis University, Rainbow Alliance, I was given the resources to go off on my own and investigate my identity.

Essentially, engaging with our identities is a cycle. We bring some knowledge of ourselves to our communities, and we utilize resources and information from these communities to better understand ourselves. After this, we know more about our identity, and we take this back to our communities. And this is especially important in college, since you have greater access to different types of communities.

So how do we go deeper in our understanding and exploration of our identities while balancing all the different aspects of our college life?

First things first: you need to take time for yourself! If you take a lot of classes and get involved on campus, the busyness of college life can have you running up and down and all across campus. You can’t take the necessary time and energy to focus on yourself and your growth if you are so busy. While it’s important to be involved on campus, it’s also important to practice the three selfs: self-care, self-reflection, and self-love.

One way of practicing self care is by carving out an hour or two in your weekly schedule to dedicate to yourself! This is important for a couple reasons. First, this can help you recharge yourself and increase your productivity levels. By giving your mind and body a break from the daily grind, you allow yourself to recover from the stress and work that you put on yourself. Second, this time can help you reflect on your week and see what your highs and lows have been. This can be a time when you take note of your progress and of who you are becoming.

During this time for yourself, it is important to be intentional with what you do. For example, there’s a difference between deliberately reflecting on your identity/what you are doing to develop yourself and mindlessly scrolling through your social media feed. While being on social media may give your mind a break from mental stress, it doesn’t necessarily help you develop as a person. Your self-care/self-reflection needs to be focused on you, and you alone – not on others on social media.

Some methods of self-care and reflection can be meditating (whether that be in silence or with music), exercising, going on a walk, keeping a journal, reading spiritual reflections, and similar techniques.

Out of these options, I really like keeping a journal and meditating. Keeping a journal is an easy way of reflecting on your personal development, and you can always go back and read about your thoughts and experiences to see how far you’ve come. If you spend just five or ten minutes at the end of your day to sit down and write down a few thoughts, such as what you felt and what you experienced, then you are able to actively process your identity interacting with your everyday life.

Meditating is also an easy way to combine self-care and self-reflection. Not only are you taking the time to rest from the busyness of your life, but you are also putting yourself in a position to critically think about yourself. In these moments, you can question and explore your identity safely.

But these are not the only methods of learning who you are! Experiment with other techniques and find out works best for you! It may take some time, but I promise it’s worth it, both for your self-care and self-reflection.

As always, please let me know if you would like my to write on a specific topic. I am always a resource for you.

Until next time,

Love, Your Gay Godparent,

Joe

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