Go your own way
Losing your identity can be something that creeps up on you over time, particularly as a mum when your life has changed irrevocably overnight. You are so deep in nappies, weaning and suffering from the effects of serious sleep deprivation that you don’t really have time to think about yourself and when you do manage to get your head above the parapet life can seem a bit bleak.
Everything you once new and cared about has changed and you are responsible for another beings life…a massive responsibility on top of the fact that your body has been through a fair old ordeal giving birth and societies expectations are that you should be back on your old form within days of leaving hospital in true Kate Middleton style!
Some deal with this like water of a ducks back (earth mothers I like to call them); whereas others (like me) find the transition tough to say the least. Being so used to our independence and fending for ourselves, the lifestyle change can be hard.
I really suffered after my first child with the lifestyle change from an independent working, woman who travelled a lot and just generally enjoyed life to someone stuck at home not knowing why I was unhappy and constantly berating myself for being so fucking ungrateful! Why wasn’t I happy with my gorgeous, healthy baby? Why was I not enjoying every single moment? When would happiness and gratitude kick in? I had everything but felt like I had nothing…what was wrong with me?!
I didn’t tell anyone of course. I’m a pro at putting on a brave face but my body didn’t like it and I soon suffered with major stress related illnesses and my digestive system just gave up as it was so stressed out. It was so bad that I gave up sugar, dairy and wheat for 6 months to stop the debilitating headaches which was pretty epic for me as I had always been a party girl and never worried about what I ate.
Then came my second child, I didn’t suffer so much this time as I was more prepared for it and made sure that I ate really well and exercised but life still wasn’t the bed of roses that I had hoped it would be. It didn’t help that my husband at the time was a big drinker and didn’t really want to help me; so by the age of 40 I found myself divorced (by choice), with a one year old and a three year old, no home, no money and having to start again (I also had a snaggle tooth from where I had hit my front tooth on a glass and there was a chance that it might fall out…fucckkkkkk!)
I think the worst part of it all was that I just didn’t know who I was as a person anymore. I didn’t know what made me tick, what made me happy and how to show up in life. I compared myself to others endlessly and whilst completing the Digital Mums social media course as I tried to get my career back on track (after 7 years our out of the working world) I found myself really losing hope seeing how well everyone else seemed to be doing and trying to model myself around them which ultimately didn’t work because it isn’t authentic and I had no point of difference.
I felt like a failure. I did a lot of reading of self help books. A lot of crying. I watched a million online webinars and listened to podcasts. I tied myself up in knots. I tried soooooo hard to be something I wasn’t.
I count myself lucky because starting again has made me really look at myself and re-discover who I am and what makes me tick. There was a point where I couldn’t think of a single thing that made me happy. Really thinking about what I want out of life has helped but the real deal breaker has been that by default I decided to use myself as my USP for my business and so as a brand consultant I decided to go through the process that I would use on a brand for myself. I thought about my mission, vision and values in life and this has really helped me gain clarity on who I am, what makes me happy and my strategy for moving forward! Who knew that marketing techniques could be so useful!
I know that I’m not alone in this struggle with loss of identity. I think that we all have this romantic idea that we will get married, have kids and live happily ever after but we don’t think so much about the ever after.
Having a second chance at my life has taught me that I need to put effort into how I want to live and it is so important to do what feels right to you. There is no point comparing yourself to others, we are all entirely unique and the more we try and be something that we aren’t the more we lose our main USP which is us.
I have really learnt that you must 'Go your own way' (in the words of Fleetwood Mac; they were definitely on to something) if you want to live a happy, fulfilled life. Showing up as me, being proud of who I am and my values and living a lifestyle that I want to live is just the start. I am styling my own life from my clothing to my food, to the brands I want to align myself with to the holidays that I want to go on. It sounds so simple but it is the most effective way of living a purposeful and fulfilled life. Intentional living is all about living authentically and when you live authentically with a purpose you truly are living your life calling. In Japanese they call it your Ikigai (more on that another time).
My advice to anyone struggling with loss of identity is to really sit and think about what your vision of your life ahead is, where there are no constraints and you could be anything you wanted to be. How do you want to live it? What will you look like? Where will you go? What values will you aim to uphold? What is your life purpose (Ikigai)? Just writing down simple answers and expanding on them every few days can make such a big difference. This can then become your strategy document that you live by and I tell you something; once you become focussed on this, everything will start happening to ensure that it works for you and I know this from experience!
“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time” Zig Ziglar
Drop me a line if you would like to hear more or just want a chat. I'm always here to help those having a tough time.