What happens when you don’t recognize yourself anymore?
There are times in all of our lives when we feel out of sync. When we wake up and just don’t recognize ourselves in the mirror anymore.
We desperately search ourselves for a resemblance of who we used to be, who we believe ourselves to be in our core, who we aspire to be, and depending on how far we’ve drifted, sometimes we can’t identify what we find.
I am not referring to the huge life events that can change us overnight like going to war or suffering significant loss or trauma. I am talking about the slow burn that happens when we gradually, over time, ignore ourselves.
Losing touch with ourselves can happen for a variety of reasons:
- Not making time for what sets our soul on fire.
- Working so much that our job title becomes our identity.
- Working so much that we forget how to have fun.
- Not living according to who we are inside.
- Continually putting our needs last, (hello motherhood).
- Buying into the lies that society tries to tell us about what we should look like or how much money we should be making.
- Trying to please everyone except ourselves.
- Enabling others to the point of losing track of our own emotional needs.
- Denying or suppressing our feelings and not speaking up when we need to.
- Allowing our passions to get dusty.
- Putting a stop to the daydreams.
- Silencing our inner voice.
- Untreated depression, anxiety, or mental illness.
These are just a few of the hundreds of ways we can lose touch with our inner self; our essence.
Truthfully, the reason we’ve lost touch with ourselves isn’t especially crucial. This knowledge is only important because it can help us know what we need to change.
What is crucial, is the commitment we need to make to ourselves. A commitment to start on the journey back home.
Several years ago, I had let who I was go into hibernation. After 15+ years of relishing my role as a stay home mom, I woke up one day and realized, I couldn’t really find Karen anymore. I could see Karen the mom, Karen the wife, Karen the friend, Karen the daughter, but I couldn’t find Karen . . . the woman I was before I became all those other things.
My identity as a SAHM had begun to shift. My kids were turning into teenagers, able to get themselves where they needed to go, feed themselves, take care of their own social calendar, etc. My role, as I had known it for so many years, was becoming obsolete.
What had been my purpose for most of my adult life, was disappearing.
If I wasn’t a mom, active in the trenches of mothering . . . what was I?
I felt and empty and worthless.
I was questioning my purpose.
And this forced me to question my life.
Truth be told, I LOVE being a mom! Mothering fills my heart more than anything on this planet. I never for one second want to take for granted the extreme privilege it has been to raise these precious souls.
But, I started to realize, this is not all that I am.
Being a mom does not define me. And although I believe raising good, thoughtful, caring children has been my purpose, it was not my sole purpose.
I started to freak out a little.
Maybe this is what people refer to as a midlife crisis. It certainly was an identity crisis.
Whatever was happening, it was definitely something that needed to be dealt with.
I was forced to recognize I had neglected myself and gotten lost.
I needed to allow myself the time and understanding to rediscover who I was, as a human being. Not defined by the roles I played or the hats I wore, but, as a soul with hopes, passions, dreams, and desires.
If you are feeling disjointed or out of sync, ask yourself 3 questions:
1.) What am I doing?
Take a good look at how you spend your time. Examine the choices you make. Are you doing things that feed your soul? Are you choosing things that energize you and bring you joy? Are you spending time with people who nourish you?
2.) Why am I doing what I’m doing?
Are you doing things, making decisions, or saying yes to things that are in alignment with who you are? Are you choosing to do certain things to make others happy or because you think you should? Do you do things that drain your energy or make you feel depleted inside? Are you spending time with people who drain you?
3.) How do I feel?
Are you depressed? Do you always feel stressed out? Are you lethargic or melancholy?
If you don’t like your answers to these questions, then it might be time for a change. It might be time for you to give yourself permission to rediscover or even reinvent yourself. To nurture yourself. To love yourself. To uncover or discover your purpose and to live it.
(If you find yourself feeling bad for a long period of time and nothing seems to make a difference, you may want to enlist the help of a professional. Sometimes, life is too big to handle on our own and there is no shame in asking for help. The important thing is you find a way to be your best self, to live the best life possible. Sometimes this means calling in reinforcements.)
Believe it or not, the catalyst to my own self-discovery was surfing. It wasn’t intentional, but surfing helped me redefine who I was. I set a silly goal to surf every Wednesday for a year and decided to blog about it. These two simple choices started me on a journey of self exploration. You can read more about that here.
If you are feeling like you’ve lost touch with who you are, let me tell you, NOW is the time to make a change. Life is short and you deserve to live the fullest, most vibrant life possible, STAT.
Here are some steps you can take to get reaquainted with yourself:
- Acknowledge something feels out of whack. EVERYONE goes through personal changes at one time or another. This is called life and it is okay!
- Listen to your feelings. Every. Single. One. They are trying to clue you in.
- After you listen to your feelings, FEEL them. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to be pissed off, be pissed off. Feel them. Express them. Then move on. Don’t set up camp there.
- After you have realized that you have drifted away from who you truly are, make a commitment to get reaquainted.
- Get out of your comfort zone. Shake things up. Here’s what I did.
- Stop putting everyone else’s needs before your own.
- Let people close to you know you are going through a shift and to be patient.
- Get quiet and listen to your inner voice. This will put you back in touch with your heart. Here’s how.
- Try everything. Pretend you’re a kid trying to find your passions. (You really kind of are, yo.) Take classes. Sign up for lessons. Try new things. Hip Hop. Flamenco. Pottery. Whatever interests you! Do it all!
- Give yourself permission to let go of the things that no longer serve you. In everything you do, ask, “Is this the truth of who I am?”
- People may try to keep you in the roles they are accustomed to. If this isn’t in line with who you are, don’t let them.
- Recognize this as an exciting time. Once I got over the panic and sadness of feeling out of touch with myself, I enjoyed taking time to really examine what I wanted and needed.
- And by all means Say Yes! If someone asks you to try something new, the answer is yes. Here’s why.
Life isn’t a piece of cake. It’s not easy to make time for our own needs when we are in the midst of dealing with everything life throws our way.
But, when you don’t take the time, you are in danger of losing your heart and soul; the significance of who you are. Are you willing to take that risk?
We were made deliberately and perfectly by something much greater than ourselves. We were designed with gifts and with purpose. We were created with the hope that we would fulfill our potential and be all we were destined to be.
When we lose touch with ourselves and stop living authentically, we can never truly be fulfilled. And we deprive the world of all the beauty we have inside us.