On November 20, 1998, Rita Hester, an African-American transgender woman, was murdered in her apartment in Boston. She was stabbed 20 times and was still breathing when the police found her. Tragically, she died the same day at the hospital. She was 34 years old.

While Rita Hester was not the first trans woman to fall victim to anti-trans violence, her incident compelled activist Gwendolyn Ann Smith to start the Remembering Our Dead web project. The event was dedicated to the murdered trans and gender-diverse people in the United States. It was organized as a vigil to honor the memory of Rita and all the trans people who have become victims of anti-transgender hatred.

In 1999, Smith organized the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, and more candlelight vigils and similar events followed the next years.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

More than 20 years have passed since the murder of Rita Hester and the first Transgender Day of Remembrance, and the event continues to count new murders of transgender community members. 23 years have gone by since Smith started the campaign to end anti-transgender violence and raise awareness regarding the urgent need to educate ourselves about gender-nonconforming people and trans inclusion. And, sadly, not enough has changed.

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In 2019, at least 22 transgender lives were taken in the United States. Most of the people murdered were young, black women. In 2020, 44 transgender and gender-diverse people fell prey to hate and violence in our country, and 350 were murdered worldwide. And, unfortunately, the tragedy only grows from here.

2021 was the year with the highest number of fatalities since the Human Rights Campaign started tracking these crimes in 2013. 57 transgender people fell prey to acts of violence in the United States alone, and 375 transgender people were killed worldwide, with most of the murders (70%) happening in Central and South America. Real people with real lives and real stories lost their life because of a lack of education, inclusivity, and tolerance.

These numbers do not account for the transgender people who have taken their own lives because of national indifference, a culture of intolerance, and hatred propagated by the ignorance and prejudice of a portion of the population.

2022 is not over yet, and the transgender community has already seen at least 29 of its members killed for daring to be true to their own selves. Unfortunately, it is possible the number is higher than reported because many stories about transgender people being murdered go unreported, misreported, or unnoticed. Globally, 2022 is likely to surpass 2021 as the most deadly year on record for the trans community, and a majority of those killed in 2021 were transgender women of color, with a high number of deaths happening in Brazil and the United States.

Why does the world need the Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Awareness is key to ending violence against transgender and gender-diverse people. Rita Hester’s murder was the catalyst to this movement but the many lives lost every year among transgender and gender non-conforming people due to brutal violence should determine the rest of us to do more, try more, fight more! Considering the increasing number of deaths and constant violation of the rights of transgender people, it is obvious we are not doing everything in our power to crush this epidemic of violence.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance is not only an opportunity for communities of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals, as well as trans activists to remember and mourn the ones who lost their lives in the war against prejudice, intolerance, and hatred. It also is a firm reminder that trans people are sons, daughters, parents, and friends, people who have the same rights just like everyone else to love, live, and simply be. The event is an occasion to come together and find real solutions that promote transgender rights and encourage funding opportunities to sustain the cause and help transgender individuals be who they are while becoming the best version of themselves and finding their rightful place in our community.

Transgender Day of Remembrance raises awareness of hate crimes that are still happening against the trans community and encourages people to educate themselves, advocate for change, and embrace the world as it truly is: diverse and unique. The campaign addresses issues that plague the lives of trans and gender-diverse individuals and encourages the media to speak openly, boldly, and sincerely about the urgent need to change our mentalities and stop the hate, violence, and indifference that permits these murders to continue.

We need the Transgender Day of Remembrance to gather more allies against the campaign of hatred led by an uneducated majority determined to wipe out the existence of those who dare to be different. We need the Transgender Day of Remembrance to stand in vigil and remember those who have died because they choose to be free and live “differently”. We will continue to need the Transgender Day of Remembrance for as long as trans and gender-diverse people are martyrized on the altar of conformity and sacrificed to preserve an illusory sense of “normality”.

transgender symbol

What can you do to become involved in the Transgender Day of Remembrance?

Educate yourself and others about what being a transgender or gender-diverse person means and how you can help stop the stigma associated with their communities. You can advocate for trans-inclusive policies and practices in your workplace, school, town, or city. You can participate or organize a vigil in your neighborhood on November 20 to honor the lives of transgender people who have been murdered. Vigils are organized by local transgender advocates or LGBTQ organizations and usually take place in parks, community centers, or other venues. Use this annual observance day to raise awareness about trans rights and address issues that concern the community.

You can write stories, articles, or news pieces about victims of transphobic violence and anti-trans hatred and bring them to the attention of local and national media outlets. Telling their stories out loud raises awareness and gives a voice to those who are no longer able to use theirs. Amplify trans voices and take action to stop the abuse and ignorance.

You can offer transgender and gender-diverse people employment, medical care, tutoring, food resources, and any other type of help they need and is in your power to offer. You can be there for them and be an example in your community. You can lead people on the path of inclusion, acceptance, tolerance, and understanding.

Furthermore, you can donate to organizations that help trans people of color, sex workers, migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees, as many of them are victims of discrimination, abuse, persecution, and violence. And, of course, you can mobilize your friends and followers to stand with you and share news about the campaign and events in their communities using social media and the hashtag #TDoR2022.

 

Transgender person

Helpful resources to get involved

Disclaimer: The following is a list of possible resources throughout the United States. This list is provided solely as a resource and none of the following organizations are endorsed by Julia Schwab Therapy.

GLAAD has put together a great list of resources for anyone who’d like to get involved. Below are a few examples:

Organizations in Los Angeles that work with the Trans* population (not an exhaustive list)–

LA LGBT Center
Transwellness Center
Trans Latina Coalition
Bienestar
Children’s Hospital
Trans Lounge
Trans Can Work
UCLA Gender Health
Gender Justice Los Angeles
Trans Chorus of Los Angeles

Other Resources throughout the US

10 Trans Advocacy Organizations to Support | Bitch Media
TRANScending Barriers Atlanta Transgender Nonprofit (Atlanta)
Brave Space Alliance (Chicago)
Ingersoll Gender Center (Seattle)
New York Transgender Advocacy Group (nytag.org) (New York)
Boston Area Trans Support (massbats.org) (Boston)
Transgender Education Network of Texas (transtexas.org) (Texas)
TransAL | MobPride (Alabama)
BreakOUT! – Fighting the criminalization of LGBTQ youth in New Orleans, LA / Luchando contra la criminalización de los jóvenes LGBTQ en Nueva Orleans, LA (youthbreakout.org) (Louisiana)
Transgender Resources | The City of Portland, Oregon (portlandoregon.gov) (Portland resources)
Transinclusive Group (Florida)
Charleston Area Trans Support (chasareatsupport.org) (South Carolina)
LGBT Center of Raleigh (North Carolina)
Welcome to OUTMemphis – OUTMemphis (Tennessee)
Resources · Transformations KC • Kansas City’s Transgender Youth Group (Kansas and Missouri)
TEA of Utah (Utah)
The Center – Western Montana’s LGBTQ+ Community Center – Missoula (gaymontana.org) (Montana)
Identity Alaska – advancing Alaska’s LGBT community (Alaska)
Resources – Transgender Assistance Program of Virginia (tapvirginia.org) (Virginia)
StoneWall Society GLBT Resources in West Virginia (West Virginia resources)
TRANSGENDER SUPPORT – OKEQ – Oklahoma’s resource for LGBT persons and their families (Oklahoma)
Welcome to the Transgender Equality Network – Transgender Equality Network (transequalitynetwork.org) (Arkansas)

Here you can find a list of events happening around West Hollywood during the month of November that the city has prepared to Commemorate Transgender Awareness Month and Transgender Day of Remembrance.

