There are many reasons behind the choices we make day to day. Evolving into adulthood means we are more likely to start making decisions based on the responsibilities we encounter or the relationships we get into. The longer we stay in these spaces, the more we move the needle of our identity towards a new identity. If we aren’t careful, that new identity might be missing some essential parts of ourselves.
There was an interesting episode on infidelity on NPR’s Fresh Air a couple days ago. It was an interview with a couple’s therapist, Esther Perel, who claims to be an expert on cheating. There were lots of scenarios around how cheating has evolved and the notion that repercussions in the relationship once a person has cheated are “up for negotiation.” She talks about how the cheaters resoundingly responded that their affairs were more about an awakening of something inside them that they thought they had lost. I became curious about this notion, especially after yesterday’s blog post about Daring to Dream.
The idea that we can give pieces of ourselves away to work, responsibilities, our partner, our children, family, friends, etc. is kind of obvious. For example, we have to forego some folly to set a good example for a child, or keep the ripped jeans for the weekend and the nice pants for work, etc. But what about when we start doing things like, staying late at the office, allowing managers (spouses, partners, children) to hold us up as we head out the door, or saying you can do things you really don’t have time to do? Are we conscious of what we are trading away when we do it? Do we fully understand the implication of our actions, down the road? I don’t think we do.
For instance, even though I’ve come a long way in my life journey, and despite that I am aware that I don’t always make choices that put myself first, it’s still easy for me to find myself in a place that upon reflection I have to ask myself “how did I get here, again?”
Maybe it starts with “I won’t say anything because I don’t want to break the peace” or “I’ll ignore that because it’s not worth having a discussion about” or “I’ll just do it rather than admit I don’t have time for it” or, etc. It just starts. The next thing you know, it’s your MO. And, that one time is now most times and the net result turns into a pent up, frustrated, unhappy, with no voice, no recourse, etc. you. In fact, these are the very signals that you may have been giving pieces of yourself away for too long. Your happiness and inner qualities get muffled or diminished or disappear altogether.
For myself, people used to tell me that to take care of others, I had to take care of myself first. I thought that was total BS. I was terrible at taking care of myself, but I knew how to take care of others. The problem with this was that I had no sense of my own needs, let alone desires and dreams. I was in survival mode for so long that even today, I can find myself in similar situations. One of my biggest challenges had been having an opinion about what to eat. If you asked me what I’d like to eat, my brain would go blank and I’d just stare at you and probably offer for you to simply pick something.
It’s important that I understand this about myself because it’s easy for me to let someone else decide for me. And, if I’m doing it with food, chances are I’m doing it in other areas of my life, too. By being conscious of when these situations happen, I’m more likely to know the parts of myself I’m giving up–like a food preference.
The things we give away of ourselves aren’t always that obvious. Sometimes it comes out of necessity, sometimes it happens absent-mindedly, sometimes we make a choice to do it. Look for the signs that you may be giving too much of yourself away and start to make yourself aware of these situations. If you find yourself in the mindset of “the grass is greener on the other side,” you most definitely have given up something critical about yourself and are desperate for that expression by looking externally to find it. This is the one time when Justin Bieber really gets it right: the grass is greener where you water it.
So, be the grass. Take care of yourselves. Find the expressions that make you, you and feed them so you don’t lose your identity by giving critical pieces of you away to everyone and everything else.
Disclaimer: WordPress may include ads, which I do not endorse, to various blogs following posts.