When It All Started
You know that friend that never forgets your birthday, is always willing to listen, has an organized junk drawer and very little white space in her day timer?
That was me.
I relished taking care of others, prided myself on being there for friends and family, and fueled myself on the energy rush of being busy and crossing things off of a list. "External Me" looked just fine. "Inside Me", however, was often overwhelmed. My monkey-mind thoughts were scattered and focused on other people’s perceived feelings and needs. Who is upset? How can I help? What needs to be done? Was the spaghetti sauce too spicy? This mental mind-chatter frequently overshadowed the joy in all that I was doing.
Something had to change.
I actually didn’t have a conscious clue that anything was wrong with my behavior until I remarried after 8 years as a single mom. The addition of a spouse, three more children, and new social obligations catapulted my desire to make everyone happy into full blown people-pleasing. I had a great life, but I was over-fixated on how everyone else felt. My own emotions had taken a back seat. (Actually, they were stuffed in the back seat!) Being nice, attentive, and productive had become detrimental to my health. I had no idea what my needs were. I was emotionally off track.
The body is the storage locker for any emotions the mind doesn’t want to deal with...and my body was fed up!
So in 2014, my body revolted.
My stress levels had blown out my adrenals, and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid disease. Disbelief sprinkled with fear was my response to this first ever diagnosis. If I didn’t start making myself a priority (a.k.a reduce my stress levels), I could easily trigger another autoimmune disease.
This was my catalyst for change. It was time to face my behavior, reconnect with myself, and do some serious life evaluation. It was time to see self-care as essential, not selfish.
A Journey Back
The journey back to myself began by listening to all four voices: mind, body, heart, and soul.
First, I became aware of my mind’s unconscious programming. First-born child, societal expectations of females, and the fear of being perceived as selfish (or heaven forbid...not liked), all reinforced my behavior to put others before myself in an unhealthy way. I questioned my negative thoughts (thinking something does not make it true) and let go of the negative thoughts that weren’t serving me.
Second, with meditation and conscious breathing, I learned to quiet my overactive brain and tune into what I was feeling (no Tibetan retreat...just 15 minutes, twice a day).
Third, integrating yoga into my lifestyle actually helped me reconnect with my body and process my emotions. Every human emotion has a purpose and a message. Negative emotions need to be addressed and processed...not ignored. Stagnant, negative emotions rob us of our joy and are the precursor to many health issues. It wasn’t a coincidence that I had an illness in my throat area. I had stopped speaking the truth about my life to myself and those I loved.
Finally, my relationship with God deepened. I was reminded that my self-worth was inherent. I didn’t need to hustle for it by trying to please anyone. Forcing myself to slow down and sit still enabled me to listen to Him for the answers to my prayers and my own intuition. My outer and inner worlds synchronized.
Bit by bit, my life began to feel joyful again. I was able to be there for people without trying to fix their problems. I questioned my intentions before I acted. Did I really want to be doing something? Was I acting with a loving heart, or with perceived unspoken expectations?
The process of living my own life and not someone else’s version wasn’t easy. It is the road less traveled for a reason.
Unpacking and sorting through my baggage wasn't always easy. I realized that focusing on others was also a buffer for the fear I felt about pursuing my own dreams. If I was busy helping someone else, I didn't have to deal with me. Being honest and open with myself, however, blazed the trail for me to be that way with others. The relationships that mattered deepened. The projects and goals I had on the back burner began to materialize.
Because of my own story I have lived, it's now a passion of mine to help others walk that same journey of coming home to themselves.