My Self Esteem Journey: Gay Mental Health & Self-Acceptance
Overcoming low self-esteem can seem challenging, especially when it comes to speaking up and acknowledging your trauma.
Is self-esteem permanent? Does it ever get easy? What if you’re LGBTQ? Dimitrius speaks about his own personal struggles with low self-esteem and how he reached a point of self-acceptance.
Mental Health & Relationships
Well, hi there. Welcome to the very first episode of the Dimitrius show.
I’m your host, and I’m so excited to begin this journey with you. Each episode I’m going to pull out a different topic pertaining to mental health, relationships, self empowerment, and more to discuss.
Usually I’ll have a guest, either a mental health professional, someone with lived experience, or one of my awesome friends. Today is just me as I wanted this episode to be a bit more personal.
As a host, I’m not going to be perfect. Sometimes I’m going to say the wrong thing needs to be corrected. And sometimes I’m probably going to be a little too open. But my goal is to be honest and create a space where we can talk about things that are sometimes very difficult to talk about.
I believe it’s important to allow yourself to make mistakes, and sometimes deal with the embarrassment that comes along with that. If you read my book, Life After Low Self-Esteem, you know that I believe embarrassment is a choice.
Now did I always believe that? Absolutely not. It took a lot of work for me to get to a point where I was comfortable making a fool of myself at times, and brushing myself off to fight another day. This episode, for instance, is about self esteem.
Today, I can sit here and talk to you and share my experiences. But that wasn’t always the case. In fact, there was a time where I felt absolutely worthless. And we’re gonna get to that. So let’s get started.
So a few things about me. I’m an author, you heard me try to sell my book just now. And don’t worry that’s going to keep on happening. I’m also writing a web novel called taki Archie.
And it’s about a college student who dies and gets reincarnated in a world where people have unique abilities and they fight in tournaments. If you’re a Pokemon fan, I think you will enjoy that immensely.
I’m definitely enjoying writing it. And I could talk about that for hours because I just love talking about nerdy things. I love to cook. Lately, I’ve been trying to cook something new every week.
It reminds me of my grandmother, who would always encourage me to try new things, things that she saw on TV or YouTube. And I have a lot of her old recipes. In fact, I think I’m going to make one here pretty soon of hers.
I mentioned that I’m a huge nerd but I’m also kind of bougie very much a Starbucks everyday type of person, if I could afford it. And I can be kind of dramatic, kind of a drama queen.
And I’ve learned to accept that. Did I accept that years and years ago when people were telling me that I’m a drama queen? No, absolutely not.
I’m also a Virgo. So, oh wait don’t leave! I’m a Virgo, but it’s okay. I’m not super into astrology so don’t like ask me about my chart.
I don’t know exactly what all that entails. I know there is maybe Pisces somewhere in there and some of you listening that are interested ology are going to know exactly what that means.
I’m also not religious. Someone invited me to church recently. And I asked him, Hey, is it okay if I wear my shirt that says, “Sailor Moon died for my sins?” And they…well…they didn’t do much care for that. I’m also very sarcastic, and that sometimes gets me in trouble.
Sexuality & Identity
Oh, and another thing is that people always ask me my preferred pronouns. And they’re always confused, because my answer is usually, honey it don’t matter to me.
Now, I do call myself a gay man, and I do identify as that. But I’m old school. I came out as a gay man, when I was a teenager, during George Bush’s first term as president. So I had to endure all the hate and bigotry that accompanied that era firsthand.
And as a result, I had to really quickly gain a sense of self, when it came to my sexual identity, not just to develop as a person, but just to survive back then.
And I didn’t want there to be any confusion when it came to my sexuality. And I made that known, every single day.
There was an incident in band practice where someone called me the F word, of course. And so the next day I showed up to practice, and like high booty shorts, and a really tight shirt.
And that was like one of the most legendary things, some people still talk about that. But that was just the kind of person that I became as a teenager back then, when I came out, officially, I was just like, No, you know, this is who I am.
And maybe I don’t have it all together in terms of my self esteem, and how I feel about myself. But if there’s one thing I do know, that I’m confident about is that there is nothing wrong with me being a gay person, or LGBTQ, for that matter. So thankfully, I had that part together.
But as you can possibly imagine, dealing with the pushback from the community, especially during that era, that was a struggle.
And then trying to reconcile my identity was a monumental task in a world that constantly tried to convince me that I was worthless. And unfortunately, as time went on, I began to lose confidence in myself, until I eventually believed I was worthless.
Becoming a Loner
And that followed me all the way into my adulthood all the way past my mid 20s. But I want to talk about where it was the most pronounced, I’ve always struggled with being a loner, I’m very comfortable with setting off on my own without the company of others. When you’re ostracized most of your life, you kind of get used to the idea of having to be on your own.
