As I continue down the road of freedom, abundance and love, I find myself circling back to the same core challenge over and over again. This is a challenge I faced YEARS ago when I started therapy and it still shows up in my life today. It’s so frustrating isn’t it? I wish our journeys were linear. I wish we could face something in our lives and then check it off the list and move on to the next thing. In some ways this is true. I am nowhere near the same person I was when I began my journey of truly being and expressing who I am, but as I work on my own journey and then help many other women work on theirs, I see the same core issues resurface time and time again.
For me, it is hiding. I find all sorts of creative ways to hide who I am and what I want. It’s a protective strategy I needed for years, but I don’t need it anymore! As much as I know this and as often as I work to remove this layer of self protection, here I am still chipping away at it.
I see many women around me hiding all the time. We hide behind being good. We hide behind motherhood and being a wife. We hide in church groups and in Target. We find all kinds of creative ways to convince ourselves that being busy doing good and meaningful things is who we are. That way, we don’t actually have to reveal who we are to ourselves or anyone around us. Are you wondering if this is you? We are so conditioned as women to meet the needs of everyone around us, that many of us don’t even realize that knowing ourselves and meeting our own needs is a missing element of life. We think that meeting the needs of the people around us is what our needs are.
If you are incredibly good at your job and taking care of your loved ones but feel this constant feeling of emptiness inside then you could be in hiding. If you have this constant nagging feeling that there must be more to life and that this cannot be it, then you are probably in hiding. If you feel overwhelmingly guilty because you love your family so much but you secretly wish you could run away, maybe not forever, but maybe forever, then you are definitely in hiding.
You see, when we hide our own needs, wants, desires and expressions, all our interactions are one dimensional. We are operating on the basis of what we should do and what we are told will create a happy, loving family and life. What is most heartbreaking is that most women don’t even realize there is something fundamental missing. We grow up being trained to ignore our needs. Ignore our wants. Ignore our bodies. Were you ever told as a girl to go hug every family member in the room when you didn’t want to? Were you ever highly praised for being so polite and respectful, when in reality you were just quiet and not expressing any needs? Were you considered a good girl at church because you covered your body from head to toe and remained completely dissociated from any of your own body’s needs or wants? Were you told you can’t have a certain career or desire because “girls don’t do that”. Were you told you were being dramatic when you got upset over the way someone treated you? Girls grow up being shamed into submission. We are told we are bad, wrong, worldly, evil, or too much if we do anything other than stay quiet, don’t react, and make sure everyone around us is comfortable. We grow up believing that our ability to make others comfortable is who we are. We believe this is our greatest accomplishment and it is so reinforced we believe it is true.
There is actually a woman inside who has emotions, thoughts, ideas, needs, wants and it is not just ok to know and express them. It is essential to living a life of freedom, love and inspiration. Knowing yourself and expressing – fully – who you are is the only way you will fully connect with your children, partner, co-workers, friends, or anyone else in your orbit. It is the only way to get rid of that nagging feeling that you are missing something in life, or that empty feeling of “is this it?”
Ladies, we have got to wake up and begin the journey of getting to know ourselves and learning how to express who we are to the world around us. I can tell you from experience that initially it is like speaking a foreign language that you haven’t studied for very long. I would try to show up as myself and I would freeze. I would stumble around. I tried different things just to see if it felt ok. It was messy, but I kept working at it and it does get easier and easier. I know it is tempting to keep hiding who you are by being a nice, good girl, but there’s no fun in that right? Do you really want your legacy to be, “she was a nice and good girl”. No way! Let’s break free!
Here are five ways to help you discover who you really are and what you really want:
1. Stop “should-ing” yourself
Anytime you tell yourself that you should do something or should be something, you are using shame to manipulate yourself. Try removing “should” from your life and see what you experience.
Create a notes page in your phone where you record all “shoulds” that come into your head. Often, we don’t even realize that we do this, so I have found it is easiest to keep a note in your phone so you can record in real time. Anytime you say “I should….” write it down. This helps you become aware of your thoughts and behaviors. And once you are fully aware, you can change.
