I’ve mentioned the imposter syndrome in pasing before in my post about what therapy has shown me. At the time I mentioned worrying that I hadn’t done enough. Essentially worrying that people who had openly “been gay longer” had more authority than I do. It’s like being the new guy in the workplace. I think in a way it’s that and more. It’s more like worrying that I won’t be accepted into the clubhouse. Is there a handshake, no one told me?
I’m being flippant but joking about things that really worry me is part of my defense mechanism. This has been a niggling thought in the back of my head for awhile now. And more than that on some unconscious level I’ve lived a huge part of my life trying to control the perceptions of others. So my brain is practically wired for worrying about what others think.
Are other gay men going to hear my story and find fault? Do they think it’s off-putting that I lived in the closet so long? I mean I hear people talk about coming out “late” in their 20’s and I made it to all the way to 51 years old before I told another human being my truth. I mean, I think 20’s for people in my generation wasn’t so unusual but for later generations it is. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue whether 50+ is late. I want to say that after all this I’m finally over caring what others think but clearly that is not the case. Goals and aspirations but still room to improve there.
In various groups and on various social media platforms I’ve encountered other men who came out in their 40’s and beyond. I’ve come across some older than me who came out about the same age I am now but are a bit further along in their post-closet journey. Getting to hear from people who walked a similar path is a huge help. But I’ve also seen some of the less helpful responses which just heighten my anxiety. Like one guy who came posted he had come out to his wife after over 30 years of marriage. And another gay man instead of saying something helpful responded something to the effect that 30 years was too much – that he should have figured that out long ago. And then there was this comment I saw to another guy coming out in his 60’s. I had to screenshot this one…
Despite not being the person addressed, I nearly responded to that comment. I hate the suggestion of a trauma contest. Which was more traumatic? Not being your true self for decades of your life or the trauma inflicted by homophobes on openly gay men? We’re all victims of the same societal stigma. I can’t say which is worse having only my own experience to go from but I don’t think it’s remotely productive to go down the path of who had it worse.
The sane sensible side of me knows that worrying about people who would be that judgemental without even knowing someone is pointless. I can’t control others and honestly I can’t control their perception of me beyond the most superficial level. But as I mentioned in the last post, my brain has spent years telling me that there’s always something to be anxious about. So not only is my brain looking for new things to worry about it loves to find evidence like that! And then if I’m uncertain about someone’s feelings I’m very likely bouncing to these sorts of conclusions.
I’m dating myself, but Calgon take me away!
Hopefully I can engage my sane brane a little bit more to recognize when I’m letting myself imagine what others might be thinking of me. That was part of the reason that I wrote this, to verbalize the fear and the source(s) of it, etc. But also of course, it might help someone else going through the same thing, you know? Another reason for my blog and the reason I read so many others and listen to so many podcasts is it helps to know you’re not alone.