Ever been curious when you hear someone talking about wanting to go travelling to ‘find’ themselves – how did they come to lose themselves in the first place – aren’t we with our SELF all the time anyway?
As someone who’s lived abroad (and is still living abroad part of the time), I’m aware there’s a certain amount of escapism about the idea of moving to a new country. But if we hope to reinvent ourselves in our adopted land we’re quite likely to be disappointed when we find out we’re the same old person we were before we got there.
But I understand what people mean when they talk about wanting to find themselves; often what clients describe to me is a sense of being lost, or in a life they don’t recognise or feel they’ve chosen. Their sense of who they are is unclear and confused, often by the different demands put on them by others and by external events.
So what if you really do “lose” your sense of self?
What sparked this topic for a new blog was some research I was doing about acquired brain injury and it’s impact on a person’s sense of self. For these people the sense of who they are can become altered, a change that might be psychological or neurological, as a result of the actual injury to the brain and/or any physical scars or disabilities that they are left with.
Some of the things I read made me think about recent work I’ve been doing with coaching clients, which in turn led me to wonder if it might be a useful topic to share with you all.
What if your life doesn’t meet your own expectations?
Do you ever say something like “I didn’t think I’d end up here” or “This isn’t what I thought I’d be doing”? Because it’s something I hear quite often, even from women I support. They started out on their journey taking a particular route, following a college course or career path and then find it’s not for them. Or they’re no longer certain. Or the thing they started out doing wasn’t what they really LOVED it was the thing they were good at.
We compare ourselves to others too. “All my friends are married. Why can’t I meet someone?” or “They’ve only been in this job six months and they’ve already been promoted. What’s wrong with me?” or … well, there are endless versions of the ways we can compare ourselves (unfavourably) to others.
Whatever the reason, we end up just wondering how on earth we got to the place we find ourselves now. Ah ha, the place we ‘find ourselves’? You see, there’s that expression again!
Is what we DO who we ARE?
Do you introduce yourself by saying what you do? That might be what you do for a living or it might be about your role (as a mother, for instance). Those parts of our identity can be very important for us, but they don’t necessarily tell anyone very much about who we really are. And other people might make value-judgments about us based on those things (we might even do it ourselves – who’s heard a woman say ‘I’m just a housewife’?).
It’s something about accepting who and what we are, right now, WHEREVER we are. And in my experience the best way to do that is to sit with yourself (your Self). Just that.
It might be meditation. It might be mindfulness. It’s definitely about gratitude. Whatever your practice it’s important to notice what you’re feeling and experiencing, whether that’s negative or positive, and simply BE. No judging and no busy mind.
I know it’s hard. I struggle with this. We don’t want to do it. You’ll fight against it. There’s so much to distract us from being with our Selves!
There are some great free tools and resources for this available right now. Find something that works for you and that you feel comfortable with or you really will be fighting against yourself. Gaining awareness of our thoughts and feelings at any given moment helps us to handle them much more effectively.
Here’s a great practical article that explains it much better than I can!
Again, you’ve probably seen and read lots of things lately about establishing a daily gratitude practice. I usually suggest people start by noticing just ONE thing every day that they’re grateful for. At the end of each day they write it down in a journal if they want or just bring it to mind. Over time they may want to increase the number of things to consciously be grateful for, they may want to share them, but the important thing is to notice the good in the life you have NOW.
And change what is in your power to change
We can get very stuck in feeling that we’ve made our choices and we should stay on the chosen path, but I want to remind you that many other paths are possible. It’s something I’ve learnt in my own life.
Coaching and NLP are powerful tools for clarifying what’s important and then using those values to guide the setting of goals, inspire our dreams and motivate our change. And once you’re being more mindful of all those inner thoughts and feelings it’s easier to change the more negative thinking and destructive patterns of behaviour with support from a coach.
And of course go travelling if that’s what you want to do! It could change your life. But don’t do it because you want to meet Your Self face-to-face out there. That’s inside of you – it’s just that sometimes it’s much scarier to go into that quiet inner place than it is to pack a rucksack and book a plane ticket.