For many years most people have associated “coming out’ with the LGBTQ+ community. It seems to me that ‘coming out’ has become more mainstream and more and more people are revealing things about themselves that they previously kept hidden or concealed.
I came out in my career in 1982 at a time when openly gay people were being fired from their jobs for no other reason than being out. It was a challenge for many people who struggled with living a life based on their core values. Many were in conflict about whether or not to come out. The fear and shame kept many gay people in the closet in their careers.
I made the decision to come out for one reason and one reason only, to prevent anyone from ever using it against me. What I learned early on was that corporate politics put me at risk of losing my job a gay man, and being open would only exacerbate the risk. Nonetheless, I realized the risk was worth it in order to live in integrity with my values and beliefs.
While I came out in my corporate career as a gay man in 1982, I have come to realize throughout my 35-year career that almost everyone, if not everyone, has something that they hide about themselves. There is a shame-based secret that people hide from others for the fears of the negative consequences that might happen.
People most commonly hide things eating disorders, being an addict, suffering from depression, living with anxiety, being found out as an imposter, and the list could go on with so many more secrets. The “coming out’ feelings and thoughts are the same for everyone who is challenged by any of these items listed.
When we normalize coming out, we take away the stigma of revealing a shameful secret about ourselves. We take the power away from the hidden thing and regain it for ourselves. We are no longer stuck in the quicksand of the fear of what might happen when we come out. We are able to see the impact and influence we can have over our own life experience with what would otherwise have paralyzed us.
Coming out has the power to lift us out of the shame of the secret and plant us directly in the place of healing, recovering, and living freely. The coming out topic may be different for many of us, what binds us together is the hope for living free of its grip on our lives. When we are honest with ourselves, we have nothing to lose in saying yes to coming out.
Given we all have secrets that we want to hide and conceal from others, we all have the potential to come out. Coming out is simply the process of releasing shame and accepting freedom. We could all use more of that in our lives.
While my most significant coming out was when I came out as a gay man, I have had more coming out experiences throughout my life. I came out when I told people getting a ‘divorce’ not once but twice. The shame and embarrassment of my relationships failing were devastating to me and I was afraid to share it with my family and friends. When I came out about the divorces, I found the freedom to share my story and accept support from others.
All of us at one time or another have experienced a challenge in life that shames us and causes us to recoil. The tendency for many people is to stay in the closet with it rather than come out. The need we have to be accepted and included can sometimes impair our abilities to make good sound decisions for ourselves and our lives.
Has there been a time in your life when you hid something about yourself and struggled with how to come out about it? What did you learn from that experience about yourself and those around you?
Are you ready to come out and live freely in the sunshine with the rest of us?
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