If you Google searched who am I?, what would come up? The search for identity is part of our human struggle. As children our parents show us who we are. We copy how they look, dress, talk. Some of us choose the same careers. How was your relationship with your parents? If your parents weren't stable, positive role models you may feel confused, ashamed or insecure. Or maybe you just don't want to be your parents. Our parents have the biggest influence on identity when we are children. They are our mirrors.
As we grow into our teens we look up to our peers on the quest for self. And in this age of technology, social media is the mirror for too many of our teens. What is that mirror reflecting to them? Many of our teens are lost. We must teach them to look inside, not outside for identity. Teen depression and suicide are an epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , after cancer and heart disease, suicide accounts for more years of life lost than any other cause of death. When we look outside ourselves for love, we are placing our happiness in someone else's hands. Fill your heart with love for yourself, and you will never feel empty. But first, you must know who you are.
Maybe you knew who you were, then life happened and you lost yourself. This is often the case for women. My parents' generation was taught that a woman's "place" was in the home caring for her children and husband. As if the care giving role only belongs to the woman. And the man's role was to provide for the family. So, he was away from home most of the time, emotionally disconnected from her and the children. Her dreams were sacrificed, if she was ever allowed to dream. So, she went from somebody's daughter to somebody's wife without ever being somebody. Your place is where you want to be. And, YOU are the only one who decides your place.
It is a natural instinct to desire a mate, but know you first. Develop yourself. Become a well-rounded person. Often we seek a mate because we do not feel whole. We look for aspects of who we want to be in other people, and become attached because we feel we lack something. Co-dependent relationships are destructive. What are you looking for in a mate: money, intellect, self-esteem, beauty, status, safety, power, love? When you are a whole person, you have everything you need and seek an equal partner to share life and love. Focus on becoming a whole person instead of obsessing about a mate.
My dear friend, Connie, recently reminded me about Their Eyes Were Watching God, a novel written by Harlem Renaissance author, Zora Neale Hurston. The main character Janie, a feisty free spirit, is married off at the tender age of 17 by her grandmother to a farmer old enough to be her grandfather. Janie leaves him for a more exciting man and they move to Eatonville, Florida, where her new husband becomes the mayor of the first all-black town, and she sacrifices her dreams for his. In one scene he notices another man watching her and forces Janie to cover her hair and body. Janie relinquishes her autonomy to him and falls prey to abuse. How many women globally live this scenario?
I can relate to Janie's struggles. My journey was similar to hers. I was a feisty, independent girl, afraid to launch out into the world on her own. So, I looked to a man to feel safe. I lost myself for thirteen years. When I left the marriage, I found myself, fell in love with her, and started living for the first time. I learned to look within for love and security. I was finally FREE! Find out how I discovered true love in my first novel, The Ashira Series.
If you live your life to meet someone else's expectations, or sacrifice your dreams for others, you are surely unhappy. If you're older than 30 and don't know who you are, what you like, and what you want; it's time you figured it out! If you're younger than 30 then you're right on schedule. Are you ready?
Here are some helpful tips to get started:
1. Think back to your childhood. What were you like before age 5? Find pictures and look at your facial expressions. What were you doing? What did you like? If you don't have pictures imagine what you were like. We are our true selves early in childhood before we get weighed down with fears, hurts, disappointments, and all that baggage.
2. Unleash your creativity. You may not think you're creative, but we all are! Find your inner artist. Start writing, drawing, painting, dancing, blogging, designing, cooking, sewing, building, or some kind of creative expression. Creativity develops the whole brain and makes you smarter!
3. Make a collage or vision board. Start cutting out pictures from magazines or create a virtual collage online. Look at pictures of places, people, nature, hobbies, food and notice how you feel. What makes you feel happy, passion, excited, love? You are learning about yourself.
4. Journal every day in the morning what you are learning about yourself. Be totally free and honest. These are your private thoughts. Often we mask our true thoughts and feelings because of fear and shame. But in order to be your true self you must keep it real. Reveal the parts you hide and feel are unacceptable. Remember, the truth will set you free!
As you figure out what you're passionate about, what you love and what gives your life meaning and purpose, do it! You are becoming your true self. We are all constantly evolving, but the core of who we are is always the same. You were born amazing, beautiful, powerful and nothing can ever change that.
In future blogs we will explore ways you can develop yourself. We are all capable of being whoever we want, so don't ever limit yourself. If you don't know how to do something, learn how! It's never too late. And, don't ever think you have to remain stuck if you are unhappy. You are in charge of your destiny.
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or attempts, call the Suicide Prevention Helpline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255).