Jess Lindow grew up in a small town in rural Utah. She began having feelings for girls at 13, years before she even knew what the word “lesbian” meant. Later on, the stress and anxiety she felt relating to her relationship with her sexuality and religion contributed to a minor heart attack she experienced during a workout. She was 23 years old. After the hospital stay, Jess decided that life was too precious not to live authentically. She feels that living true to her inner self has enabled her to reach more of her goals than ever before.
Click below to watch, and keep reading for the seven tools that Jess has found helpful:
"I think the biggest thing is just to be yourself; whatever that looks like, there are people who love and accept you for you."
Jess identified seven tools that she has found useful on the road to greater authenticity:
1. Recognize the internal freedom gained by coming out.
When Jess fully embraced her identity, she was able to let go of the uncertainty and self-doubt that had been holding her back.
2. Gain & keep perspective.
For Jess, it was important to remember the mindset she and her family grew up in and to remember that change doesn't come overnight.
3. Redefine family.
Family doesn't have to mean only the one you were born into. Jess expanded her definition of family to include friends she knew she could count on.
4. Seek out and participate in groups or events with people who get it.
Jess has participated in several local LDS/LGBTQ+ outreach/pride groups over the years, including helping to run the Gay-Straight Alliance group at the high school where she works. Find an organization that speaks to you and your unique circumstances and get involved! Encircle is just one of these safe spaces where you can meet lots of friends who share experiences similar to yours.
5. Be patient with yourself and take slow steps.
There is often a lot to digest throughout the process of beginning to express your true self, whether it's considering when and how to come out to your grandmother, forgiving yourself for past mistakes or simply examining your own biases. It's okay to take as long as you need to figure things out. Always try to be kind to yourself.
6. Shoot for your goals.
You are capable of much more than you think. Authenticity will only help you to achieve your goals because you are not holding back any part of yourself. It is you and fully you being invested into each project or goal, and you will be even more proud of your achievement because you can stand fully behind it.
7. Identify positive role models, and be one yourself.
Jess looks to friends as well as out celebrities like Hannah Hart, Neil Patrick Harris, Ruby Rose, and Ellen DeGeneres as examples of visibility and strength in the face of challenges. She also leads by example at work with her high school students. They know they can come to her and that she will always be there for them.