But just because you’re accustomed to it, doesn’t mean you don’t get lonely, or feel unwanted. As a kid. And as a teen, I would watch TV shows like Will & Grace, Sex in the City, Living Single, and I’d see those tight-knit lifelong friendships. And I knew that’s what I wanted, almost more than anything.
My junior year of high school I came out to my dad is gay. He didn’t take it well. And he said, some really nasty and hateful things, to me and about me, very nasty. To hear that from, and to be treated like that by a parent was devastating. What was also devastating was that my friends at the time, didn’t really want to hear about it.
Remember, I mentioned I’m a drama queen. So I’d already been complaining about a lot of other things at the time. And I guess they were just exhausted at that point. So I went to my school counselor.
And I remember her saying to me, “Well, you have to think about it this way for your parents. It’s like grieving the loss of a child, they need time to process it.”
And I remember saying, okay, but my dad just unleashed all this venom and hate towards me. And I don’t have anyone to turn to right now for the support that I need.
And I got the typical adult response back then. The sentiment of, well, you’re a teenager, and you think it’s all about you anyway, and everything revolves around your feelings.
In fact, I got told that a lot anytime I did express myself. That was usually the answer back then, and especially every time I expressed an intense emotion.
I was always made to feel that it was wrong. So I learned to just bottle everything up until I eventually exploded because I couldn’t contain it anymore.
Standing Up for Myself
And I still sometimes do that. I still struggle with that. So at this point I, you know, I’m feeling pretty worthless. Well, there was an incident towards the end of my senior year that really imprinted itself into everything that followed.
I was walking down the hallway with a group of friends. And there was this girl, she loves to bully people and make fun of them.
She started with my friend. And of course, this is my friend, and I don’t like that she’s being picked on. So I stood up for her. I said, Hey, to this girl, I said, Hey, get a life and you know, find something to do leave her alone.
Well, then she starts on me, starts calling me the f-word, the usual. I brush it off, I keep walking down the hallway to my next class.
Well, after that, it became a daily ritual with her, where every time I came walking down the hallway, for that class, she would stand outside of whatever class she was taking in the hallway.
And she just called me the F word and say all these really rude and disgusting things. I would just keep walking past her, but I noticed none of my friends would say anything.
The girl that I stood up for, she didn’t say anything. But I mean, maybe she didn’t feel comfortable. But it was about maybe six or seven of us. No one else said anything.
So this went on for about, I want to say two or three weeks. One day, I just I’d had enough. And I confronted her.
And I said, Look, I don’t know what your problem is. But Enough is enough. Like you need to get over yourself, and you need to stop.
And I remember I got so heated, because she said something. I can’t remember exactly what it was, she said, but it was so particularly vicious.
And so what I did was I reached around her head, I pulled out her ponytail, she had a weave. I pulled it out, and I threw it down hallway.
And she started hitting me she started like, like hitting me in my face hitting me in my chest. I didn’t hit her back. Of course.
I didn’t believe in doing that. But I will say after that. She didn’t say anything to me for the rest of the year. But I also remember that day, going into an empty bathroom stall and just crying my eyes out for an hour.
Not because of what she said or what she did. But because I had to be the one to defend myself.
Because every day for those three weeks, none of my friends spoke up for me didn’t say a word, I had to be the one to do it. I had to be the one, I was the only one who would stand up for someone else.
And I was the only one who would stand up for myself. So I decided I wouldn’t rely on anyone ever again. And I didn’t.
But I just felt so worthless, and unwanted and just lost. I became this bitter person who was just full of resentment, and didn’t trust anyone and didn’t know how to identify or express my emotions. I was just always this ticking time bomb.
Meeting the Future
So one day I wake up and I realize I’m in my mid 20s now, and I don’t want to feel like this anymore. I don’t want to feel like a worthless, bad person. At the time.
I was working with children and I’ve been doing so for years. And I was working at a particular after school program. And we all had our assigned groups are normally had the oldest kids, because I was at the time the oldest staff and my co workers were low key kind of scared of them.
I mean, to be fair, most of them were taller than me. Like 11 year olds nowadays are corn-fed y’all. They’re huge. And also, they only listened to me.
Which was funny, because if you know me in real life, I’m just really short, girly dude. But even like the gigantic jocks couldn’t get them to behave. Then in comes Mr. D, and everyone settles down.
But every day I would say to them, all of you are better than the times you don’t listen and misbehave. And you know, they’d roll their eyes and be like, okay, whatever.
And for a while I didn’t think they really cared about what I was saying to them at all. They just didn’t want to be lectured and they just wanted me to help them get on with their day.
But there was this one kid in particular. He was that typical “I’m too cool for this” kid. Already had a girlfriend at 11 and was really mature for his age very smart.
Well, every day, I would find a reason to just bug the crap out of him. I don’t know what it is about being the oldest sibling because I’m the oldest sibling. And always wanting to aggravate your younger siblings or people that are younger than you.
