Finding Yourself Again
Women I work with often tell me they’ve lost themselves. Somewhere along the way, they stopped seeing things through their own lenses, stopped taking care of their needs and stopped paying attention to what they wanted. Instead, they took care of the kids, tried to be there for their husbands, worked hard at their jobs and— slowly, but surely— lost themselves.
The journey to the loss of self is so interesting because it happens so subtly. One day you tell your husband what you think and perhaps he snaps or is uninterested. Another day you’re laughing out loud and having a great time when your child tells you you’re so embarrassing. One day at work you tell a joke and that one colleague who is a constant downer stares at you and tells you the joke was stupid. Through the years these incidents seem to add up. Soon you realize that you have stopped sharing everything with your husband unless he’s in a good mood or it’s something that won’t trigger an attack from him. Around the kids, you calm your free spirit down a bit so you don’t embarrass them. Although you realize they are missing out on your brilliant humor, you’re not up for another, “Oh, mom” sigh, so you keep the humor to yourself. At work, you’re careful to be all business when the total downer is around, yet somehow you notice that even when he’s not, you no longer allow your personality to show as much.
As time goes on, you realize that you’re living life in the gray zone—not too happy, not too sad. You’ve trained yourself to tone it down, mute it or shut it off—the “it” being your true self. Someday you realize you don’t laugh as much as you used to, speak up as you did before, go after those dreams you had fantasized about or fight for yourself anymore. You wonder, “What the hell happened to me? I don’t even recognize me anymore.”
Welcome to the subtle journey of the loss of self.
The good news is, however, that there is a way back—if you’re courageous enough to take it. The steps back include:
1. Tune out everyone around you. Stop trying to please everyone, get them to like you or be wonder woman to the world. Don’t worry about what people may think and realize that people will always have their own opinions and judgments no matter what you do. Tune them out.
2. Tune in—to you. Pay attention to what feels right. Pay attention to what you want, what you need and how you feel. Tune in to those moments when the hair on the back of your neck goes up and take the time to figure out what you need to do about it. Tune in to the times when things feel great and notice what’s working. Tune in to the times when you feel strong, not shaky—and figure out the difference in the way you’re showing up.
3. Speak your truth—cleanly and unapologetically. It is not up to others to read your mind—it is up to you to speak it. Be honest about what you think, how you feel and what you want. Share this information confidently and directly.
4. Be courageous. Stop being afraid to rock the boat, upset those around you or hurt people’s feelings. Under the guise of “being nice,” many women are not truly “nice.” Lying to protect someone’s feelings is not nice. Telling your husband everything is fine when you hate your marriage—is not nice. Giving in to your children to avoid a blow up is not nice. Find the courage to stand up and do so respectfully and confidently.
5. Be accountable. Finding yourself again also requires that you have the humility to look at the places where you’re not at your best or where you need to do some growth. No one is perfect, so we all have places in which we can grow. Know yours and work them—don’t defend them.
The journey back to you is a minute-by-minute effort of tuning in, followed by the courage to show up. Find the courage. Dare to step in as authentically you every place you go. When we show up as our genuine selves, we benefit and so do those around us. Show up.
Challenge: If you have felt you’ve lost yourself somewhere along the way, then take the time to find yourself again. It will be an exciting journey if you dare to take it. Take it.