When you’re young, you know who you want to be when you grow up. The idea that you might have to find yourself sometime in the future doesn’t even cross your mind. And yet, I think it’s something we all end up facing at some point in our lives.
This need to “find yourself” affects all of us in many different ways and at different points. Some people feel it when they’ve lost a loved one. Others when they reach a certain age.
Regardless of how or why you feel it’s time to find yourself, there are a few habits you can start setting into motion to help yourself get there.
Not too long ago, I found myself in a state where I didn’t know who I was anymore.
My experiences had set me on a path I wasn’t expecting.
And while I sit here now, typing, I know I have an absolutely beautiful life, but I’ve made several changes in the past year to work toward finding myself again.
A year ago I was lost, anxious, and grieving.
I reached a point where I could physically feel myself, my core, changing (and no, I wasn’t doing ab workouts!).
I was pregnant with my rainbow baby and approaching the time of my pregnancy when I’d lost my little boy, and I was so stressed.
The people around me didn’t understand, which made me feel lonely.
I was grieving my little boy, praying for my little girl, and so swallowed up in worries I couldn’t think straight.
So, what did that mean for me?
It meant I was stuck in a crisis of identity and loss.
I was “just” a wife. A mother of a sunshine baby. Part of the 1-2% of women who have lost their babies in a second-trimester loss. Pregnant with my rainbow baby. Lonely. Anxious. Stressed. Scared.
And I reached a breaking point.
I realized it was time to start focusing inward on the things I can control.
I began by making sure I was getting rest. Naptime for my oldest daughter meant naptime for me!
From there, I tackled self-care. I took one evening a week to go grab coffee (decaf of course) or a Chick-Fil-A cookie by myself. I spent that time reading, writing, and reflecting.
I started reaching out to people outside of my immediate circle. I reconnected with my best friend from High School. I gained a penpal from Ireland. I met some new moms in my neighborhood.
Within a few weeks of purposeful, intentional actions, some of which stretched me outside of my comfort zone, I started finding myself again, buried under all the emotions that were affected by my outward circumstances.
I started finding peace within myself.
When you really focus on five areas of your life and cultivate them, you can begin to find yourself.
These areas are
*Special note: NONE of these areas lies in a vacuum. The more overlap you find between areas, the more fulfilling a task will be.
For example, working out may fulfill your body quotient as well as your emotional quotient, or having a religious discussion with a good friend may fulfill intellect, social, and spiritual.
If you’re looking for ways to simplify your life in order to find yourself, find tasks that overlap so that you’re fulfilling more than one need at a time and finding more joy in your life.
If you’re looking at this list and thinking ‘Lace, these all seem so basic’, it’s because they are.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we need to fulfill our basic needs before we can truly work toward self-actualization and growth.
“Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by a failure to meet lower level needs. Life experiences, including divorce and loss of a job, may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy.” – Simplypsychology.org
How often have you been on fire working on a project, just to find that you have to stop a few hours in due to fatigue, hunger, or even loneliness? Or maybe things are going fantastic at work, just to be derailed by someone else receiving the promotion you wanted.
Wouldn’t it be better if we took care of our basic needs on a regular basis? What if outside circumstances no longer had the power to tear us down?
When you set into motion some simple, daily habits, you can almost automatically fulfill those basic needs so that you can focus more on finding yourself. As you find yourself, you’ll be able to take ownership of who you are and will learn to let go of the outside influences that used to bring you down.
But it all starts with building a foundation that ensures that you are taken care of, mama.
As moms, we often put the needs of our family before our own, and that usually results in us not taking care of our own bodies. Showers are postponed, chicken nuggets become a mealtime staple, and you can forget working out.
But that’s where things go wrong.
Mama – you have to take care of your body.
When you reach a point where you don’t recognize the woman in the mirror, you risk losing a part of yourself.
There are some amazing benefits of caring for your body:
You become more able to to take care of your family and home
Teach your children how to eat and take care of their own bodies in a healthy way
Mama, when you care for yourself, you show your children how to care for themselves. You show them that vegetables aren’t the enemy and that working out is enjoyable. These are habits and values that they will carry with them the rest of their lives.
Consider what message you want to send to your kids about health.
Wake earlyand consistently– Use your morning to prep for your day, practice self-care, exercise, read a book, or anything that brings you little bit of joy. Waking at the same time every day helps your body establish a rhythm and makes it easier for it to know when it should be awake and when it should be asleep.
Slow down – Whether it be for a bedtime ritual or just a designated time of day, they take a little time to get back to your senses and care for yourself. Try meditating, or simply turn your phone off for a while and practice being present.
Caring for your emotions means emotional self-care. It means making sure you fit time into your hectic life every day to dedicate to things that make you happy, build your self-worth, and bring you joy.
I know you are busy.
I am, too.
These habits are quick, easy, and should be enjoyable. They are meant to help you build up your sense of worth and joy, as well as reduce anxiety.