Events

Trans day of remembrace

 

Vigil

Trans Day Remembrance

 

Post Update: The article was updated on October 29th, 2022, originally published on November 18th, 2021. It has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

You might know that the I in LGBTQIA2S+ stands for intersex, but you may not know very much about the experience of individuals who are intersex. You might not even be sure what the definition of the term intersex is, and while it is easy to explain, a lot of the language is medical and not the nicest way to describe someone.

What is intersex?

The definition of intersex is not as simple as some may think. Intersex, to explain it in as inclusive a way as possible, is an umbrella term used to describe a person born with different characteristics assigned to biological sex traits and reproductive organs i.e., the development of a vagina and the development of a penis. These characteristics can be anatomical ones identified at birth, such as a penis with ovaries, secondary characteristics that appear at puberty, like the development of breasts and facial hair, or genetic characteristics that are likely not to be noticed.

Medically, terms like “ambiguous” are often used to describe the genitals of a newborn person who is intersex. While the term “ambiguous genitalia” is less harmful than previously used words, it’s still not an inclusive way to label people with intersex traits. This is because terms like this one stem from the oversimplified idea that there are only two biological sexes and that gender classification is binary.

person waving the flag

In truth, the actual science behind chromosome configuration is not entirely accurate when taught to people in schools. Oversimplifying the science behind sex chromosomes and chromosome patterns leads to reinforcing typical binary notions and, most importantly, to prejudice and discrimination against people with intersex conditions.

Most people think you can either be born XX or XY, which are the only possible options. However, nature proves us wrong… again! Because parents have two chromosomes each, a baby can theoretically end up with four chromosomes (or only one). If you were to follow the pure mathematics behind this theory, it is only natural to conclude that a healthy baby can be the result of more than two combinations of chromosomes.

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What are the struggles of intersex individuals?

The problem is society finds it difficult to include people who don’t fit neatly into prescribed labels. So, instead of making room for individuals with atypical sex characteristics and intersex bodies, it forces them into boxes where they don’t fit nor have room to develop and reach their potential. Historically, many states in the U.S. and worldwide allowed health care providers to assign sex and perform unnecessary surgeries without informing the parents of any medical intervention performed.

intersex person with her partner

One of the reasons I is included in LGBTQIA2S+ is because intersex people are discriminated against in society based on their physical anatomy and sexual characteristics. Some members of the intersex community don’t feel like they belong in the LGBTQIA2S+ community because they identify as straight, and that’s okay too.

One of the biggest obstacles facing the intersex community are the “corrective” surgical interventions made without the patient’s and/or parents’ consent. Many intersex children grow up not knowing they were intersex. Some have reported feeling like something was “off” about their assigned gender, especially when puberty sets in and their body starts to change in ways they weren’t prepared for. When others make decisions about someone’s personal bodily autonomy, they often make the wrong choice for the person being impacted.

How to become an intersex ally

Supporting the intersex community can consist of advocating for changes to policies around nonconsensual genital surgery and other medical procedures. Our support can also take the shape of allowing intersex infants to grow up and make decisions when they get older instead of trying to physically alter their bodies through guesswork.

We can help by trying harder to understand the concept of gender nonconformity. When we grasp the notion, we can start educating others and help them understand the complexity of gender, sex, and diverse communities to prevent injustice from spreading.

intersex person

Intersex individuals are estimated to be born at a rate of 1 in every 2,000 births, which is equal to the number of natural redheads. This means you may not know it, but you have definitely met and likely interacted with someone who is intersex. By making space for intersex individuals, you can help reduce the harm they experience in society and stop the degrading treatment many are subjected to even before they can talk.

Our community wants to protect and advocate for all communities that experience discrimination, human rights violations, and violence based on their sexual identity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Standing together with intersex people means providing them with support and mental health access so they can avoid mental disorders like gender dysphoria, anxiety, and depression and find their path towards happiness just like the rest of us. And for this to happen, we have to let go of our concept of normality and start embracing nature as it is.

 

Jamez Ahmad

 

This post was written by Jamez Ahmad.

Jamez (they, them) is a proud member of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. They have over fifteen years of experience educating groups on issues relating to gender identity and sexual orientation. As a mixed-race individual, they are passionate about social justice and dismantling systems of oppression. They have an MA from USC and an MSW from Smith College. They are a Taurus who enjoys travel, fiction writing, and film.

LinkedIn – Jamez Ahmad

Trans* Pride Los Angeles (transpride.lalgbtcenter.org) is an annual event that celebrates the diversity and strength of the TGI/ENBY+ community. It is always a joy and privilege to attend this exuberant and colorful event that promotes a world of equality, equity, love, and self-acceptance. Trans* Pride is made possible due to the efforts of Trans Lounge, an organization that provides community resources and engagement for the TGI/ENBY+ community.

This year, even more than before, due to the two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was a reason for celebration and togetherness. The atmosphere was one of positive energy and solidarity, and I instantly felt a connection with everyone there.

Trans Pride L.A. 2022 was an event that celebrated the past and praised the activists who helped the community take gargantuan steps toward equality. It was also an event meant to help the community look forward to a more inclusive future.

Trans Pride Los Angeles – The Background

Trans Pride Los Angeles is held every year in June. The event is a celebration of trans people and their allies, and it is an important time for the trans community to come together and show strength in numbers. Trans Pride Los Angeles is a safe space for trans people to be themselves and celebrate their identities.

The Background

The first Trans Pride Los Angeles took place in 2010. The event was created to celebrate trans visibility and pride, and to bring the trans community together. Trans Pride L.A. has grown every year since and is now one of the most significant trans pride events in the world. It attracts trans people and allies from all over Southern California and aims to promote trans visibility and advocate for trans rights.

