Have you ever really learned who you are at a deeper level? Sometimes we walk around doing the things we’re supposed to do, but rarely stop to figure out who is doing those things.
In this episode, I read an email from a woman who never got a chance to learn who she is because of narcissistic parents telling her who she is all her life. Now that she’s a wife and mom, she feels lost.
If you’re lost, it’s time to find yourself.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
I’m a firm believer in finding the right psychological professional for your needs. The reason I say that is because not all of them have the best qualifications, or I should say that not all of them are into communicating with you in the “right” way.
I’m trying to be careful here because there are so many great therapists and counselors. They have changed humanity for many of us. Then there are some that are aren’t so great. I’m going to read you an email momentarily that talks about someone that I believe isn’t so great.
The person who wrote reached out to a counselor and got some help, and was apparently seeing them for a couple of years. From her email, I couldn’t tell how good that help the whole time. Instead of speculating on that, I’ll just get right into the email and we’ll see where we go with it. Today’s topic is about someone who doesn’t know who they are learning who they are. If you resonate with this, keep listening because I’ll share some exercises on it in a bit. This is especially true if you are dealing with any type of identity issue and you want to learn who you are at a deeper level.
Here’s the email: “Hello, Paul. I’ve been a listener for over two years, and you’ve always helped me organize my thoughts and help me understand things my previous counselor had never explained to me. I’m no longer working with that counselor, however, I am feeling very lost. He pointed out to me that both my parents check every box for narcissism. I’ve always been controlled by them and never really formed my own opinions until I got to college. At that point, I really got that outside perspective that showed me that I am an individual, I can think on my own, and I can make my own decisions.
“As a young child, my parents often left us outside when they were working, so we never really had guidance. I have become a very resilient person and have grown from that, but I’m now in my late 20s with kids, and I’m in a relationship that has been going on for almost a decade. I’m just realizing I don’t know who I am.
“I’ve played the role of a mother to my kids and I have worked since they were born. We have plenty of downs but not many ups. I don’t know how to find my true self, or even discover who I truly am because I’ve always had someone telling me who I am and what to do with my life.
“I’m struggling to lose weight. I realized my life is more important than anything, but I don’t know how to take charge of my own life and get my health back where it needs to be. I don’t know what else to tell myself. I have every reason to get myself together, but I sometimes just feel so depressed that nothing ever changes because our home life is hectic with my narc mother living with us and actively dying from a disease.
“I am finding it extremely difficult to motivate myself to do better. I no longer have a counselor because he told me to ‘just deal with it’. I don’t really know how to deal with it. I’m hurt and sad.”
Thank you so much for sharing this. Thank you for expressing it here. I appreciate that. You’re listening to the show and you’re learning things, I love that. I just want to say something about that counselor who told you to just deal with it. But I’m going to hold back until after the break. I really want to say something about that, and it really needs to be said but let me tell you what stands out in your letter first.
If I were to end this episode right now, I would say “Everything will change when your mom is gone.”
That is my prediction if I take out my crystal ball. I’m reading your letter and I’m thinking, wow, this is really tough. This is a tough place to be in. You don’t really have a foundation of your identity. You feel like you don’t know yourself well. You’ve had some learning and growth. When you went to college that was really helpful but then you ended your letter saying that your narcissistic mother lives with you!
That to me would be the end of this episode. I would just say, “Well, your mom’s living with you. Why do you think you’re feeling the way you’re feeling?”
We typically get away from toxic family and go out on our own and do our own thing so that we can grow and heal. But what has happened here is that the toxic element from your past came back from your past, and is now a part of your life. And is also, unfortunately, a part of your identity too. She is in this mix!
I’m not saying you have to get rid of her. She has this disease. She’s dying. Of course, you’re being human. You’re being loving. You’re doing everything you can to help. That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m just saying if you think it’s a big mystery why you can’t figure out who you are and how you fit into the world or whatever, I want you to remember that you have one of the most toxic elements of your childhood still in your life.
This is like deadly, radioactive plutonium that you finally moved away from, and you are starting to feel better, then somebody mailed you a plutonium rock and now it’s in your house again.
I have no idea if your mom moved in right away or after you got back from college, but the bright part of your letter was when you were in college. While there, you figured out that you have an identity. Or, at least you started figuring out that you can make your own decisions. No one was telling you what to do. I can tell that was a more positive time of your life.
But then you get to the part where the clouds get dark again, and the thunder is booming, and things are looking bleak. On top of everything else, your mom lives with you. To make matters worse, your counselor tells you to just deal with it.