Find Yourself Through Emotional Self-Care
Practice gratitude – Take a few minutes every single day to recognize the good things in your life. Write them down daily. Look back over your growing list of good every once in a while.
Speak affirmations to yourself – Positive thinking goes a long way in how our lives are manifested, but I want you to actually speak affirmations out loud and to your own face (in the mirror, of course). Write down some positive beliefs, such as, “You are beautiful, smart, and strong. You are a wonderful mother. You can handle everything life throws at you with wisdom and grace.” Say your affirmation out loud to yourself every day.
Journal – People journal for many different reasons – to vent, to express gratitude, to list ideas. Find the fit for you (or do them all) and spend a few minutes each day writing down your thoughts
Read for fun, work on a craft, or do something that makes you happy – Let’s be real, Netflix makes us all a little happy, but for this habit to work the way it’s meant to, you need to find something outside of watching TV that brings you some happiness. Read a book, knit, paint, go on a walk, exercise, get a cup of coffee, have a date alone, take a nap, organize… whatever floats your boat, try to incorporate it into your daily life.
Get out of the house – Studies show that even getting a few minutes of sunlight can improve your mood. I’ve found that a change in scenery often inspires new thoughts and emotions, especially when I have the opportunity to leave the house alone, which can be just what you need when you want to try to find yourself.
If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, chances are you sometimes feel your brain turning to mush. Everything you do is centered around the kids. It’s so important to have something for your mind to dwell on during the 87th time you and the kids are watching Frozen.
One special part of working to find yourself is growth.
You may feel like you don’t know who you are now, but consider who you want to become, then figure out how to get there.
Find Yourself Through Feeding Your Intellect
Make goals and a plan to reach those goals– Just because you stay home doesn’t mean that your life should be totally centered around the kids. What are your goals? Do you want to redecorate the spare bedroom? Figure out how to save an extra $500 a month? Start a side hustle or blog? Declutter your entire house? Pick a goal and get to work!
Some people tend to withdraw when they feel lost, but one of the best things you can do is to reach out to other people and connect.
Don’t feel like you have anyone you can talk to right now? Start considering past friendships, distant friendships, and acquaintances. Do something out of the ordinary and start meeting new people. You don’t have to be sudden BFF’s with anyone, but the simple act of talking with people and connecting with people can help you sift through whatever bit of life you’re going through and come out the other side feeling better than before.
Find Yourself Through Being Social
Be a good listener – I know, I know. You are already a good listener. You may have even skipped this point because you don’t feel like you need any more guidance on the subject. If you’re still hanging in there with me, good, because this is important:
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen Covey
Don’t listen to respond. Listen to understand. That’s how real connections are made.
Network – Uh oh. I have to network?? Just hear me out. I am not saying you need to go to special events and try to meet all of the people who could benefit you in some way or another. You’re not trying to grow a mom team. What I am saying is to be kind when you see other mamas. Say hello. Chit chat. You don’t have to exchange phone numbers or sign up to be besties. If you happen to run into her again in the future, don’t avoid her like the plague. Smile and say hello. There’s nothing wrong with spreading a little kindness wherever you go. And you really never know when you might meet your next friend.
Cut out unnecessary stressors – Are there people in your life who cause you undue stress and anxiety? Do you feel worse when you get off of Facebook or Instagram? It’s time to clean up your life. Start removing toxic people, relationships, and negativity on your news feeds. Unfollow the people you unfairly compare yourself to. You have a say in who you allow to be in your life. You don’t have to allow the people that cut you down to be permanent fixtures.
We all believe in something bigger than ourselves, whether that be God, family, a cause, or humanity. We all hold something larger than ourselves at our core.
When we drift away from that, we start to lose ourselves. We feel directionless and ask what’s the point? We spiral into depression.
It’s common to feel like you’ve lost yourself when you’ve turned your back on your spirituality. For many, our spirituality is what gives us purpose in this life, so when it’s neglected we suffer.
Find Yourself Through Spiritual Nourishment
Take time to read religious/philosophical text – Allowing yourself the opportunity to expand your mind and perspective can help you work through whatever you’re dealing with in your life. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of reading that really sticks with you to change your paradigm, and therefore, your life.
Meditate – It’s not just a matter of emptying your mind during those moments. It’s a matter of contemplating your inherent value and self-worth. Fill your mind with the things you want to attract to your life.
Connect– Find someone to talk with to help guide you through this process of working to find yourself. Choose a friend, family member, or someone you trust and look up to.
Be still – While this may easily fall under “meditating,” this time I want you to empty your mind and allow yourself to just be in the present moment.
Refocus on the big picture– As always, I encourage you to go back to your why. Why do you feel lost? What brought you to this point? What’s the bigger picture? Think about your bigger goals, break them down into smaller steps, and keep your eye on the ultimate goal.