Updated: Feb 11, 2022
Last week I wrote about the importance of identifying with your goals in order to embody the characteristics of someone capable of achieving your goals. In order to do this you have to filter through imposter syndrome, stereotypes and other mental road blocks. When you process through the challenges and create an identity, you will then start to make the choices associated with your vision for your life. All of this got me thinking about when your identity isn't constructed consciously and thus doesn't align with your values or your goals.
For years I was a "mom". That was my identity and I put EVERYTHING into it. I wore the clothes (chinos, danskos, cardigans and pearls oh my), I did all the kid activities (library story hour, PTA), I cooked all the things (meat/starch/veggie meals every night, homemade baby food, homemade granola bars and really all snacks), I dressed my kids in all name brands (even though I couldn't afford to), I read every single parenting book I could get my hands on (even though they encouraged me do things that went against my values) and I selflessly put my kids' needs before my own. The problem with all of this? I was suppressing who I really was to assume an identity that had been pre-described for me. This was all obviously done unconsciously and at the time I convinced myself I was happy. I'm an overachiever by nature so, since I was overachieving there didn't seem to be any reason to be unhappy. Killing it!
Or killing myself is more like it.
Sometimes we assume identities because it's what we believe is expected of us. Then, if we are doing the things well, we convince ourselves that we're thriving. Meanwhile, all of our hopes and dreams are going right down the drain with the few sips of wine we were too exhausted to finish. You may not even recognize the aching, longing to be something different because you're using numbing mechanisms to dull the pain. I was a smoker, overeater, gossiper, tv watcher and shopper. I also became extremely good at being busy being busy to avoid the feeling that I wanted to be something different. Look at me over here doing all the things!
Over time resentment grew to the point that I became a maniacal, micromanaging, monster of a mother and wife. I blamed everyone and everything for my unhappiness. I resented my life and frankly I was an asshole. For a long time I thought this was justifiable and enjoyed spending my time complaining with the other miserable people. I'd like to say that I woke up one day and realized the fault in my ways. But it was more like a series of small cracks in the walls of a house that were ignored until eventually the entire structure came down, leaving only the foundation and no choice but to rebuild. I remember one such crack occurred many years ago while I was chatting with a woman while our kids swam in their evening lesson. I was talking (no doubt actually complaining) that I was stressed out about what to cook for dinner and still get the kids to bed on time. I'll never forget her looking at me and saying, "you don't have to cook a full dinner you know." She then went on to recommend scrambled eggs, a bowl of cereal or a can of soup. My mind was blown. I had literally never considered that it was ok to cook anything other than a perfect meal for my family. There were many instances like this over the years that slowly allowed me to envision a new way of Momming. Realizing that I could be a different kind of Mom led me to believe I could be a different kind of person.
We're all offered these little tidbits of wisdom but we aren't always able to receive them. Sometimes we ignore these little whispers and wait until life comes crashing down on us in a big way. I already hit you with the house analogy so I think you know which route I chose. While I've learned a lot of lessons that have brought me to this amazing time in my life, I highly recommend the whispers. I'm whispering to you now. Use this moment as a reason to pay attention to your inner voice. Give yourself a chance to figure out if the identity you're carrying is the one you want or even serving you? Does it serve the people in your life? I can tell you for sure that identifying only as a mother is a major burden for your kids to carry. Whether or not you realize it, you're modeling for them to sacrifice their needs and desires for others. And whether or not you say it, your kids have an understanding that it's a them or your dreams kinda thing. Being a Mom is an important part of who you are, but it doesn't have to be all you are. You can be a great Mom and still live a life of your own. To be clear, I do not have this part all figured out, but I'm actively working at it. I make mistakes but firmly believe that not meeting my kids's needs all the time is perfectly ok (this is a value that ignored for a long time because of culture and parenting books). My kids will know that people are perfectly imperfect and they are not the center of any universe but their own.
All of this identity talk is important whether you're a Mother or not. You may be a professional who put in a lot of time and energy to achieve your current position and are no longer feeling like yourself. You may be a Dad who got wrapped up in providing for his family. You may be an athlete who's career just ended. No matter what your identity crisis is, it's ok. If you're reading this blog it's not too late to consciously create an alternate identity for yourself. And the best part about all of this is that you can change your identity or even just give more merit to certain parts of your identity as it suits you. For me letting the pendulum swing from one area of focus to another has been key. Sometimes my kids need me and I need to Mom it hard. Sometimes I need to pour all my energy into my business. Other times like right now, I need to focus on being a bodybuilder so I can stay disciplined. You get to make the rules for your life too. Don't get stuck making it up as you go or playing someone else's game. Take the time to figure out who you are and more importantly, who you want to be. Then and only then can you live a life you love.
Thanks for reading,
There's a song for that: "I am Woman", Emmy Meli
P.S. This is me directly after my last bodybuilding competition. I'd already eaten baked goodies in the hotel room and had Italian food after this. When the pendulum swings one way, I remind myself that "all the things" will be there waiting for me when I swing back.