Trans Pride L.A. festival is, above all, a celebration of trans culture. The festival features trans-themed art, music, performances, panels, and educational resources. It is the ideal space for trans people to express themselves and have fun while raising visibility for the issues faced by trans people.

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Three Days of Events, Discussions, and Joy

This year, Trans Pride L.A. took place on June 16 – 18. Every year, the event is hosted by the Los Angeles LGBT Center which promotes trans rights, encourages discussions about the issues the community is facing on a day-to-day basis and reaches out to help trans people from all backgrounds.

art gallery

June 16 – The First Day of Trans Pride L.A.

Trans Pride L.A. was supposed to open with a job fair put together by the Center’s Transgender Economic Empowerment Project, but unfortunately, it was canceled. The next TEEP TGI/ENBY+ Job Fair will take place on Wednesday, September 14, 2022, 9:30 am – 2 pm.

Trans Pride L.A. opened with a panel hosted by Club Intersex, a community-run support group dedicated to intersex people. Club Intersex serves as a home for intersex people who want to explore what intersex identity means and discover the multi-faceted intersex community.

The discussion took place online under the name “From Invisible to Inclusion – An Intersectional Discussion on Intersex Experiences & Issues.”. A safe space for everyone interested in the topic, the panel aimed to allow members of the community to share their stories and journeys, as well as approach topics around issues that intersex adults face every day.

First Day of Trans Pride L.A

June 17 – The Second Day of Trans Pride L.A.

The second day continued the tradition of the Trans Pride L.A. as a host of the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s community forum series, Big Queer Convo. This year’s special guest was Latine/x non-binary/gender fluid actor and activist Vico Ortiz (they/them/elle), who was interviewed by actor Shaan Dasani (he/they). The discussion took place in person and was streamed online, allowing many participants to listen to discover contemporary topics through the lens of the past.

The second half of the day was dedicated to the opening of the SYZYGY gallery, home to an extravaganza of artworks from Cade Moga, D Hill, Emily Lucid, and Yozmit. The works of art were an explosion of color and meaningfulness and approached topics such as the inter-dimensional self, self-love, and the facets of being transgender. The evening ended with an in-person dance party hosted by Shane Ivan Nash (he/him).

Second Day of Trans Pride L.A

June 18 – The Third Day of Trans Pride L.A.

The third day started with a resource fair and festival meant to bring communities together and interconnect resources. The fair provided free food and drinks throughout the day, the atmosphere was exuberant and light, and the conversation flowed. I felt wrapped in the community spirit and enjoyed ample conversations about a cornucopia of topics on TGI/ENBY+ victories and needs.

Furthermore, I had the privilege to attend an impressive art exhibit and visit several rooms showing short films and hosting talkbacks. One of the highlights of the day was the event organized on the roof of the Center where participants made flower crowns with Classroom of Compassion in honor of trans icon Marsha P. Johnson. The event celebrated trans pride history and was a tribute to the community to engage in self-care.

The Village Courtyard became the scene of karaoke singing while @Moniquee.b read oracle cards, and Harmony (he/they) of TheyThem Friends taught self-defense lessons.

The day ended with a Happy Hour event presented by Tito’s Handmade Vodka and The VarieTy Show that allowed the stars of the Trans galaxy to parade their talents in person at the Renberg Theater. The show was hosted by Abdullah Hall and was streamed on the homepage of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Third Day of Trans Pride L.A

Looking forward to my next Trans Pride L.A. event!

All in all, it was a spectacular event that lifted our spirits and gave voice to a community represented by passionate advocates. I was so happy to see spirited, funny, proud trans people eager to connect and share their stories and determined to form a united front against prejudice and abuse.

It was an event made with love, out of love, founded on an ocean of positivism, hope, and ambition. Trans Pride L.A. 2022 was the perfect setting for witty and uplifting talks with members of the community and other therapists.

Events like this are the perfect background to move things forward for the trans community, brainstorm ideas, and come up with new strategies to promote its interests and familiarize the large public with trans rights, aspirations, and dreams.

From advocating for trans rights to providing resources and visibility, Trans Pride L.A. has been a vital force in the trans community. As we look towards the future, the event will continue to be a powerful voice for the community and a safe space for trans people to share experiences, learn more about each other, and grow, both as individuals and as members of the community.

We hope you’ll join our mission to promote self-care, self-acceptance, and self-love and stand with the trans community in their journey towards a world of inclusivity, equality, and, above all, love.

LGBTQ Pride Parade, also known as Gay Pride parades, events, and festivals take over the United States during the month of June. Colorful floats, participants, and a plethora of fun activities and workshops accompany what we know now as the Gay Pride Month, LGBT Pride Month, or simply, the Pride Month. The weekends of June are now filled with color, music, dance, and celebrations of everything in this community.

June is the month when the LGBT community is more visible than ever. It is the month when they remind the world that everyone is entitled to their rights, freedom, and kindness. But why do lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans need the celebrations? Why do tens of thousands gather to celebrate their sexuality and gender identity and stand in front of the world as they are? Why do they need to be present on the streets every June?

It all started with Stonewall Uprising

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, homosexuality, “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex, and other expressions of gender nonconformity were considered a crime in the United States. Being a member of the LGBT community and going to a bar or restaurant could easily lead to arrest for “disorderly conduct.” Being gay was listed as a mental health disorder in the DSM in 1952 and President Dwight Eisenhower banned “sexual perversion”, also known as being gay, from federal jobs. The police constantly abused gay, lesbian, and trans* individuals and not many people were advocating for this marginalized community.

Trans Activists Marsha Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

THE EVERETT COLLECTION; AP IMAGES

At the time, New York refused to provide licenses to bars that served members of the LGBTQ community. It all changed on June 28, 1969, when the police raided the gay club Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, New York, and arrested the patrons. They were cuffed and forced to wait outside the bar handcuffed. The crowd in front of the bar started to grow and, eventually, it sparked a revolt. Thousands of people gathered to stand with the owners of the bar, which was an important LGBT institution, and express their solidarity with the LGBT community. The protests lasted for six days, and the LGBT community was no longer silent. The movement had to be louder and more visible for everyone to understand they deserved the same rights and respect as any other member of the community.

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Many in the LGBTQ community believe that the spark that changed it all was transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, who is thought to have thrown the first brick or shot glass. Regardless if this is true or not, Marsha played an important role in the change that was about to happen. The same can be said about Sylvia Rivera, a Latinx transgender pioneer. Even though many years have passed since then, the LGBTQ wants to name those who fought for their rights at Stonewall and acknowledge the importance of trans women of color to the movement.

