To say I lacked confidence as I left the closet behind and dipped my pinky toe into the waters of the LGBTI community would be putting it lightly. While coming out is an action that takes courage in itself, it literally took me years to build up the strength to do it. I could have never guessed that one day I would have the confidence to live my life without fear or shame, let alone regularly write about it for the world to examine.
I’m often told by those who have known me both pre- and post-coming out that they noticed a striking shift in my confidence after I shared my bisexuality with the world. As I sat down to write this article, for the first time I took a hard look at what spurred this change in myself and how others perceived me. Ultimately, I came to the following conclusion: by deciding to not only acknowledge, but celebrate what was once my deepest, darkest secret — of which the thought of exposure filled me with fear — I gave myself the chance to learn who the real me was. By proudly exposing this part of myself, I now had the opportunity to learn how to be confident in every aspect of my life.
That’s not to say it has been easy to make this change, as confidence is not a natural characteristic of mine. Instead, it is a trait I must work on daily. There are some days where it is easy; there are others where I am so riddled with insecurities and fears that I don’t even want to leave my apartment. But over the years this routine of practicing confidence — of forcing myself to acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses, accomplishments and failures, and acts of courage and fears — has done something wonderful for me: it has given me the security to be proud of who I am, as a bi man, friend, writer, brother, son, and so much more.
I don’t have the blind confidence that some individuals seem to be born with and, though I used to be insanely jealous of those who possess that level of complete self-assurance, I am now grateful that my confidence is something I have to continuously work on. I say that because I think in order to be a truly confident person, you must understand your faults, fears, and insecurities just as well as their opposites. If you’re unwilling to acknowledge and work on areas in which you might be lacking, are you truly a confident person?
For me, this balanced approach to confidence has meant many things; conquering the fear of publicly announcing my bisexuality was the first of many challenges to overcome. For example, I was terrified to move to the city with hardly a penny to my name and a contract job, but I took the plunge and am still happy to call the city my home today. I was frightened to submit my writing to outlets for consideration, but I took a chance and am now three years into the best writing job I have ever had. Not every instance where my confidence has overcome my concerns has worked out how I hoped, but the fact that I am now brave enough to at least try is still a significant change from the insecure man I used to be. I’ll consider that a win any day.
This approach has also helped me to understand myself on a much deeper level than ever before. I can now recognize my positive and negative attributes equally. While I was a pro at picking out my less-than-desirable characteristics growing up, I have now given myself permission to be proud of the good traits I possess as well. The positives I attribute to myself may not be considered desirable by all, and frankly, that’s perfectly fine. What’s important is that I now allow myself to recognize my whole being, not just my insecurities, faults, or fears. I am, as we all are, imperfect, but that doesn’t mean I am completely devoid of positive qualities either.
Of course, it’s still hard for me to list even one of my self-perceived good characteristics after a lifetime of lacking confidence and a fear of being viewed as vain or arrogant. However, I persist in this practice because it has changed my life for the better. By addressing and overcoming my fears, I have been able to live a life my closeted self could have never dreamed of. By truly trying to understand myself — the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly, the strengths and weaknesses — I’m able to cultivate feelings of satisfaction and confidence that external praise could never match. Simply put, I’ve learned to be confident in myself as a bi man and beyond. That is something no one can ever take away from me.