I grew up in Mississippi. I told my family and community I was gay over 12 years ago. The things I heard from others when I came out included: “You are going to burn in hell…the wage of sin is death…you are a hypocrite…you are a criminal…you are wrong…you are disgusting…your opinion doesn’t matter anymore…do you even know who God is anymore?”
At the time, my 22-year-old self could barely cope. I had no one. I was left to figure it out on my own. The result of my experience was an inability to believe in myself. I often still hear in my mind, “You are wrong. You are disgusting. You are not enough. You can’t do it. You aren’t important.”
In order to continue, in order to be the person I want to be, it has required me to meet the darkness—to go to that place we all fear. I had to climb past every label that was ever placed on me, and you know what I found in that very dark place? I found a spark of light, and over time, with an intention to take responsibility and not blame others, that light has gradually grown.
Even though I know now that there is nothing wrong with who I am, there are moments when my fears emerge and old wounds open up. I left Mississippi for a long time and returned with my wife six years ago. There are times when I get uncomfortable in my own skin, when my wounds expose themselves and my fears emerge. My life has been a great experiment in how to work through and move through fear for the sake of self-acceptance.
I’ve learned that if I accept my fears when they emerge, if I take them by the hand and walk with them, then they don’t seem so stifling or impossible to work through. I’ve also learned that I am extremely committed to being the best me that I can be, so with that intention, I am able to act when I am given the opportunity, learn from it, and move on no matter the result. I’ve learned that if I can pause in a moment of fear and ask myself, “Who do I want to be in this moment?” then I am able to feel empowered and act or speak as the woman I know I am beyond my label. I’ve learned that if I want to live a limitless life, then I must constantly be working through the limits I place on myself by surrendering and moving on.
Self-acceptance is a journey worth taking—one that we all travel together, and one that continues as we grow older. Facing my fears and working through them has made my healing journey so fruitful, so poignant, and so meaningful. I never said it was easy work; it’s tough, but every single little step is worth it.
I have come to understand that being completely alone is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I have learned that the love in me is the same as the love in all of us. I have learned to see the truth of humanity despite our inability to see it in ourselves. I understand forgiveness enough to know that I will have to choose it over and over and over.
I trust myself enough now that I know without a doubt that I am committed to seeing the light in everyone despite our differences. Our labels do not define us—the spark within does.
Meagan O’Nan is a keynote speaker, award-winning author, life coach, and creator of many things. Her purpose in both her life and her career is to help people work through their own fears in order to experience self-acceptance. As a gay woman from Mississippi, Meagan knows all about fear and has spent her career focused on helping others move through fear and live a limitless life. For more information: www.meaganonan.com