Stonewall was the tipping point for the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. People from major cities started rallying with the movement. Publications were created to support gay rights, activists took over the streets, and the gay community decided to have a voice. This was the beginning of a movement meant to outlaw discriminatory laws and practices against the LGBT community.

lgbtq flags

The first Gay Pride parade

Five months after the Stonewall rally in New York, activists Craig Rodwell, Fred Sargeant, Ellen Brody, and Linda Rhodes came up with the idea of organizing a march in New York to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the uprising. The proposal was made to the Eastern Regional Conference of Homophile Organizations (ERCHO) and included an essential aspect: the march was to be held with “no dress or age regulations.”

The march was approved, and the Christopher Street Liberation Day Umbrella Committee planned it. The people involved in the planning met in Craig Rodwell’s apartment and bookstore and used the bookstore’s mailing list to spread the word. The initial slogan of the march was “gay power.” However, L. Craig Schoonmaker, a member of the committee, thought that gay individuals may lack real power to make a change, but they do have pride.

This is how the “gay pride” movement came to life. On June 28, 1970, celebrating the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the first gay pride procession in the U.S. made history on the streets of New York. It was also known as the Christopher Street Liberation Day march after the street where the procession originated and turned into one week-long celebration of freedom for the LGBT community. New York wasn’t alone in the fight against discrimination and abuse against the LGBTQ community. Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco joined the celebration, and Gay Pride or Gay Freedom parades enlivened their streets too, and gave a voice to the movement.

month of Pride

June, the month of Gay Pride

And so, June became Pride Month. Although it has been celebrated for more than 50 years, President Bill Clinton officially declared June as Gay and Lesbian Pride Month in 2000. Eleven years later, in 2011, President Barack Obama named it the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.

Pride Month is a month of celebration and awareness. The parades, the picnics, the workshops, and the concerts are all a joyous opportunity to get together and praise the people who had the courage to stand up and fight for equality and freedom. They are an occasion for the LGBT community to feel proud and walk tall.

However, Pride Month is not only about feasts and rainbows. It’s also about remembering those who have made this possible through hard work, dedication, and commitment to the cause, and those who have lost their lives to hate crimes, mental health, substance use, homelessness, housing insecurities, food insecurities, or HIV/AIDS.

Every Gay Pride event celebrates the past but looks into the future, a future with no discrimination, violence, and hate towards the community. Pride celebrations and community events are organized to serve as a reminder that the LGBT community is just as “normal” as the rest of us, and no one should be marginalized because of their sexuality or gender identity.

LGBTQ community

Let the parades fill the streets

Many feel that not much would have changed if political activism and the gay rights movement hadn’t gotten louder and stronger. Attitudes toward the LGBTQ community may have continued to stay the same, and abuse and discrimination would have been accepted as the status quo. Often being silent is not an option for marginalized and ostracized communities, the Stonewall riot was proof that things were yearning to change.

But there is still so much work to be done. The celebration of pride has to extend beyond the month of June. The annual celebrations are also a reminder that there is still much to accomplish for the LGBT community. It’s true that same-sex marriage is now legal, but adoption rights vary from state to state. The community continues to be discriminated against at work and not given the work opportunities they deserve and, worst of all, parents continue to kick out kids who have the courage to come out.

Furthermore, more and more anti-LGBTQ legislation bills keep showing up on the legislators’ tables. This year alone, over 325 bills, of which 130 target transgender rights, have been put in motion by Republicans. Last year, 268 bills were introduced, and 27 became laws. In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis passed a bill that bans instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity. Known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, this piece of legislation has found its echo in states like Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, and Louisiana, and led to similar proposals.

 fill the streets

It seems that instead of going forward, some members of our society want to drag us back to the Dark Ages of the LGBTQ community. While activists struggle to earn new rights for the members of the community to help them live safe, healthy, and fulfilled lives, their already rightfully-earned rights are once again at risk. The discussion about the LGBTQ community and their rights needs to be kept open, and people have to be supportive of each other and show up for them.

Mental illness is plaguing the LGBT community, and the voices of those suffering are not loud enough for everyone to hear them. Mental health is a major concern for members of the community. They need to know they can talk about their fears, thoughts, and experiences in a safe environment. Therapists need to learn to be inclusive, and their community needs to embrace their uniqueness.

Awareness is vital for the health of the LGBT community and, consequently, for our society. And this is why the parades should keep filling the streets, and the rainbow flags should keep fluttering in the wind so that we all remember that unity and tolerance can save lives and change the world.

Up until our era of awakening, “vulnerability” was deemed an “ugly” word if not repulsive. Generations before us were taught to be strong, endure, and power through. You were not to talk about your emotions or show them in any way. You were to strive for perfection and settle for nothing less. You were to be the best at everything, or at least pretend to be. There was no other way if you wanted society to consider you worthy and successful.

Humanity has been blessed with such a complex spectrum of emotions. We have the ability to experience an astonishing palette of feelings. But we tend to push them away if they don’t have positive connotations. Vulnerability is often at the top of the list of emotions we reject simply because much of society has told us that it is not becoming to expose your emotions to the world and shed your emotional armory. Why should we expose our authentic selves to the world and risk being taken advantage of, ridiculed, or mocked? 

What is vulnerability?

There is no conversation about vulnerability without citing the work of Dr. Brené Brown and her talks and books about the power of vulnerability and the courage to break our vulnerability armor and embrace the entire palette of our emotions. 

Dr. Brené Brown has dedicated the last two decades of her life to studying vulnerability, courage, empathy, and shame. She defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” Vulnerability can take many shapes. It can be the feeling you get when you step out of your comfort zone, the rapid breathing you feel when you share your emotions, the pit drop in your stomach when you see someone you like, or the inability to speak when you become overly emotional.

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All these feelings help make sense of why we may feel fearful to be vulnerable. However, they shouldn’t stop us from taking that leap into the healing abyss of our emotions. The rewards make all the sudden turns and twists of our inner journey worth it. Dr. Brené Brown mentions that “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.” Certainly, the chance to access all this is worth shedding perceived control and exposing our personal vulnerability.

A frozen nervous system, the inability to speak, and tense muscles are all physical manifestations of vulnerability. How can something that may interrupt our daily life be the path to leading a life of courage and emotional plenitude? How can vulnerability lead to a meaningful connection with people in our lives? How can vulnerability add balance to our mental health and allow us to get to know ourselves and bring light to our true needs?

vulnerability

What are the benefits of vulnerability?

If you look back on some of the most dramatic events in your life, you’ll notice that the times when you felt more vulnerable and dared to expose your emotions were the times when you showed the most courage. Furthermore, the times when you stepped out of your comfort zone – taking a new class, learning a new skill, discovering a new place – were also the times when you opened yourself to experience new emotions and grew as a person.

