All too easily we can loose ourselves in the modern hustle. We can deny ourselves the impulses of our own heart and block out the thoughts that are intrinsic to our own needs. By no fault of our own, we may have learned to repress our feelings in order to show up for the world, for our family or for our partners. The world models this behavior of continuation without strong sensitivity towards the individual. Change is difficult to adapt to, but even more so when those around you become uncomfortable with your desire for it. They may feel they will lose you or that their dependency on you may be threatened by your new boundaries, and this very well may be case. But long term health and wellbeing within a relationship, given romantic or otherwise, can only be maintained if each individual is fully satisfied. And you are the only one who has the capability and capacity to do this for yourself.
Signs that your sense of self has been put on the back burner come in many forms. We’re masters at hiding inconvenient truths, so here’s somethings to look for to realize it’s time to hone into your own needs and invest time in reconnecting with yourself.
- Feeling agitated, on edge or irritable
- Looking to the lives of others and feeling the need to compare, judge or criticize
- Feeling apathetic, numb or unmotivated
- Feeling resentful in your acts of service to another or withholding affection
- Frequent avoidant behavior in the form of using drugs or alcohol, overworking or shutting down
But do not fear! Here’s five things you can do about it:
Sometimes we are merely doing too much and extending ourselves in too many directions. Review the obligations you currently have in your life and cut the fat. Where are you saying ‘yes’ when you really feel a ‘no’? It is not only okay to turn down responsibilities, but it is crucial if you wish to be thorough in what is important to you. If you are spread too thin nothing gets done quite right, and that can leave you feeling perpetually unsatisfied. Minimize your responsibilities and evaluate your priorities. Make time for simple things like taking a walk, preparing a nutritious meal or intentionally involving yourself in a relaxing activity. We must become disciplined with balancing activity with rest. Otherwise we get burnt out and we’re no good to anyone anyways.
A great read if you need some insight or inspiration is ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less‘ by Greg McKeown.
Take a good look around you. What do you see? How do you feel about the people around you and places you find yourself? Do they fill you up inside? Do you feel you are able to contribute? When I say ‘explore’ I’m not suggesting you get on the earliest flight and high tail out of here. I’m suggesting you explore what you already have.
Look with fresh eyes. Listen intently without thinking of the next thing you are going to say. Be bravely present. Speak your truth clearly without becoming emotionally triggered or taking ownership over how someone may react. Hold your ground calmly. Turn off the TV, go outside and watch the natural world – notice things you haven’t before. A nest in a tree, the movement of the clouds, the sound of the breeze. When we think we already know everything there is to know, it leaves little room to be surprised or impressed by others or our environment. Try to approach things with wonder, a clear mind and an open heart.
3. Revisit old passions
What did you love when you were five? What about when you were ten? Maybe when you were fifteen? If you can’t remember ask a trusted loved one. No matter how little or big your interests were at the time, they are a huge clue to rekindling one’s joy and sense of satisfaction. Was it cars, dance, games, physical movement, sports, fashion, animals, climbing or some other interest? These are the bread comes to what Joseph Campbell mentioned as ‘finding your bliss’. We’ve attached our sense of purpose and happiness far too often with material and monetary gain. But this is incredibly misleading and is why some of the most “successful” individuals are the most unhappy and disconnected from their human nature.
It is very likely you can look to your childhood to see what you are passionate about, or what mattered to you at the time. There is a good chance that by giving time and attention to whatever interest, trait or talent was left behind – you can regain a sense of self-confidence and connection. Joy is an incredible emotion that can’t be denied. Remember your spark!
4. Learn something new
Dr. Joe Dispenza is an incredible researcher who has revolutionized how we understand the human condition. The human brain works through patterns. To an extent, this tendency suits us. But when it comes to making changes, it is the exact thing that makes it extremely difficult. When we are in a new environment or learning a new skill, we are demanding that these patterns be challenged. By exposing ourselves to new experiences we are literally paving the way to a new way of being. Often times it is not that we are actually ‘unhappy’, but rather we are not fully allowing ourselves to embody the enthusiasm that comes with discovering something. As a child we are constantly excited by unknown situations. By default we have forgot what it feels like to be fully present and have new and exciting experiences. By changing the way we think, react and what we choose to focus on we change the quality of our condition. Become a student again, challenge yourself in new ways, get out of your comfort zone. It will help you discover who you really are and what you are truly capable of. So, pick up that guitar! Paint that picture! Learn to plant that garden! Take that ceramics class! Be sure to see it through. If you don’t feel excited by it, put it down and keep looking until you find something that cultivates a feeling of true enjoyment. It’s out there!
Sometimes we get so busy that we overlook crucial relationships. Friends and family that we feel authentically understood by are irreplaceable gifts. An important part of feeling grounded and centered is connecting with others on a deep and meaningful level. Is there anyone you love and care about that makes you feel all warm inside? Give them a call just because. Let them know you appreciate them. Spin old stories from back in the day. There are certain people who feel like our literal roots in this world. We are human and we thrive when nurturing and maintaining healthy relationships. Maybe it’s a friend you haven’t spoken to in years. What are you waiting for? In the book ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing‘ by Bronnie Ware, one of the top regrets was wishing they had stayed in touch with their friends.
If you’re one of the many, many people that lack a healthy support system perhaps it’s time to find and nurture new connections. Reconnecting with who you are and what you want is a beautiful process and doesn’t have to be grueling or daunting. We just simply have to act. Frustration emerges in the shadow of inaction. Perhaps any of these new found or rekindled desires will lead you to new communities or habits that will bring you together with like-minded individuals.
But the greatest reconnection of all is that with yourself. Being clear about how it is that you’re feeling, how you might be able to express yourself, what it is that you need, and what uniquely brings you joy. It is a consistent journey maintaining one’s relationship with themselves, and it may prove to be life long. But it is truly the most rewarding relationship you can invest in, as it is the center piece to every other relationship you will ever have.