As you release the “shoulds,” make a note of what you truly feel or think without judgment. Start with just observing. “Should” tells us to ignore our body and our needs to force ourselves to over extend. When we overextend ourselves our future self will ALWAYS pay the price. Think back to your childhood. Most of us can remember when mom was stressed out, overworked, tired, short fused, and no fun to be around. We are not being anyone’s hero when we ignore our bodies and our needs to follow a “should”.
The legacy we want to leave is that of connection, love, rest, joy, playfulness, and hope. Replace your “shoulds” with the truth about what you feel and what you need. For example:
Shoulds VS. Loving yourself
|“I should volunteer at the next class party”||“I will send cupcakes and tell my daughter to have a great time”|
|“I should lose weight”||“I will love my body and gain resources for how to be healthy”|
|“I should have sex with my partner tonight”||“I am going to take care of my body and my needs so I want to have sex with my partner”|
|“I should call and check on my friend”||“I don’t have the energy to have a conversation. I don’t want to”|
I know it sounds simple, and it is. When we are rested we have the energy to feel creative and inspired. Sleep deprivation is a tactic used on prisoners of war. Living in a body that is craving rest is absolutely miserable. There is no medal or reward for overextending yourself and getting fewer nights of sleep.
I find that people, in general, are terrified of rest. They don’t want to be seen as lazy, but honestly more than that I find that we are scared to rest because we don’t want to be left alone with our own thoughts. We are so terrified we aren’t enough, we keep going and going so we don’t have to feel. If we keep going and keep doing then eventually we will feel like we “made it”, right? Sorry, I’ve never seen it work this way for anyone. The only way to be the inspired you who is full of creativity and joy is to be rested and at peace.
3. Try something new
Have you always wanted to take tennis lessons? Learn to crochet? Go to a sommelier class? Or a gardening class? Now is the time to try something new. I know you can think of 100 reasons why you can’t or don’t have time. But something really cool and powerful happens when we make time to do the things that inspire us. It energizes us. And when we feel that energy it starts to bleed into other areas of our life. What’s really cool is that it spills over into other people’s lives too. Once you begin doing things you love you will notice your friends, children and partner doing the same. It’s contagious. Give it a try!
It takes time to discover who you are and what you like. We are so used to instant gratification that we often feel like there is something wrong or “it’s not working” if we don’t feel the joy and inspiration we are looking for right away. It takes time.
Maybe you start those tennis lessons and realize it really isn’t your thing. It takes time in the lessons to discover that and it takes time to explore other ideas until you do find what you love.
Once you find something you love, it takes time to get really involved or good at it. We often want to do something for five minutes and say we have “invested” in ourselves and then expect to reap all the rewards. It doesn’t work like that for dieting or working out and it doesn’t work like that on building an inspired life where you really know yourself either. It takes consistency over time. It takes building the time for yourself into your schedule so you are giving to yourself and the people around you from joy and happiness, not burnout and overwhelm.
I read a statistic that loneliness is a predictor for early mortality and chronic illness. We work so hard to convince ourselves that we are just fine on our own. We are scared of getting hurt or don’t have time and feel it isn’t so important. We get focused on surviving day to day and the years fly by.
But it’s impossible for us to feel fully whole, inspired, abundant and ALIVE in isolation. The happiest people are the people with deep and meaningful connections to others. I mean the kind of relationships where you are truly known. The girlfriends you call to vent about your day, talk about your failures, and just let all your imperfections hang out with. The kind of partnerships where they see the absolute worst of you and love you anyway. You can ask for help and they are happy to give. These are connections. It takes time, energy and vulnerability to build them.
Sure, you can convince yourself you don’t need it, it isn’t worth it, or you don’t have time, but you are truly missing out on the good stuff in life. I spent years behind a protective wall and I had no idea just how good life could be until I let myself be vulnerable enough to be truly seen and known. It is life-changing.
Pick one of the five to get started. Build on it little-by-little, day-by-day, and watch your life transform. You won’t believe what you are capable of just now. But you will look up a year from now and appreciate how good life can be. It doesn’t matter what you have been through or how far you think you have to go. Each step toward finding your true self and living a vulnerable and authentic life brings more joy and freedom than you can possibly imagine.