The Deterioration of My Self-Esteem and How I Regained It

Brian Falduto
7 min readSep 4, 2018

One of the primary reasons I have become a Life Coach is my desire to impact the LGBTQ community. I spent over 10 years suppressing my true self and with that, the chance to connect with many LGBTQ youth who saw me as relatable after my role in School of Rock. Over the years, I’ve ignored many messages from many people because I was insecure about who I was. I don’t feel guilty for taking the time necessary to navigate my way out of the woods, but now I’m finally ready to accept what may very well be my purpose in life.

I personally believe that everyone could benefit from a Life Coach. Perhaps I’m a bit biased, but I’d like to take a moment to highlight a few of the reasons why emerging LGBTQ persons, in particular, might want to consider this partnership.

A lot of queer people experience an underlying feeling of self-doubt throughout their lives thanks to our heteronormative society. I state this from experience and the best way I can illustrate this is by elaborating on my battles in this arena.

From age 11 to age 21, my most fundamental psychological human need was slowly but surely deteriorating — self-esteem. Self-esteem is, by definition:

confidence in our ability to think, confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and
confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts

I was told at a young age that being gay was bad. My maturity was therefore guided by self-repudiation in place of self-acceptance simply at the possibility that I could be gay. I was terrified of “becoming” gay and this terror made it very difficult to build a strong and healthy sense of self. You become overwhelmed by fear, leaving no room for authentic growth.

This deterioration of my self-esteem is important to note because as the definition implies, my confidence and my inherent right to be happy were missing as I was growing up. I’ve grown tremendously in the past few years and I’ve developed some really awesome self-examining practices that have allowed me to look internally and raise my self-awareness of these issues. That’s the first step; but frankly, I still have a long way to go if my self-esteem is ever going to match what is defined above. We, in this community, all do.

“Confidence in our ability to think…”

To this day, I often avoid asserting myself at the risk of being wrong. I judge my own feelings, thoughts, and emotions before I have the chance to put them out into the world. Even writing essays like this one are difficult for me because I’m constantly questioning my authority to speak about my own mentalities. Really, all I’m doing is using words to expose my thoughts; thoughts that I’m perfectly justified to have and to share because I am a human. Yet, I struggle to push through senses of inadequacy.

When I finally did have an inkling that I was gay, I told myself I shouldn’t be and I wouldn’t be — I was going to fit in. My rejection of self has always been the norm. Letting myself out has been a terrific experience, but there have been scary moments too. Sometimes I didn’t even know who it was that I was letting out.

“…confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life;”

I’m highly motivated and I tend to always go after what I want. But I am still on a long journey of overcoming the fear of rejection. I’ve always feared failure because I couldn’t bear the thought of giving people another reason to disapprove of my life and my choices; being successful was my way of counteracting that. I began to resent any challenge or obstacle that got in my way. Ironically, the more I cut myself some slack, the more successful I’ve become.

It is tempting to desire to live a life that impresses others but I’m learning that true happiness comes from knowing what it is that I have to offer to the world.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” — Oscar Wilde

As a targeted LGBTQ youth, I felt for a long time as though I didn’t have anything “correct” to offer. Only a modified version of myself would succeed in the real world. This is wrong. I am perfectly appropriate as I am right now in this moment. There is no one else like me and I am more than good enough.

Saying these statements is one thing but actually making them my inner truth is another struggle I’m still working through.

A lot of these realizations I’m having have come from heartbreak and, consequently, suffering. They say that failure breeds success, and I couldn’t agree more. I have come a long way in facing my fears and I look forward to more growth, even if it comes with pain. There will always be struggles to come and that’s something we can’t change, but we can change the way we approach them.

“…and confidence in our right to be successful and happy, the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants,”

I recently opened up about my first love in college and how it was an unhealthy, closeted romance between two misguided individuals looking for the right answers in the wrong places. Until just a few months ago, I thought I had learned from my mistakes in this category. Instead, I had the distinct pleasure of discovering how ingrained my self-esteem issues were when they led me into a very similar situation where I repeated past mistakes. I handed my sense of worth over to someone who did not deserve it and did not have the emotional stability to carry it. He, too, was deeply buried in psychological turmoil and we latched on to each other in a way that was bound to lead to disaster. What hurt was that in the end, I only had myself to blame. All the warning signs were there, I just wasn’t reading them.

Somewhere along the timeline from when I was told I was gay and the 10 years of self-modification that followed, I convinced myself on a subconscious level that I would never be happy. I honestly believed I did not deserve happiness.

Simply changing my narrative doesn’t do the trick for reversing this type of logic because I’m already doing that, both personally and professionally. I’ve made the decision to move forward as a self-aware, self-embracing human being on a conscious level but my self-sabotaging tendencies run far deeper than that.

For nearly half of my life, I accepted that inner sadness was going to be the status quo for the remainder of my existence. I would always be, at some level, yearning for something I was never going to have. I actually grew comfortable and almost content with being sad. Since inner happiness would never be mine, I figured I must find happiness in areas (I thought) I could control: success, wealth, social acceptance, and of course, those addictive relationships I’ve mentioned. I’ve confused my self-worth with conditional love and sometimes even emotional abuse.

I’m now learning that all the love I need comes from myself. Taking responsibility for my own happiness has been empowering. I am taking my life back into my own hands.

“…achieve our values, and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.”

I’m working on this last bit. My values are becoming clear to me and I’m putting in more efforts towards goal achievement than ever before. Life Coaching is a great way to partner up with someone and keep track of your efforts — to clarify what you want, to see what’s working, to see what isn’t working, to discover your barriers to change, to create action steps, and most importantly, to enjoy the journey.

I don’t believe I’m alone. If there are people who can relate to my story, then there must be people who can relate to my self-esteem issues. As a child actor, I slashed away at parts of myself in order to feel accepted and loved. It’s how I survived. I feel fortunate to be at a point in my life where I’m realizing the long-term consequences of these tactics.

Accomplishing good self-esteem is difficult. I’ve found that as I begin to honor myself, I’m also beginning to question pretty much everything else I’ve known. This is probably long overdue, yes, but it’s also an uncomfortable time in my life. There is no switch to flip and I’m aware that it’s going to be a long process.

Authentic growth requires constant effort. If you’ll notice, most of the truly content folks in the LGBTQ community are middle-aged or older. That’s because they spent a lifetime getting to where they are. What I’m saying is we don’t need to wait until we are middle-aged. It’s 2018 and there are tons of resources that can help us change our lives sooner. Life Coaching is just one of them.

I want to help raise self-awareness and diminish self-doubt perpetuated by the obstacles LGBTQ persons face and start the process towards self-love. Because only when you love yourself can you properly love others. And when we love one another, it’s easier for us all to love life.

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Originally published at on September 4, 2018.