I don’t know why that’s such a thing. But I remember he would always bring his class projects. And he was always doing something on his phone or that he wasn’t supposed to be doing.
And I could tell that he was just bored. So I’d always try to talk to him, and get him to open up about all the things he had going on in his life.
He’d get in trouble a lot during school, and at least three times a week, I get to the site. And he’d be in timeout already.
Because I’d usually get there after my first job. And I’d be like, dude, what is your deal? Like, what’s going on? And he’d say, “Oh, I don’t want to talk about it. Leave me alone.”
And usually, I let him cool off, then eventually, he’d come join me with the rest of the older kids in our group, and we do whatever we were going to do that day.
But one day, I said, You know what? No. I’m going to sit right here until you tell me what’s going on. And I sat down, and I stared at him.
And he was like, “Mr. D, why are you being so weird?” And I said, if you don’t talk to me, I’m going to pick my nose. And I’m going to put a gigantic booger on you.
He started laughing. So then he goes on from there. And he tells me, something that sounded very familiar.
He would get angry. Sometimes he didn’t understand why he’d get angry. But once he did, he’d end up getting in trouble. It was like he didn’t know what to do…when he got angry.
He told me how much he just hated school right now. Thought it was boring. And he just felt like nobody understood anything that he was dealing with.
So when I heard that, and listening to him, and listening to how it all sounded so familiar, I just kind of took him in, I, you know, I every day, for the rest of my time there at that particular site. I’d just pull him to the side and be like, tell me how your day was or else!
And he would tell me, and I’d give him stuff to do. He was bored. I said, Well, you know, what? What if I give you responsibility? You’re smart. Let’s have you do things. Why don’t you help the staff, like, put the snacks out?
You’ll be in charge of that. You’ll be in charge of you can take attendance for me, before I get here. Little things like that.
And it was like a one-eighty. His behavior changed. He wasn’t getting in so much trouble.
Well, part of the reason he also wasn’t getting so much trouble is because I got his teachers email address. And I told him, I said, Well, I have your email. He said, “You have her email?”
I said, Yeah, I have her email. And she’ll tell me, she’ll tell me everything that’s going on with you. And she did.
But that, along with giving him some responsibility, and recognizing Him and seeing him and listening to him, made all the difference in improving his behavior.
And when I realized that there was a way for me to make a difference in someone’s life. That was when I decided, You know what, I have to become a better person if I want to continue to be able to do this.
Breaking the Cycle
I thought about back to when I stood up to for my friend, and how lonely I felt when I had to stand up for myself, by myself, but looking at this child who had no one to advocate for them.
I decided that you know what, it was more important for me to let go of the hurt and the resentment that I felt from back then.
Because it’s in my nature to want people to become their best selves.
So as time went on, I ended up leaving that site, because I got a promotion at my first job. And I made the announcement to the kids that I was leaving, and it was boohoos and all sorts of things.
Now, this did a little bit surprise me because really, honestly, I didn’t even think they liked me all that much to be completely honest. But what cemented it for me was that kid came up to me, I believe, I think it was right before my last day.
And he kind of just stood there and sometimes he’d do that, cuz he, you know, we joke, how we just kind of stare at each other.
But I said, Hey, what do you want? What’s going on? That’s how I would talk to him. And he told me, he said, “Why are you leaving?”
I said, well, and I, you know, I explained to him. He said, “You’re the first person. You’re the first adult who’s ever just listened to me. So what am I going to do now”
I told him, I said, Well, I’ve already talked to the other staff, and they know that they are required to listen to you as well, even if I’m not here. And I told him, I said, and I will still be checking in for the remainder of this year.
And I still have your teacher’s email address, so don’t worry about that. And he smiled. He smiled! Like he never smiled at me, and he gave me a hug. And he said, “I’m really going to miss you, Mr. D.”
And then of course, he pulled away and he was like, okay, don’t tell anyone. I did that. And it’s really gross. Can we play dodgeball today?
Fine. I said, and that was when I decided I need to go back to therapy. I need to become a better person, so that I can be the best person for the people around me.
And so I started going to therapy, I learned that I’ve had depression for probably decades, probably since I was eight years old, honestly, got on medication.
Becoming a Leader
And I started working and improving. And over time, things got easier. And things got better.
Now, I still have my days where I’m just a mess. I’ve taken my meds. And it doesn’t matter. I’m still all over the place. I still can’t get out of bed, I still, you know, just feel awful and miserable. But it’s not every day. It’s not every week. It comes sometimes, and it goes.
So all that to say if you have low self esteem, and you feel awful about yourself, I want to assure you that you are in no way as worthless as you feel right now. And that it is so entirely possible that you affect someone’s life much more than you realize.
So I’m going to continue working on myself. I’m going to continue walking one foot in front of the other on this journey. And I’m going to continue to try and encourage people to be their best selves.