Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) population are more vulnerable to psychological issues than heterosexual individuals simply because of the stigma and perceptions surrounding their sexual preferences. Research has shown time and again that LGBTQ individuals experience less stress, depression, and anxiety when they come out to family members and friends, and more importantly, when they are emotionally supported by peers.
However, self-esteem still plays a huge role in well-being regardless of whether an individual has the support of others or not. Self-esteem can determine mood, is based on how one views oneself, and is directly related to self-forgiveness and shame. But until now, few studies have looked specifically at how shame and self-forgiveness relate to self-esteem in a sample of LGBTQ individuals.
To address this gap in literature, Darrell C. Greene, a psychologist in private practice in New York, recently collaborated with a researcher from John Carroll University in a study involving 657 LTGBT individuals. Greene looked at forgiveness, shame proneness, and self-esteem and found that the participants who had the least amount of shame and highest amount of forgiveness had the highest levels of self-esteem.
Specifically, self-forgiveness was directly predictive of self-esteem. Greene believes that individuals who can forgive themselves and forgive their feelings toward others harbor fewer feelings of shame. This effect works to improve feelings of competency and self-worth, and increases overall self-esteem.
Green believes these findings are clinically significant. Clinicians working with LGBTQ clients should consider self-forgiveness as a pathway to increase self-esteem. Strategies that enable self-forgiveness, forgiveness of others’ anger and intolerance, and forgiveness of situations that involve prejudice and discrimination, can bolster feelings of self-worth and diminish feelings of shame.
“In addition,” added Greene, “Because shame proneness contributes to low self-esteem in LGBTQ people, we recommend helping clients to develop coping strategies to mitigate the negative impact of shame.” Overall, these results can have a very positive impact on treatment approaches and interventions designed to improve well-being in LBGTQ individuals.
Greene, Darrell C., and Paula J. Britton. (2013). The influence of forgiveness on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning individuals’ shame and self-esteem. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD 91.2 (2013): 195-205.ProQuest. Web.
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