Vulnerability is indeed the “core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness” in the words of best-selling author Dr. Brené Brown, but when we become aware of the epidemic of shame that plagues our lives, stand up to fear, raise our voices to ask for what we deserve, say no when we need to, or admit that we are wrong, we start to reap the benefits of embracing vulnerability.

benefits of vulnerability

When our vulnerability armor comes down, and we dare to feel shame, uncertainty, anxiety, and fear, we can experience:

  • empathy and understanding
  • trust and intimacy in a relationship
  • increased self-worth
  • gratitude
  • creativity
  • personal awareness and accountability
  • personal growth
  • our accurate measure of courage

Vulnerability is the only way to get to know our authentic selves. It opens the path to growth and gives us the courage to fight the need to please others and focus on our well-being. Vulnerability helps us bring to light all our emotions and process them. It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of the world without your armor, but this is the only way toward authentic and meaningful connections with others.

Types of vulnerability

While vulnerability means the same thing in every circumstance, it does take different shapes depending on the environment where we manifest it. 

Vulnerability in relationships

Our relationships benefit the most from our exposed vulnerability. Many fear to reveal their true selves and needs out of shame or fear of rejection or judgment but it’s when you reveal yourself from beyond your shield of cynicism and fear that you get to establish an authentic and meaningful connection with the people in your life. Vulnerability is indeed the birthplace of joy and the one and true path to human connection.

So, have the difficult conversations, ask for what you need, and talk about your hopes and fears. You are both imperfect human beings empowered by your vulnerability. Be patient and take small steps. This cannot be achieved overnight and should not be achieved in a haste. Build that trust, cultivate closeness, and “choose courage over comfort.”

Vulnerability in relationships

Vulnerability in the workplace

The workplace might be considered the last place where you would show your emotions and be vulnerable. You have an image to build and a reputation to protect. However, many of us fall prey to doubts, incessant comparisons with our colleagues, or the imposter syndrome where we feel as if we are not worthy of all our achievements. Remember that self-doubt is paramount for growth. Accept it as part of who you are and work to improve your self-confidence. Ask for help when you need it. Vulnerability is often the foundation of excellent teamwork.

Leaders especially fear showing any crack in their vulnerability armor out of fear of losing the respect of their peers. However, visionary leadership is born out of courage, and courage stems from vulnerability. You can’t dissociate them and, honestly, you shouldn’t even try. Authentic leadership can only be the result of daring leaders who have embraced their vulnerability. Transformative leaders will never hide in their comfort zone. If your dream is to become a confident leader who practices true leadership, you need to be willing to experience shame and fear. 

Vulnerability in community

Too many generations have lost their true selves because they feared “what people are going to say.” Shame has crushed so many spirits and broken so many lives that it hurts just to think about it. Parents have taught their children to always look and act impeccably, and children have learned that only “positive” emotions are acceptable. We are now afraid to say no to other people just because they would think “bad things” about us or label us as selfish.

When you embrace your vulnerability, you allow yourself to invite only the people you want in your life. You give yourself permission to make the best decisions for yourself and your family and simply remove yourself from situations you are not comfortable with. You are empowered to set healthy boundaries and rearrange your priorities to better reflect your needs.

Vulnerability in community

How to embrace vulnerability?

The key to becoming comfortable with your own vulnerability is to let things fall apart and give up on this hurtful idea that we have to be in control at all times. The closer you get to your own vulnerability, the more your life is going to change. Vulnerability helps you improve your self-awareness and admit the fact that you don’t know everything and you shouldn’t in the first place. It frees you from the prison of perfection and validation and opens the way to accepting risk, uncertainty, and that dreaded feeling of being uncomfortable.

When you break down the walls around your comfort zone and step into the unknown, you get to explore, learn, and grow. You will see your relationships in a different light and start to understand the thought process behind your decisions. You learn to love with all your heart. What can be more beautiful than becoming a “wholehearted” being, as Dr. Brené Brown describes people who embrace their vulnerability and dare to love without conditions?

Find the courage to see beyond the myths of vulnerability. Understand that vulnerability is not weakness or a dispensable set of emotions. Vulnerability should not be used as a bargaining chip or confused with full disclosure. It shouldn’t be used recklessly but only manifested in front of the people who deserve our truth. Vulnerability creates a sense of belonging, the innate need we all have in our quest for happiness. It should be used as a foundation of our relationships and a way to create new connections.

Vulnerability gives us access to profound insights about ourselves. These transformative insights help us build self-esteem, combat anxiety and depression, reduce stress, and live fuller lives. Leading a meaningful life and having profound connections with other people can improve both our physical and mental health. Take the time to acknowledge your emotions without judgment, look for value in your life and relationships, and practice vulnerability every day. 

Prefer to watch? Below is the full interview with special guest Caitlin Harrison that served as the original inspiration for this article.

Religion has always played an important role in many communities. Some people find comfort and peace in religion, while others cling to the hope it provides when tragedy occurs. Religion was meant to bring people together, provide a safe space for like-minded individuals that have a shared belief system, and create rituals to encourage togetherness, the feeling of belonging, and unity.

However, things take a turn for the worse when religion becomes indoctrination. This is when religion forgoes its original purpose of providing love and hope and becomes a reason for psychological and physical abuse. When members of a congregation experience a loss of sense of autonomy, shame associated with their emotions, and a constant fear of punishment from a religious leader, parent, guardian, or even the divine itself, religion turns into a source of trauma and mental disorders.

sad guy

What are the causes of religious trauma?

Religious trauma is the result of different experiences that occur in a religious community, within a church, or spiritual community that exposes the members to indoctrination messages, coercion, humiliation, embarrassment, and abuse. Here are some of the instances that may lead to religious trauma:

  • Exposure to religious leaders who insist on being the only source of authority in the life of congregants and base their preaching on cultivating fear and shame
  • A religious institution that requires financial participation or sacrifice for members to access blessings or eternal life from a god or deity
  • Individuals in positions of power who force members to participate in religious ceremonies or use fear of hell or punishment to earn their abnegation
  • Suppression of normal child development through limited access to information and the teaching of dysfunctional beliefs
  • Stifling independent thinking and creating self-doubt, to diminish the agency of members
  • Victimization through physical and/or sexual abuse, as well as constant exposure to unhealthy sexual views and applying punishment to achieve discipline, obedience, and purity of soul

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What are the symptoms of religious trauma?

Religious trauma manifests in different forms, and just like with any other type of trauma, it needs to be acknowledged before it can be treated. The support of therapists with knowledge in the field of trauma-informed care is essential for the well-being and health of religious trauma survivors who often find themselves experiencing symptoms like:

Cognitive deficiencies – confusion, perfectionism, lack of self-confidence and self-respect, and difficulty with decision-making skills.

