For most of my life I’ve been living and dreaming and doing for someone else. I bet you have too.
When I was young it was for the approval or affection of my parents, boyfriend and friends. In my adult life it hasn’t really been all that different.
We still crave the approval of those we love. Our parents, partners, family and the friends we allow into our lives carry a piece of our heart.
In any meaningful relationship we give a piece of our heart away. And we can never truly get it all back.
And it’s simply not true to say we don’t carry scars from the ones we have lost. From the times we haven’t measured up.
As I look back on some of the hardest relationship losses of my life I see a very common thread: Identity.
Who are you? What makes you come alive? What brings you passion and excitement and joy? What makes your heart race and your tears fall?
If you’re anything like me, sometimes I find I’m the most like myself when I don’t know anyone. When I backpacked through Europe for 7 weeks after college or when I studied law in Ireland. I didn’t have anyone around me expecting me to be a certain way. I had nothing to prove and permission to be…me. Just me.
If I wanted to stay in by myself no one criticized. If I wanted to wander the streets at night no one disproved. If I wanted to snort out loud laughing no one was embarrassed. I was free to be me. Unabashedly.
But I’ve noticed things change when we get into groups. In cliques or communities sometimes expectations take over relationship and individuality. We stop celebrating our differences and start judging those who stand apart.
And in the last few years I’ve been practicing boundaries and finding the strength to be who I am. If I’m honest, I have lost some people along the way.
But it wasn’t free. I wasn’t loved for me, but for who I seemed to be. And over the last few years I’ve learned that it’s really good to be me. I’m much healthier and happier when I’m me.
Here’s why it’s really, really good to be you:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart.” Job 1:21 I used to think it was so strange and annoying when my parents went on and on about how fast time went and how the years passed by quicker with every one. That was, until I had my own children. I swear I can see the passage of time right before my eyes in the faces of my three boys. It reminds me how foolish it is for me to waste even a moment being someone I am not. Trying to prove to someone else something so that they might choose me, or like me better. To live under a false security that my worth is in the approval and affection of others. Naked I came and naked I will go. It’s startling, really. My time here is to love others well and to give myself to the work that has been given for me to do. When we begin to realize our worthiness is not held by those around us we find the freedom to actually be who we are.
Learning to trust ourselves is one of the most important things we will ever do. One of my biggest crutches has been in polling the opinions of others. Caught in a sticky situation, I wasn’t sure how I felt until I polled those closest to me. Collecting the opinions of others I felt safe to make a decision, but it almost always turned out bad. Because had I listened to my own heart, the right choice for me was often far different from the opinions of those around me. Trusting the opinions and advice of others over my own led me to far more heartache than if I had just dealt with the consequences of my own intuition. Trusting my own voice has given me discernment and confidence in who I am, and what I am comfortable with.
When I’m not living authentic and in line with my values, thoughts, dreams and principles I find myself quickly picking up the burden of resentment. It can be as simple as agreeing to organize a school fundraiser that you didn’t want or have time to do – or as complicated as an ongoing difficult relationship. If instead of establishing a boundary or standing my sacred ground, I let them bully or judge me into doing something I didn’t want to do, I become resentful instead of grateful. When I act in line with my abilities and availability instead of some notions of expectation, then I get to participate in life from a place of wholeheartedness, generosity and gratefulness. I want to live with a grateful heart.
Lets just reiterate, life is short. There is limited time to spend with family and friends outside of our responsibilities to our spouse, children and home. If you’re anything like me, there never seems enough time to do all the things I want to do! So cultivating a circle of people who give us freedom is the greatest gift we can give ourselves. As women, we live in a time and culture where there are so many conflicting demands it is nearly impossible to feel like we measure up in even a single category. We know this. We feel this enough about ourselves. The absolute last thing we need is people around us reminding us of how far we fall short. Finding the courage to establish boundaries and create a safe inner circle of people who encourage, inspire and celebrate our gifts is a treasure in a dark world. It is something to be honored, celebrated and protected.
This is our freedom and why it’s really, really good to be you. Because when you live in line with who YOU are, when it’s really, really you… Then you get to be who you are — know what you want– and do it with a grateful heart.
And that, is worth everything.