How to Live Your Best Life: Don’t Reinvent Yourself, Reclaim Yourself

 

Reinventing: A Set-Up for Failure

When I was young, one of my biggest mistakes was that I tried to reinvent myself to please other people.  I didn’t realize that by simply reclaiming my true self, I could be my best and strongest self.

I got married right out of high school to a man I had only known for three months. The man I married had a big personality. This man loved adventure and wasn’t afraid of taking risks. He also embraced some fairly traditional beliefs about women’s roles. I wasn’t all that skilled or experienced doing traditional, female work. Rather, I was a shy young girl who tended to be cautious and enjoyed quiet time to think about ideas.

A couple months after getting married, I was pregnant with our first child. I tried hard to be the kind of wife my husband wanted me to be. I also tried hard to be the kind of mother I thought I should be even though I knew very little about parenting.

As my children started to grow, I realized how inadequate I felt as a person. Because of how I felt, I started seeking ways to develop myself. I learned to speak in public. I got an education, and I landed solid professional positions. I tried very hard to be everything I thought I should be. Yet I felt like I was failing. I felt like each of my roles were contradictory in different ways.

Paying the Price

I felt like a failure as a mother when I was expected to be in the office instead of at home. I felt like a failure as a wife when I handled responsibilities in a corporate environment but couldn’t always keep on top of housework at home—the housework that my husband thought I should be managing. I felt like a failure when I could only manage to make myself stay in a position for a couple years before trying something else—always hoping something else would feel more natural for me.  Even when others told me I was doing a good job as a mother, a wife, and a professional, I figured it was only a matter of time before I’d be exposed as a fraud.

Once my children were grown and my first marriage was starting to split at the seams, I suddenly realized I had no idea who I really was. I couldn’t even recall that my favorite color was blue or that I had always loved Bach, or that I cherished quiet time. Because I didn’t know myself very well, I lived much of my life on a day-to-day basis.  And, because I didn’t really know myself very well, I couldn’t really envision my future.

Lost and Found

My marriage of over two decades ended. My children were grown and gone. I was left alone with someone I didn’t really know anymore. For several months, I worked hard to rediscover who I was. I sought some help from counselors, talked with friends, did a lot of reflective writing, and worked hard at excavating “the real” me.

One of the more difficult parts of rediscovering who I was involved putting all the pieces of my life back together in a way that made sense. There were parts of my life I had tried to forget – and even tried to pretend never happened. While those experiences didn’t define who I was, they were a part of who I was and the insights I had developed. When I was ready to really look at a portrait of my life, I could finally see the natural highlights and the necessary shadows that gave me character and depth.

After a lot of hard work, I knew myself a lot better. I knew my strengths and areas where I wanted to grow. I also knew that I was a person who loved learning. Once I reclaimed who I really was, I was actually able to visualize the future I wanted.  Given my temperament, my personality, my experiences, and my passion for learning, I could easily see myself teaching full-time at a community college. Community colleges often serve people who face the types of challenges I had faced earlier in my life.

Living My Best Life

I have taught at a community college for fourteen years. I have never thought twice about being anywhere else. Once I knew who I was, it wasn’t hard to figure out where I belonged. Because I feel like I have been where I’ve belonged all these years, I have felt confident about what I do.

Within a few months, I will be retiring from teaching full-time. After I retire, I am going to start a part-time web-based business for Baby Boomers. I’m also going to enjoy more time with my soulmate – the man I married after I figured out who I really was. Like me, he is a quiet person who doesn’t like to take risks and loves to think about ideas. He’s also a person who treats me with love and affection and takes time to really understand me.

What about you? What makes you happiest? How would you describe your true, authentic self?

 

 

stro9146

I am an associate professor of communication in Southern Oregon. I'm also an ancient spirit who has learned how to create positive changes in my own life and use unexpected changes to become more of the person I believe I am meant to be. My vision is to help empower others by sharing how to dream big and develop measurable action steps to achieve those dreams.

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