Emotional challenges – anger, difficulty with pleasure, overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame, lethargy, anxiety disorders, and depression.

Social obstacles – difficulty forming healthy relationships, sexual difficulty, loss of social network, sense of isolation, and impeded social development.

PTSD symptoms – nightmares, panic attacks, fear, flashbacks, dissociation, etc.

sad

What is religious trauma syndrome?

Religious trauma syndrome (RTS) is a consequence of religious trauma. While it is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it’s a term that has been gaining traction. RTS manifests in most people who have suffered religious abuse or have been exposed to dysfunctional beliefs due to their religious affiliation.

People struggling with RTS are usually individuals who have left a dogmatic religion or have abandoned a belief system that led to their indoctrination. This major step marks the beginning of their new life outside a controlling environment or religious figure and opens the door to freedom, but also to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Finding themselves in a world without an “official” leader and guidance, where they need to rely on their own independent thinking, people with RTS are often exposed to a roller-coaster of emotions where the beatitude and excitement of being free alternate with an overwhelming state of fear, grief, rage, panic attacks, and depression.

depression

The effects of religious trauma

Religious trauma can emotionally paralyze an individual and significantly impact their mental health. Authoritarian religions equip individuals with a set of negative beliefs that have no practical use in the real world. Furthermore, religious beliefs founded on emotional and physical abuse may continue to impact lives for a long time after the individuals have found the strength to release themselves from the yoke of damaging spiritual beliefs and traumatic religious experiences.

The effects of religious trauma may make their presence felt in different aspects of life. From the feeling that they don’t belong in the real world and the belief they are detached from everything that happens culturally around them to the constant guilt, shame, and fear that rule supreme. People who have experienced religious trauma may face an avalanche of emotions.

trauma syndrome

While people suffering from RTS may feel relieved and hopeful to be free of the religious dogma, they may continue to feel ostracized by the community they left behind and experience a constant fear of being punished by the superior being they used to worship.

The impact of religious trauma on LGBTQ individuals

The contradictory emotions brought on by religious trauma are often experienced by members of the LGBTQ community. The members of this community who have been raised or exposed to toxic religious beliefs may find themselves stuck in shame, rejection, and fear of divine damnation. Some folks may even be forced into conversion therapy which can cause long damaging effects. It has been proven that this unethical treatment is ineffective and harmful. Toxic indoctrination can be overcome with the help of mental health professionals, but it requires work and the belief that while the road ahead is long, you have the tools you need to conquer all obstacles.

LGBTQ

Some LGTBQ people find a way to overcome fear and shame by rejecting organized religion and learning to accept and love themselves exactly as they are. Others find different faith communities that cherish their individuality and refrain from judging or using fear and shame as weapons. Whether they choose to lose their faith or embrace healthy spiritual beliefs, the damage of religious trauma will continue to linger if they do not take the time to process it accordingly.

If you need help processing the nightmares, fear, and guilt associated with the negative conditioning left behind from religious trauma, working together with your therapist can be immensely helpful. It will give you access to the necessary tools to learn to internalize love, detach yourself from dogma, overcome mental illness, and find a new path towards emotional, mental, and spiritual balance.

Resources for Folx Wanting Support and Community

Books on Religious Trauma written by White authors:

Books on Religious Trauma written by BIPOC authors:

Books on Religious Trauma written by Queer authors:

Books on Religious Trauma outside of Christianity:

Books on Religious Trauma and Sexual Healing:

Books on Religious Trauma and pursuing non-religion afterwards:

Podcasts:

  • Latter-Day Lesbian: an ex-Mormon gay woman who tackles religious trauma and later-in-life LGBTQ issues with her friend.
  • This Little Light of Mine is an LGBTQ+ tale of terror (growing up as a closeted Gay Christian in the Evangelical church) that led to trauma (cPTSD, religious trauma, spiritual abuse, sexual abuse, addiction) to what I intend to become triumph.
  • Marie, Myself, & I: Marie LePage D’Elephant talks about neurodivergence, ethical non-monogamy, sexuality, religious trauma, secular spirituality, and all things deconstructive.
  • Heal Religious Trauma: Religious Trauma Syndrome is real! And with it comes symptoms of PTSD and CPTSD, ranging anywhere from mild to severe. Join Advanced Life Coach, NLP Practitioner and Hypnotherapist Stevie Noah (a religious trauma survivor) as she navigates the challenges and helps other survivors heal and reinvent their lives!
  • Queer After Religion: The QAR Podcast seeks to celebrate the incredible stories of queer people who have left authoritarian religion and are finding a new way. Ex-religious and former fundamentalist host, Derek Matthew Miller, offers up intimate questions and topics for his guests as they discuss the intersection of religion and queerness, life lessons, and how to find peace, love, and progress through it all.
  • Dirty Rotten Church Kids: Millennial dads figuring out life, art and culture on the other side of the evangelical bubble

This past weekend, on September 18th, I had the privilege of attending the Long Beach Trans Pride Festival. I wanted to take a moment to share a little about the event and why it’s so important to me. As you know, I’m an LGBTQIA+ affirmative therapist in the Los Angeles area. I’ve been working in this field for over 16 years. I help the people of the community navigate the layers of gender, sexuality, culture, and race in a world that is still learning to accept and embrace the full spectrum of unique and beautiful expressions that exist.

Julia at Long Beach Trans Pride Festival

Over the same period, I’ve also been an advocate for the community. I’ve experienced, witnessed, and fought against the discrimination and oppression that a gender non-conforming community faces. For these reasons, when possible, I feel privileged and honored to be able to attend events like the Long Beach Trans Pride Festival. It’s both encouraging and a sign of progress to see many wonderful people and organizations dedicated to helping the lives of trans individuals and advocating for the transgender community.

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What is the Long Beach Trans Pride Festival?

The Long Beach Trans Pride Festival began as an idea conceived by Alexa Castanon because she wanted to highlight trans people living, working, and thriving in Long Beach. She then took her vision to her friend Angel Macias. They began by creating Angels on Earth, an awards banquet to recognize transgender community members who were committing time and resources to help trans people but didn’t receive any compensation for their services.

Long Beach Trans Pride Booth at Festival

The stories of dedication, caring, and commitment inspired Angel to do more. Her goal was to utilize the platform to spread the message that members of the Trans Community deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just like any other human being. That their lives are just as valuable and important as those of our cisgender brothers and sisters.
After witnessing the tragic killings of trans women of color, and attending vigils and rallies denouncing them, Angel decided to go even further. In collaboration with Alexa and other Trans members at California Families in Focus, they created the Long Beach Trans Pride Festival. The one-day event, calls upon the amazing, talented, and courageous members of the Long Beach Community to help educate, elevate and encourage Trans and gender non-conforming people.

