Choose to Shine Your Brightest in 2019

Becoming your best takes hard work, but the effort is worth it.

Posted Jan 07, 2019

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I like to adopt a personal slogan. One year my slogan was “Just do it” (thank you, Nike). Two years ago, as I was writing Stonewall Strong—this blog’s namesake—my slogan was “Name it and claim it.”

After spending many hundreds of hours over five years, reading journal articles and books, traveling across the country to interview nearly 100 men and women, organizing the material, sorting out what I wanted to say and how best to say it in writing, it was nearly time to share “my baby” with the world.

I could be confident that I knew more than most about my subject because I had made the effort to learn about resilience, and now I would share what I found out in my investigation. I could “name and claim” my expertise because I now had a new book to show for my efforts in developing it.

In spite of all I “knew,” intellectually, I still had to draw on my slogan to give me the confidence I needed to share what I had learned. Like too many, I didn't grow up in circumstances that inspired easy natural confidence, so I sometimes need to do things like repeat a slogan in my mind to give me the extra boost of self-talk I need to present myself as confidently as I have earned the right to be.

My slogan for 2019 builds on this motivational theme. It’s taken from what I consider one of the most beautiful, stirring passages in Scripture. Isaiah 60:1 says, “Arise, Shine! For thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is upon thee.”

I shortened the prophet’s words to one: “Shine!”

Source: VectorStock

Building on the efforts I’ve already made with Stonewall Strong—giving media interviews, talks and lectures, and writing this blog—I expect this year to have even more chances to share its inspiring message of making ourselves the heroes, not the victims, of our own stories.

I want to do justice to the people who shared their awesome stories with me for the book. I want to help you, and folks in my audiences when I speak, learn how to draw courage and strength by claiming for yourself the “heroic legacy” of the highly resilient LGBTQ people whose stories I share—including my own. It belongs to anyone who believes that honesty, integrity, and love are worth fighting for.

I want to shine. I want to be my best, give my best, produce my best work, and live at the highest level of awareness and self-awareness I can. I know it will require a lot of work on my part—particularly the last part.

It seems to me that self-awareness is a lifelong process of learning how to tell our own story to ourselves. It frequently requires reexamining difficult experiences from our past, including our childhood, through our evolving, grown-up understanding.

For example, from my own experience, what seemed to a 10-year-old boy harmless sex play with an older kid today looks to my mature, more informed mind like the child sexual abuse it actually was. At age 10 I didn’t have the correct frame of reference to understand it—let alone to process how it might have affected my sexuality and relationships. At 60, I am only beginning to understand it after failing for so many years to think more deeply about it.

It takes what we might call psychological elbow grease to shine. Like polishing a tabletop or piece of silver, we have to rub away the smudges and tarnish to reveal the beauty of the wood or metal.

You can only be your best when you’re willing to do the work it takes to bring out your best. It may mean seeing a therapist, talking with your doctor about feeling depressed, or joining a 12-step group. It may mean committing yourself to exercising or becoming more aware of your eating habits. (I am working on these, too.) It may mean becoming conscious of the words and language you use in speaking about yourself, replacing criticism with affirmation.

Whatever you need to do to be your best is what you must do. Why settle for the clouds of confusion or darkness of depression? The choice is yours alone.

Shine! That’s my choice, and I hope yours too.