Earlier this week, I opened up and wrote about Mean Gays, Shine Theory and the need for us all to pull together as a team. I hadn’t given much thought to what would happen afterwards, I’d just thought of something I needed to get off my chest. At best I hoped that one or two people in a similar situation might take something positive from it. I did not expect the reaction that we got.
As the number of people emailing to share and comment on the article grew, I realised that people were expressing real excitement for Shine Theory.
I’m not a psychotherapist, I’m not even the person who came up with Shine Theory (again, props to the brilliant Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow of Call Your Girlfriend for that); I’m just a boy, standing in front of the internet asking us to love each other. I don’t know all the answers, but here’s how I decided to bring Shine Theory into my life, and how it made me a happier person. First off, there are some things we need to get clear:
- We have all done it. We have all been a Mean Gay. This is not about shouting Mean Gay at some people and castigating them. Before we can move on, we need to accept that we have all been guilty of indulging in Mean Gay behaviour at some point in our life. And sometimes, we might need to apologise for it.
- Someone else’s brilliance does not come at your expense. Fortunately, happiness and success are not finite, and somebody else having these in abundance does not mean there is less for you – the opposite is true, they’re contagious.
- As a community, as an expansive and diverse group, we have the opportunity to be a huge support network to each other, but we need to make a conscious effort to extend kindness. Together we need to shine.
Simply, Shine Theory is about surrounding yourself with brilliant people and championing them. I’m not talking about Taylor Swift and her problematic trophy squad, I’m talking about being the biggest cheerleader for your friends whatever their age, size or shape, career, income or race. I’m talking about celebrating what makes them great, and knowing that their happiness and glow will radiate back to you.
As I said, true confidence and happiness are contagious, and the most successful and brilliant people don’t see life as a competition. By contrast, if someone is making you feel worse about yourself, chances are they’re doing it to feel better about themselves… I should know, I used to be guilty of it.
I couldn’t expect others to treat me better if I didn’t treat them better. And so it took a long, hard look in the mirror to accept that I wasn’t happy with myself and begin to make a change. I followed the rules of Shine Theory and stopped competing. I stopped measuring myself against other people’s successes. I walked away from toxic friendships. And I made a promise to be kind and help my friends shine. I’m certainly not a saint, I don’t always succeed, but I’m a work in progress.
Make it your mission to make your friends feel good about themselves. If you’re not making other people feel good, can you expect them to make you feel good about yourself? It’s really tempting to play the victim and blame “society”, and as members of the LGBT community, we have all been through tough times in our life and had to fight for acceptance. But this is where we need to start taking personal responsibility for how we interact with one another. That funny and dismissive put-down on a dating app might make your friends laugh at how witty you are, but to someone else it’s a painful rejection – so we shouldn’t do it.
Instead, we should congratulate that friend who posts gym selfies on their dedication and hard work. When we work with LGBT colleagues, we shouldn’t size each other up as competition but support and share resources and build ourselves a workplace alliance. Next time the foodie posts another picture of their dinner, let’s not roll our eyes, but say how great it looks. Who knows, maybe you’ll get an invite to dinner.
We can’t change society overnight, but we can change ourselves. We can begin to embody the brightly shining future we want for our friends, and for our community. As gay men and women, we’re tough, we can take on whatever is thrown at us, but we are stronger together when we have each other’s backs.
So shine bright. Shine on. Be the brightest rainbow, and shine through the dark clouds.
Alexis Caught is a London-based strategist and writer. Follow him on Twitter @alexiscaught