In It Together

The festival was incredible, the atmosphere reverberated with positive energy. You could feel the openness, love, and support that every person was experiencing at the event. In addition to the attendees, there were also several organizations that invested time, money, and resources to make the event such a success. These organizations work hard to help people in various communities, and it is clear that their work and support are part of what makes big successes like the festival possible. Though I can’t list every organization, I do want to call out a few that supported the event but also do fantastic work for the community.

APLA Booth at Long Beach Trans Pride Festival

APLA Health

AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health is the largest founded in 1983. Almost 4 decades later they are one of the largest non-profit HIV service organizations in the United States. Their mission is to “achieve health care equity and promote well-being for the LGBT and other underserved communities and people living with and affected by HIV.” This is a fantastic organization that I personally have a lot of experience with, and it was great to see them at the festival standing by their commitment to helping the community.

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach Booth at the Trans Pride Festival

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach

The LGBTQ Center Long Beach has been around since 1980 and provides a variety of health, social, advocacy, legal, and service programs to the LGBTQ community in the Greater Long Beach area. This tremendous organization has been working hard to help the LGBTQ community for just over 40 years. I worked at the LA LGBTQ Center for a portion of my career and can attest to the amazing work that happens at these centers. They help many, many people and it was wonderful to see them showing support at the festival.

APIT booth at Trans Pride Long Beach Festival

APAIT

APAIT was established in 1987 as a grassroots AIDS service organization for Asian and Pacific Islanders suffering from AIDS. Over the past 30+ years, they’ve grown their vision to advocate, educate, and achieve optimal health and well-being for vulnerable communities. They are a large organization that works hard to provide helpful programs and resources for the communities they serve. Their presence at the Trans Pride festival is just another sign of their unparalleled commitment.

Translatina Coalition at Trans Pride Long Beach Festival

TransLatin@ Coalition

The TransLatin@ Coalition hasn’t been around as long as some of the others but they do excellent work. It was established in 2009 by a group of transgender and gender non-conforming and Intersex (TGI) immigrant women. Their focus is helping the TGI Latin@ immigrants living in the United States. It was great to see them at the Pride festival representing who they are and what they do.

TransLounge booth at Trans Pride Long Beach Festival

Trans* Lounge

Trans* Lounge is a bit different than the other organizations on this list. They are a program within the Cultural Arts & Education Department within the Los Angeles LGBT Center. I worked at the Los Angeles LGBT Center for a portion of my career and Trans* Lounge is an integral part of the organization. Trans* Lounge offers a variety of education and empowerment programs that offer free classes and events for the TGI/ENBY+ community. It is relatively new, having been created in mid-2015. They were a welcomed presence at the Pride festival.

A Fantastic Success

Overall, the Long Beach Trans Pride Festival was a fantastic success. It was amazing to see so many people show up to demonstrate their support. I spoke with numerous friends at the event, some of them are members of the community, therapists, or employees at some of these organizations. Everyone was thrilled with the turnout, the organization of the event and grateful to support such an important cause. Please note that this is not a complete list of the organizations that attended, this would be a very long post if I went through all of them. I just listed a few that stood out to me but there were many more people and organizations that helped make the event the resounding success that it was. I know I won’t miss the next one, I had an incredible time and even my puppy had fun.

Julia with puppy at Long Beach Trans Pride Festival

You already know exercise is good for your physical health. The numerous benefits of exercise have been praised for decades now. It helps you burn calories and stay fit, protects your heart health, and improves your quality of life. But did you know that exercise has mental health benefits too? Studies have shown that exercise can be an effective tool against stress, depression, and anxiety.

While patients who battle mental health disorders often lack the motivation to practice any physical activity, an active lifestyle may help you keep your mental health conditions under control. Moreover, regular exercise can prevent mental health problems before they start.

How can exercise help with mental illness?

One of the positive effects of physical exercise is its power to enhance well-being. Exercise decreases stress hormones leading to a boost of endorphins, the chemicals that make us “feel good”. This process enhances our mood and improves energy levels. Consequently, we feel more positive and sleep better.

Physical activity can pull us out of the vicious circle of negative thoughts and emotions, often the source of our depression or anxiety, and redirect our focus towards the activity at hand. Exercise is often seen as a buffer against stress. While stress is an innate part of our life, people who work out regularly are less affected by it and find it easier to cope with everything life throws at them.

Exercise gives you a boost of self-confidence, enhances your self-esteem, and makes you feel better about yourself. Whether this happens because you lose weight, get more toned, or simply feel healthier, this benefit of exercise is all about making peace with yourself. Physical activity relieves tension and promotes mindfulness. While you focus on your yoga poses, weight training, or any other type of exercise, you concentrate entirely on your body and manage to be present, away from worries and negative thoughts that consume you. 

Additionally, exercise promotes social interaction and gives you the chance to meet new people, socialize, and escape your bubble of worries. Sometimes, a simple conversation or a smile is enough to boost our mood and feel grateful for what we have. Moreover, exercise materializes into a positive activity that helps you cope in a healthy way.

A study shows that running 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour reduces the risk of major depression by 26%. Moreover, maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent individuals from relapsing and promotes various changes in the brain to help you feel calmer and at peace.

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What exercise should I do for mental health?

There are many types of exercise that can contribute to your mental health and well-being. All physical activity promotes increased energy levels, stamina, and positivity. You should find exercises that you enjoy to make it easier for you to follow a regular schedule. It is important to remember that when we say physical activity we include everything from walking to formal exercise programs. Exercise is not only about swimming, running, or lifting weights. Daily physical activities like household chores, gardening, washing your car, or taking the stairs, all count and make a difference. Now, it would be great if you were to adopt a regular exercise routine, to add a certain structure to your day that will keep you balanced and grounded. You can try one of these types of exercise:

  • Yoga – a 2018 Science Direct study shows that yoga can help reduce stress levels, lower heart rate, increase energy, and ameliorate the symptoms of depression and anxiety;
  • Tai chi – an ancient Chinese martial art, this type of exercise, according to Science Daily, reduces stress and anxiety, contributes to the treatment of depression, and increases self-esteem;
  • Aerobic exercise – whether it is jogging, swimming, playing basketball, or cycling, regular aerobic exercise improves mental health and reduces the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and panic disorder.

Regardless of the type of exercise you choose, you can expect a prompt release of endorphins, an increased sense of self-efficacy, and lower levels of anxiety and depression. Exercise works just like an antidepressant by increasing the brain’s levels of neurotransmitters and enhancing mood.

How often should I exercise to see results?

