“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” ~E.E. Cummings
I am a homeschooling mama of four kids. I am organized, empathic, no-nonsense, impatient, spontaneous, fun, methodical, intentional, and I’ll add, occasionally perseverating. I am a philosopher and a natural born encourager. I can talk to anyone, yet I tire of small talk. I like to share what I know, but I’m not a teacher. I’m a planner, an idea creator, a creative, but not in the sewing, watercolour art way.
Years of parenting and homeschooling responsibilities occupy our attention. Yet all these activities don’t necessarily reflect our core individuality.
Before I was a parent, I was a newly trained registered nurse with adventurous hopes in practicing in the Arctic and Africa. I liked watching movies, perusing book stores with a coffee, writing stories since I was printing, compiling pictures and creating photo albums, and I was timid in social scenarios.
Who are you? What is your general character and personality?
Recognize yourself as a separate person with a unique personality, needs and interests. You are not just a homeschooling mama.
“You be You,” the cool folks say. But who be you?
Who were you before you were a mother? Don’t let go of who you were before you were a mother. What occupied your spare time before you had a family? What activities did you love?
Our interests becomes distilled over time. We don’t care that others downhill ski in the winter months and that we might be the only family in town that doesn’t. We don’t care that some think our interests in finishing a Goodreads reading list is boring. No place I’d rather be on a weekend evening that reading a book with a glass of wine.
Just as important as acknowledging our interests is acknowledging our internal experiences.
This is assuming you’re paying attention to your internal world, your feelings and thoughts, how you react, feel or think in different scenarios? What makes you feel angry, disappointed, cheerful, sad, delighted? Do you consciously know what thoughts preoccupy you throughout the day and why?
Over time, when we have repeatedly listened to our internal world, we know who we are and what we’re about and we know what we’re not. We become familiar with our internal thought and emotional landscapes. We know how we react, what we react to and learn to curb those emotional triggers. We recognize that when more than one child talks, we feel overwhelmed. When more than three kids fight, we want to yell to get their attention. We know that when we watch them sleep, we know they’re the most perfect things we’ve made in this world. We know these things about ourselves and we accept ourselves.
Who are you when you don’t care what other people think of you? Instead of trying to be what we understand others expect of us, we need to let ourselves just be. Trying to be what other’s need us to be isn’t real. We can be us without requiring other’s approval.
Keep learning, keep paying attention, keep growing. If the journey of becoming yourself wasn’t encouraged in you since the day you were a wandering toddlers in a shopping mall, you need to nurture it for yourself.
Not everyone is interested in you becoming your own self. Others might have a different prescription for you. If you become more you, and change from what they know, you might not fill the same role in their world. But they’ll learn and adjust and come to appreciate the real you.
If we are self-nurturing and self-affirming, we learn not to listen to other’s prescriptions. We’ll develop such a strong sense of self that we will be able to listen to others’ perspectives with respect, honour their feelings when they don’t make any sense to us, acknowledge their ways of doing things as simply different, not bad. We’ll become people that are comfortable being ourselves but also comfortable with others being themselves.
Steps to Becoming You:
- Remember who you were before you were a mother.
- Acknowledge what you liked to do before you were a mother. Do you want to adopt a few childhood interests into the present?
- Acknowledge what new aspects of you that you enjoy now. What additions have been made in your life now?
- What are your lifelong emotional challenges? Where do they originate?
- In the middle of the night, when you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, what occupies you?
- Make something. Peruse Pinterest, a magazine, or YouTube. What would you want to make if you had all the time in the world or had someone teaching you?
- What kind of musical concert would you attend if you had the money or time? Sit with Spotify and a favourite drink and listen to a taped concert, the whole thing. Or book concert tickets.
- Write a list of the people you value, and why.
- Write a list of your three most important values, and why they are important to you.
- Find your mantra. For a while, mine was ‘carpe diem’. Now that I’ve seized enough days, and that notion is built into my bones, I’m seizing other mantras, like “this life is for learning, for authentically sharing, and being” or “everything is working for good in my direction.”
- Choose your daily words. Write them in your journal each morning. I have four this year: Monetize. Understand. Expand. Separate. These are daily reinforcements that help me focus.
- Support others as they make choices that don’t seem instinctively natural to you. For example, permitting young kids to make musical choices in the car that you would never listen to.
- Spend a day away from the kids. Don’t do anything FOR the family. Then you’ll see what interests you. Have no expectations for the day.
- Meditate. Every day. This facilitates listening to the inner voice, to identify what’s going on inside you.
Try these thought experiments from Psychology Today author Hal Shorey, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology at Widener University’s Institute of Graduate Clinical Psychology.
1. Look up from your screen and observe your surroundings. Suspend judgment and think about this thought independent of your feelings. Is there anything wrong in this moment? Many that do this exercise will respond ‘no’. Sometimes we focus too much on what has happened in the past or our painful stories . But really, everything is okay right now.
2. If you lose your memory tonight and could not recall any painful past, could your day be different tomorrow? Would you go about your day and enjoy the things you see and the people you encounter?
3. Daydream, imagine that you are in a different world, how might you carry yourself or see yourself in the world? Would you feel differently? Allow the emotions and thoughts of that other form to come into your body.
4. Look into your eyes in the mirror and ask “What am I?”
The self-learning journey is for a lifetime. You’ve got you to explore your entire life.