Finding yourself starts with a simple three word yet complex question: Who am I?
I am willing to stand on the hill and say at least 50% of you answering the question are going to say some iteration of the word mother before you start to spout off the other titles you hold. Now that all the titles are done, let’s try it again. Who are you really?
Unspoken Rules of Mothering
For many of us moms, we don’t know. We have been so consumed with mothering, being a good partner, working, advancing, volunteering, and helping, that the true essence of who we are is a mere after though that is often full of confusion, frustration, and doubt.
Early in life, we learned the unspoken rules of motherhood:
- Don’t have needs.
- The family comes first.
- Keep your problems to yourself.
- Emotions are a sign of weakness.
- Put your child first in all situations.
- Don’t talk about uncomfortable things.
- Don’t talk about what you are going through.
- Always act like everything is OK, even when it’s not.
- Handle it. You are the mom and moms handle things.
- Your life, as you knew it, is over once you have a baby.
- Wanting and/or needing something is selfish and/or weak.
- Give your kids what they need even if you have to sacrifice your own needs.
- Hold on to broken relationships. Letting go of them will cause more harm to your kid(s).
These unspoken rules among others are the core of why we lose ourselves after the kids arrive. We are taught through live examples that mothering is the most important aspect of your life outside of faith, family, and career. The thought of actually maintaining who you are becomes foreign because it is never discussed, rarely seen, and frowned upon by other mothers.
But just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that it must continue. Sometimes the realization that you are over consumed with mothering and other things comes as a gentle reminder through a message you read. Sometimes it comes as a message wrapped as a panic attack that seems to be untethered. Sometimes the awakening happens when one is merely asked, “What do you like?”
No matter the discovery, there are a few additional reasons why we wake up having no clue who we are. Just as we are taught the unspoken rules of motherhood through the examples we saw in our lives, those portrayed in the media, and/or those we imagined in our minds, we were also taught that our ideas, interests, passions, etc. were not as important as someone else’s. For example, parents and caregivers are good at telling us that we should do this instead of that or that we should think differently. These efforts masked as support and help are also the beginning of us self-doubting. As we continue to grow and mature, those voices we heard early in life become the loud inner critic we currently hear.
This is not to say that those who helped us understand how the world works are bad or less caring people. They are not. They are loving individuals who truly tried to help and did the absolute best they could have done. But now that we know the long-term effects of overhelping, rephrasing, and reassigning meaning, we can do differently with our own children and with ourselves by getting to know our inner critic. Learning to love the inner critic is another blog post for another day.
The great thing about being in this space of confusion, embarrassment, optimism, and openness is you are here. You are here, open, and ready to fully love, embrace, and know your full self. This process of getting to know your full self is challenging and empowering.
When I realized I was lost in the sauce, I carved out time to spend with myself each day so that I could journal, practice yoga, and meditation. (click here if you would like to read about how to carve out a consistent “me time”). I also started to follow more psychologist who spoke about healing from trauma. A few that I follow are: Dr. Joy Harden-Bradford, founder of Therapy for Black Girls, Dr. Nicole LePera, the holistic psychologist, and Dr. Adia Gooden. All three are licensed clinical psychologist and work to help individuals heal and unapologetically love themselves. I also, worked to release all that was no longer serving me. For me that was old definitions of success, self-worth, vulnerability, and mothering. While releasing these beliefs did not happen overnight, I became very focused on listening to the ideas that popped in my mind and how I wanted to address them (or not).
7 Day Challenge for Finding Yourself (FREE download below)
Again, finding yourself is not an overnight or one-time activity. It takes time to learn new ways and discover the things you love. This 7-day guide is meant to be done in 7 consecutive sessions. So, for you that may be a week at once while for others it may be 7 weeks or longer. I employ you to do what works best for you. One thing you will need to do before beginning is scheduling at least 30 minutes every day to spend time with yourself. Try to complete the suggested activities in sequential order as they build on the last.
Day One – Digital Detox – Download an app that tracks your app usage like Screen Time (iOS) or Digital Wellbeing (Android). You may be surprised at how much time you scroll throughout the day.
Day Two – Accomplishments, Regrets, Pains – During this reflection exercise, you will uncover many happy, sad, embarrassing, and downright disappointing moments. You may want to break this task into 2 or more mini sessions as this can be heavy work.
Day Three – Traits that Make You, You – Know who you are is rooted in the traits that make you, you.
Day Four – The Comparison – We are told that comparing ourselves to others is dangerous and it is. This activity forces you to compare your traits with your accomplishments, regrets, and pains. This is also a heavy activity that may require 2 or more sessions to get through.
Day Five – Celebrating You – You have come a long way! Now it is time to celebrate.
Day Six – Loves, Interests, Desires– Reflecting on what you used to love can help you tap into the things you still love. Let’s not think previous partner, but interests and things involving the 5 senses.
Day Seven – Who Are You Mirror Talk – Owning who you are can take practice and what better way than in your mirror. You must believe, love, and nurture yourself before others will.
As you go through this self-guided challenge (click here to download the FREE Challenge Guide), you will be amazed at how you actually know yourself more than you give yourself credit. This work is simultaneously eye-opening and scary. You will face components and parts of yourself that you may have tried to suppress. Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up. Your feelings, no matter how joyous or alarming they may be, are worth you experiencing. Going through the difficult parts helps you find the inner joy you are seeking. Try to stick with it. Skip a day if you need additional time to process. Just promise yourself you will pick it back up. You are worth getting to know.
As you start to do this work, you will start to tap into places of motherhood and womanhood that were once routine and redefine them. Knowing you helps you become a better mother, partner, friend, etc. I am so excited you have decided to take this step. I cannot wait to hear about how it is doing for you.
Now, go steep a cup of Mothering Tea, grab your journal, the Finding Yourself Challenge Guide, and get busy finding you.