Fortunately, you don’t have to exercise for hours to reap the beneficial effects exercise has on your well-being and mental health. Only 30 minutes of exercise a day for three to five days a week will be more than enough for you to feel more confident, happier, and less anxious. However, even smaller amounts of moderate exercise, such as 10 or 15 minutes at a time, may help. You can break your exercise schedule into several short sessions or simply plan your physical activity according to your daily routine. Choose to take the stairs, park farther away from your destination or cycle to work.

Remember that more exercise is not necessarily better for you. You don’t need to run 10k to improve your mental health and emotional well-being. The key is consistency. Regular physical activity over a long period of time beats any intense physical activity practiced sporadically.

Time Magazine explains, researchers have found a higher mental health burden for people who exercise for more than six hours a week than for those who keep it to three to five times a week. The answer is not at all difficult to understand: basically, shorter exercise sessions are easier to fit in our daily routine and promote consistency.

Nevertheless, before you begin an exercise program, discuss it with a health professional. They can help you choose the best form of exercise for you depending on your health, medication, fitness level, and lifestyle.

Whether you want to exercise for depression, anxiety, or any other mental health disorders, you should start slowly and keep experimenting until you find the perfect type of exercise for you. Our bodies are different and we should respect their limits. Make a commitment to your exercise plan and never overdo it. The role of exercise is to make you healthier and happier. However, if you start seeing it as a burden or task, it loses its therapeutic effects and just adds to your anxieties.

Yoga

What is Mindful Self-Compassion?

Why do so many people stumble or struggle with being kind to themselves? Why is it often easier to be kind to others and not to ourselves? A common fear around self-compassion is that it’s merely a form of self-pity.

Self-pity comes from a perspective of “poor me”, feeling sorry for yourself. Compassion involves recognizing the difficulty of the situation and research shows that those who practice it, focus on their situation or circumstances less overall. For this reason, they usually have better overall mental health than those that do not practice self-compassion.

Mindful self-compassion is the combination of two critical practices that should be applied in daily life — Mindfulness and self-compassion.

What is mindfulness?

Let’s start with the term mindfulness. You’ve probably heard about mindfulness, maybe even seen some books, or heard a podcast on the subject. Mindfulness requires that you bring your attention to the present moment. Being fully conscious and aware of all that is happening right now. This means letting go of those issues you have to deal with at work tomorrow, the bills at the end of the month, the dinner you have to cook for your family, etc. Release everything that is not of the present moment.

Girl with her eyes closed and smiling

Through mindfulness, you replace all those thoughts keeping your mind busy, with all the feelings and sensations you are experiencing right now. Feel each breath as it enters and leaves your body, listen carefully to the sounds around you, focus on all the signals your body is sending you from head to toe. Thoughts from the past or the future may enter, but don’t hang onto them. Let them go with your breath and return to silence, simply experiencing all the sensations within and around you.

Don’t be discouraged, it takes practice to hone the skills of mindfulness. Initially, you may get only a few seconds before thoughts about the past or the future rush back in. Treat yourself with kindness, don’t engage with them, don’t deny them, let them be, and patiently let them go. Welcome to the conscious present moment.

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What is self-compassion?

The second piece to mindful self-compassion begins with understanding what is compassion. Imagine that your best friend, or your child, came to you because they had a rough day. Maybe teachers or friends had some harsh criticism for them and they are experiencing some difficult or challenging emotions related to this.

In this situation, most people would show their best friend or their child some degree of compassion. This would entail acknowledging their painful emotions and responding with warmth, caring, and kindness. We’ve all been on the other side of this situation as well, it might have been a parent, a friend, or a skilled teacher, but we’ve all been shown compassion at some point in our lives.

I can already hear the chorus of “this is obvious” and that’s good. But let me ask you, when was the last time you extended that same warmth, caring, and kindness to yourself?

That is precisely what self-compassion is. When faced with our own personal shortcomings and struggles, most people are quick to judge, condemn, and punish themselves. Even now, some of you are defending that behavior. I can hear you, “my struggles occur because I made a mistake”, “I have high standards”, “there’s no excuse for not achieving my goals”, etc.
The people that treat us that way in our personal lives, we usually don’t keep around for very long. So we should make it our goal to practice self-compassion and focus on achieving that goal so that we can be kinder to ourselves.

The 3 Elements of Self-Compassion

Self-Kindness vs Self-Judgement

Compassion emphasizes being kind to yourself. The world is a difficult place, and it’s not always possible to be or achieve what you want. It’s great to pursue ambitious goals. The key is when we fall short, to recognize the difficulties and our imperfection, to realize that a shortcoming does not make us inadequate or incomplete. Judging ourselves for the failure creates suffering that is expressed as stress, frustration, and self-criticism.

Common Humanity vs Isolation

In the face of our defeats, many have a tendency to feel like they are the only ones who have failed. That they alone are damaged in some way and that’s the reason for the failure. The truth is the opposite. All humans are imperfect, fragile, and have many shortcomings. It’s not something to be ashamed of or a reason to judge yourself. Those experiences, those areas for improvement, those failures are shared by all of humanity, not just you.

Mindfulness vs Over-Identification

The last piece is the mindfulness element. This requires that we recognize our fears and emotions when faced with our struggles and hold our attention on keeping them in perspective. Approach the situation and your feelings with openness and clarity. Be fully present in your emotions without suppressing them or amplifying them. This takes focus and practice, but it’s something that once you learn will be beneficial in your daily life.

Self-Compassion Training Exercises

Compassion is like a muscle, the more you practice it the more it develops. So to help you get started on your compassion journey, below are 3 exercises you can do to start leveling up your self-compassion skills.

How would you treat a friend?

As mentioned earlier, we’re usually much better at showing compassion to others than we are to ourselves. So reframe your situation and imagine how you would treat a friend experiencing what you are going through. What would you tell them? How is it different than what you have been telling yourself? Should it be different?

Changing your critical self-talk

The way we talk to ourselves has a profound effect on all areas of our life. Identifying negative self-talk and replacing it with more positive communication is the foundation for improving the way you relate to yourself. This one takes a lot of practice, stick with it.

Keep a self-compassion journal

For some, writing down your feelings can help you process them. Doing it from the perspective of compassion can enhance your mental well-being. Sometimes reviewing our thoughts later when we have a cooler head can reveal issues in the way we reason or communicate with ourselves.

Woman looking at herself in the mirror

Want to Learn More?

Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) was developed by Christopher Germer and Kristin Neff. They have written books on the subject and have a mindful self-compassion program and workshops. As authors and teachers, they have developed and taught a variety of self-compassion practices. They have videos, courses, workbooks, compassion training programs, and are a tremendous resource for all things related to compassion.