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Published:March 25th, 2013 18:19 EST
Why Feeling Accepted Is So Important: The Real Issue Behind Why Gays Want To Marry

Why Feeling Accepted Is So Important: The Real Issue Behind Why Gays Want To Marry

By Jay Forte

We crave acceptance. To be accepted makes us feel like we belong - we feel normal.

When we don`t feel accepted, we quickly modify ourselves in order to feel accepted. That speaks to the power that the need for acceptance has over us. We change or hide who we are - all in the hopes that the abnormal feelings will give way to the normal. In this moment, we sacrifice the greatest part of ourselves - our uniqueness and our abilities. And when sacrificed, they are both gone from our lives and from our world.

Gays wanting to marry represents a need to be accepted; it is a request to get the approval to fully develop - to have the permission to be our true selves and share that authentic self with another in a loving, healthy, supportive and sustainable relationship. It is a similar issue to ending segregation, expanding voting rights for women and immigration reform where each group wanted both acceptance and the corroboration that they are valuable. The more accepted we feel, the more significantly we show up to our lives.

The need for acceptance is powerful as evidenced by what we are willing to give up or change to get it. In schools we adopt behaviors that are not ours to connect with the "in," the athletic, the smart or the popular crowd. Our kids choose what to wear, and what technology to use, not based on need or taste, but to fit in. A teen gives up on his ethics and robs a store to be accepted by his friends. A couple gets itself into a lifestyle they cannot afford to be accepted by their peers. A gay person gives up on the love of his life so as not to be found out or disowned by his family.

Few things are as emotionally devastating as feeling as the outsider - at any age and in any environment. We just want to be valued, loved and accepted. And though we should be strong enough not to care if we fit in or not - that our lives are ours to invent our way, something in us continues to crave the approval from others. It is in our hardwiring.

Labeling and withholding acceptance has been an intimidating trait in our nation`s history; blacks, women, immigrants and gays have all been limited in fully realizing their abilities, as if some in our society are more valuable than others - as if we should accept some but not others. But as we limit any of us, we all become limited.

Our strength as a country and as people is in our diversity and in our uniqueness - E Pluribus Unum - out of many, one. We are each born with unique abilities - talents, strengths and passions - that make us exceptional at and passionate about certain things. Greatness is innate; we are each born great. It isn`t dependent on skin color, religion, sexual preference, gender, age or ethnicity. There aren`t some of us who are greater than others. Our greatness is in our connection of our uniqueness with the ability to do something significant with it in today`s world.

The Preamble to the Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The pursuit of happiness does not refer to buying more things, nicer houses or expensive cars. The original founders meant that we each had the right, ability and responsibility to discover our unique abilities - our greatness - and to live it honestly, authentically and fully. The strength of our nation is in the sum of our individual greatness - of bringing our individual best to our world. Uniting our unique abilities is the key to a strong family, a strong workplace and a strong society.

Acceptance is powerful; we change for acceptance. Actually, many times we shrink for acceptance. We reject our unique abilities because they prohibit acceptance. We give up on our talents, strengths and passions - the things that create our life`s competitive advantage and our ability to find our true place in our world. Today`s world is built by the talents and abilities of those who are here, right now. A great world requires the best from everyone. Those who fear rejection or are hiding, show up small. We are all affected.

We all want to know that we are safe enough to self-discover and to realize what makes us unique and different - and to be that best self. Normalizing what has previously been considered abnormal allows gays to show up in the world whole instead of hiding or refraining from being who they truly are. So many of us wanted to live our true lives but feared rejection. So we hid. Acceptance lets us out of the closet - not just about being gay and having an honest, loving relationship - but to permit ourselves to see who we really are and to have the courage to show up to our lives. This reconnects us to our individual greatness. And with this freedom, we are able to bring our best to our world without limitation.

Gay marriage is a connection to society that has been previously been out of reach. It provides the acceptance that gays are entitled to the benefits and support that loving, authentic and monogamous relationships elsewhere in society enjoy. We value and respected.

So, should we care about approval? No. Do we? Yes.

By understanding the power of approval has over us, we can work to show up more fully to our lives in two ways. First, we can fight to get the approval. After all, what we ask for is nothing more than living fully, authentically and honestly. Secondly, we can tell ourselves what we tell our kids - who cares what others think - go do and be who you really are. Don`t let anyone inhibit how you choose to show up to your great life. Perhaps we`ll get to a point where we don`t care about the approval. Until then, we want the right to live as a family, marry for love and able to legally and lovingly support each other through whatever many years of life together will bring.

Jay Forte, founder of The Greatness Zone, has a unique perspective on what living in the shadows does to people. Growing up gay in a large Italian family, his experience-after years of attacks, insults and intimidation from family, friends and acquaintances-empowered him to move into his role as a greatness coach and motivational speaker where he challenges others to listen to their own voices and find their true inner value, with or without acceptance.