So how do you answer the question ‘who am I?’ when the life you wanted, the life you fought so hard to achieve falls apart or when everything you thought you were and have built no longer feels right?
Based on my personal experiences, I believe we can go through these shifts multiple times in a lifetime. For me at least, I lend this to having experienced emotional abuse in childhood.
In this lifestyle article “7 Signs You Grew Up With a Toxic Parent and Didn’t Know It”, the sign that most resonated with me was feeling out of touch with my real self.
"Many children of toxic parents find it exceptionally difficult to identify who they are once they grow up. Forward identifies three areas in which their self-knowledge falls short: “who you are, what you feel, and what you want.” You’ve spent so much time suppressing your real self, from your emotions to your reactions, to deal with the onslaught of your parents that you haven’t had a chance to pay attention to your own development. Your sense of confusion and distance runs very deep indeed."
What one learns in childhood in order to adapt, feel secure and self-protect are skills honed for survival in adulthood. In my case, I was so attached to pleasing others, my mother, my sexual partners, and society in general, that there was little time spent in figuring out what I wanted. Naming my feelings were difficult for me. I learned to read the emotions of others and adapt so as to not be singled out for any inappropriate behaviors.
I had many survival skills at my disposal and the one I excelled at most was compartmentalization. As I became aware of these coping strategies I created to survive, my goal was to make whole the person I’d fragmented into many personas in order to deal with life’s challenges.
In my previous post, I shared that the answer to the question ‘who am I?’ is realignment. I explained that realignment brings us closer to ourselves, deepening our internal relationship, creating space for greater personal understanding and self-love so that we can begin again to move in the direction of the values, vision, and goals that serve our true essence.
The first step in realignment is reflection.
What you’ll need for reflection:
Quiet and safe space
During these moments of reflection, your job is to look within and describe your feelings in your journal.
Write about how it feels to be you on a daily basis. Write about who you are in the various situations you encounter in your life. Who are you with your kids, your spouse or partner, at work, with colleagues, with your parents, your mother and father separately, your siblings, as a member of society.
Then express whether who you are being in these relationships is someone you like. Does it feel like your soul is being enriched, supported or rather exploited and weakened. Describe what, if anything, you would change and how things would be different. Write about how you would have to change in order to create a better existence for yourself.
Write about what it means to you to be happy? What does that look like or feel like? Write about the role models you have, personally familiar or unfamiliar to you that emulate characteristics you would like to emulate.
Write about your childhood. What it was like growing up. The experiences you had that you feel framed the perspectives you hold as an adult. Discuss any resentments or things for which you were grateful for as you were growing up and learning how to be in this world.
Just reflect and write and do it often. Start expressing the feelings you’ve buried, the hopes and dreams you’ve put on the back burner.
I’d love to hear how this exercise goes for you.