Have you ever caught yourself asking this? Do you ever feel like you don’t know who you are anymore? Different life stages and different relationship situations can all put us in a place where we become untethered from our true self. We lose ourselves in 1000 different little ways catering to those around us… compromising for others and losing what makes us “me” in the process.
As mothers especially, we lose ourselves not only in our romantic relationships, but to our kids. How many of our own activities and interests have we sacrificed to spend time with our children not knowing how to fit them in (or feeling guilty if we step away from our parenting duty to do something for ourselves)? How many meals have we modified or stopped making altogether because someone we were serving didn't like it the way we do? I've eaten my fair share of bland food to save myself from making multiple meals! Let these serve as a few examples of these 1000 little ways.
What happens when we make these little changes, little modifications, little activity omissions too often? What happens when we tell ourselves we can do without, we don't really need that "me time", my people (kids, spouse, friends, employer) needs me to do things this way and I'm ok with that? How long does it take until we wake up and ask ourselves WHO AM I? We realize we've given up little pieces of ourselves, or picked up little pieces that don't really fit and suddenly don't recognize the person we've become.
In my case, I not only didn't recognize the person, but I didn't like her. At all. I was angry. I was negative. I was not happy and often unkind. There was blame-throwing and flame-throwing. Until I owned it. Until I admitted that I was the only one that let myself get to that point and I was the only one who could find my way back to my true self. Yes, it's true that having people in your life that hurt you or mistreat you can lend to this trip to becoming unrecognizable. And it very well could be the case that in order to heal and make your way back to "you", requires changing your environment either temporarily or permanently. A little life rehabilitation, if you will.
We also have to realize that as we move through different life changes and stages, we will see our "true self" transforming simultaneously. It's often difficult to "keep up". I believe life requires us to continually pause and allow for us to recalibrate and reassess our needs. If we were consciously doing this regularly, I wonder if we would ever get to a lost state of "who am I"? Why do we have a tendency to neglect our own needs when attending to them isn't coming from a place of selfishness. Tending to ourselves is necessary. How else are we supposed to serve and love those around us if we can't serve and love ourselves?
Can we normalize this process, please? Pause, Recalibrate, Live True, Repeat.
So now that we may accept we've lost who we are and are questioning who we are at a "true self" level, what do we do to move forward? This is where living really becomes just that. Living. It is a constant moving and transforming and becoming process. Here are some of the ways I've discovered that help...
* Make time for you. Do things you already know you love, and stop feeling guilty about doing them.
* Try new things. We may quickly discover we don't like a lot of things, but really that is the only way to find the things we love. And like our taste buds, these likes and dislikes change as we grow.
* Be around people. New people. People we love. But be respectfully ruthless about eliminating relationships that do not serve us. We only know who we are by being in relationships with other humans. We are designed for this sort of interaction.
* Take time to yourself. Be comfortable with alone time. As much as we are designed for human connection and interaction, we also need to sit in alone time to feel. To heal. To listen and be aware of our own needs.
* Do things to better your health. Mental health, physical health, spiritual health. Feed all of these things properly. Exercise. Eat healthy. Meditate. Read for enjoyment and also for personal development.
* Declutter your life. Make room for things that will make you a better more authentic soul. Declutter your physical space (and watch how this declutters your mental space). Declutter your email, your social media, your social circles. Allow and create space for things that will push you to be a better more true YOU.
* Practice gratitude. Oh this one can be difficult. It's so much easier to catch ourselves in a loop of negativity. Our thoughts on repeat can find comfort in the negative feedback we allow to continue. But what if we reprogram our body to feel this with a grateful spirit? We may not think there is much to be thankful for, but our list will grow as we practice looking for the positive. This does not mean that negative things aren't happening to us. But we can control how we react and how our body & soul, in turn, respond.
* Practice creativity. Yes, the traditional definition - pen to paper, paint to canvas, hands to clay, fingers to ivories. But also practice the whole lifestyle of creativity. Look at things from a new perspective. Listen to people and podcasts that inspire thought. Step out of your comfort zone. Allow your voice to be heard. Allow yourself to present ideas, even if they only serve to inspire new ideas.
* Practice self-love. I've already said it once, but I will repeat it as many times as needed. We have to love ourselves in order to love others. And in order to allow others to love us. I whole-heartedly believe we are designed to love and that is our purpose on this planet. It is part of everyone's "true self". So let's start practicing this on the person who probably needs it most of all -- ourselves. It starts with us. And then it moves from us to others.
* Spend time in nature. You may not like the outdoors, or spending time in a garden or trail, but this is one of the most healing activities (and FREE) we can do. Practice this if you need to. Force yourself. I promise you will not regret it. Look around and be present. Notice the little things. And feel your soul warming.
* Kick fear in the ass. Stop letting fear prevent you from doing things that could be incredibly life-changing. Yes, easy to say and difficult to do, but start somewhere. Be aware of your fears and be aware of times they are preventing you from doing things you actually would love to do.
Hopefully this has given you something new to think about, and some actionable steps you can take to move out of the "who am I" place (or maybe just to prevent yourself from landing there). I will dive into some of these in more detail and share my own experiences with them in future posts. If you have your own ideas that you think need to be added to this list, please add to the comments! All things should leave room for revision. :)