Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore
I feel like I have lost myself. I have been a mom, a wife, a co-worker and a friend to others for so long that I don’t really know who I am when I am not in those roles. How can I get to know myself better again?
Signed: Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore
Dear Don’t Know Who I Am Anymore,
That feeling of losing yourself is a slow process – it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s great that you are noticing it now, and are looking for remedies for the disconnect that you are experiencing. Day in and day out, we wear masks that show just part of ourselves to the world around us, depending upon the role we are taking on in the moment. When we compartmentalize like this, it allows us to stay focused and give our undivided attention to the task at hand. For example, when we are at work, we have to disconnect from the thoughts and emotions that stem from our home life. And when we are with our kids, we often have to be present and attuned to their needs above those of anyone else. But sometimes, we wear so many masks, or for such a large part of our day, that we forget to take them off and just be ourselves again.
During the course of a very busy day, it sometimes becomes a last priority (or a completely non-existent one) to focus on ourselves. It can seem impossible to find the time or energy to be able to tune into our own needs and wants and feelings. But we have to make the time for this self reflection if we want to stay connected to who we really are. Knowing who we are and being fully connected to that person allows us to operate from a place of authenticity and genuineness with the people around us. And it helps us notice imbalances (physically, emotionally and mentally) that are developing, so we can address them long before they become a problem. This inner connection to self allows us to stay healthier, to accomplish more in our day with less energy required, and to live a life that gives us a sense of happiness and fulfillment. It increases our self-esteem. And it creates a feeling of peace and comfort that is priceless.
Here are a few suggestions that might help:
Carve out bits of time, every single day, to give yourself moments to pause and turn inward. Schedule self reflection time like you were attending a doctor’s appointment or planning to go grocery shopping. This personal connection time doesn’t have to be very long – just a few minutes, a few times a day. Coordinate it with other activities you already do on a regular basis (every time you go to the bathroom; or put your seatbelt on; or take a work break).
Practice a simple regrouping activity that will help you turn inward and stop the rush of the day. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and check in with how your body is feeling. Using an easy body scan exercise often makes it easier to tap into what is happening for you physically, as a first step. And this leads you towards emotional and mental awareness steps after that.
Take note of your needs and wants. Be specific when you identify them. Focus on the moment when you are turning inward. Are you tired? Stressed? Lonely? Anxious? Happy? Excited? Are you trying to tackle a certain task? Ask yourself what you need to effectively manage these feelings and the mental state that you are in? And try to figure out how you might get those needs met? Who might you reach out to, for support? Or what kind of restructuring do you need to do in your day, in order to better accommodate your own needs?
Then implement your plan. Make your own needs just as important as those of everyone else you are trying to help. Recognize that the plan you started with in the morning might not be the plan you will stick with all day. Flexibility is the key. We are usually pretty willing to pivot and reprioritise when a friend or family member needs our help. So, we want to be able to try to do the same for ourselves! Feeling connected with ourselves is not just a thought process – it’s also an action process.
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