That irks me. It really ticks me off. I’ll address that in a moment. I also want to give you an exercise or two to go through so that you can start the process of learning to understand who you are. But I want you to keep in mind that it’s very, very difficult to explore a path of personal growth and development, or any type of mental, psychological, or emotional improvement, when you have a toxic element that is near and around you most of the time (or even some of the time).
Most of the time you have this person living with you that has been like a radioactive isotope in your house and you probably have to deal with that on a daily basis. Furthermore, she is ill. I don’t know if that makes it more difficult or not, but I would imagine it probably makes things worse because there might be a conflict inside of you like, “I have to take care of this ill person that I’m supposed to love because she is my mom, but I have feelings about that.”
I’m making some assumptions of course. I could be completely wrong. But when you’ve been raised by someone that is also toxic (in this case, narcissistic), you have probably developed attachments where you love the person and you can’t stand them at the same time. Or, at minimum, you can’t stand their behavior.
You want a mom, but you don’t have one because she doesn’t show up as a “mom”. There are probably many components to it, but I want you to be aware of this person in your life and how she is probably still toxic. Even if she isn’t, even if she wasn’t bothering you at all and she just stayed in her bedroom all the time, she’s still there.
She’s in your proximity. She is in your mind all the time. You want to know what’s eating you? That’s probably it. Or at least, that’s one of the things eating away at you. There’s more to talk about of course. I won’t tell you to “just deal with it.” I’m not going to say that because that’s just wrong.
Let me say this, I really want to say “Shame on this counselor.” I really want to say that, but I’m not going to. I know… you heard it, you can’t unhear it. The jury heard it but now I’m striking it from the record.
I’m not going to say that about the counselor because I don’t know the whole story. Perhaps it’s how this counselor works. I can’t discredit this person. I don’t know who this person is. But if this is true, if he just said, “You’ll just have to deal with it,” let me say this, his advice could be 100% right.
If he said something like, “You’re just going to have to deal with it. You have a situation that’s not going to change so you have no choice but to deal with it.”
That could be absolutely true! But just you don’t tell someone who is already in the throes of defeat more defeating information. You don’t do it that way. There’s a certain tact one should take. A certain approach so it’s not so defeating and doesn’t amplify what they already feel.
Someone should be able to leave a therapist’s office with a sense of hope, not despair. He may have said it in the friendliest tone ever, “Hey, I know things are tough. You’ll have to deal with this. It’s something you’re just going to have to work through.”
I get that. That could have been how he approached it. And again, his advice could be 100% true. And maybe this was a more direct counselor than you wanted. So, again, I’m not trying to discredit him or say anything bad about him, but he should have worded his suggestion differently, or simply not said it at all.
There’s always something else you can say besides that. One can take a different approach. There are different ways to view the circumstances. One can highlight a different perception or outlook. There’s always something that a counselor can say to give you some sense of hope.
This counselor didn’t give that to you so I’m glad that you’re not seeing him anymore because I don’t think it’s good advice. Does that mean I’ll have good advice? That’s up to you to decide. But I’m hoping to give you some hope. I’m hoping I can give you direction. I’m hoping what I say gives you a new outlook or a new perception. That’s what us people-helpers are supposed to do on this planet.
I don’t have the rest of the context of your sessions with him so I don’t know why it ended up the way you explained it, but that one little quote in your email, “just deal with it”, even without the context, just irks me. It doesn’t make me feel very good about this person.
Even if he was 100% right and you really had no choice but to deal with it, he should have never told you to just deal with it! The reason I am taking so much time on this subject is because the counselor shouldn’t have said something to make you feel defeated.
You shouldn’t have to go to a counselor to feel that. You can feel that already on your own. It’s a given! It’s the most obvious “suggestion” anyone could give you. You already know you have to deal with it. You don’t have to pay someone else to tell you something that you already know. That’s pretty much why I’m continuing to talk about this. It’s just an unhealthy thing to do. It’s not good advice and it’s not a good suggestion. I want you to strike it from your record. Meaning, don’t take it as a real suggestion from a professional. Just take it as that counselor having a bad day, giving you the wrong advice.
I’ll give him that: He was having a bad day and he just couldn’t come up with a good suggestion for you, so he gave you something that just probably just slipped out of his mouth.
And since it wasn’t a good suggestion, strike it from your record. I don’t want you to just deal with it, because you already know you have to deal with it. That would be like saying, “Oh my god, I lost my arm in a car accident. Now I have no arm!” Then someone comes along and says, “That’s really sad. You’re just going to have to deal with it.”
“Yeah, I know I’m going to have to deal with it! Why do you have to tell me that? I know I’m going to have to deal with this. So can you give me any type of positive outlook? Can you at least tell me there are so many things people with one arm can do? Maybe you can tell me about that drummer on Def Leppard. He’s a one armed drummer, can you at least say that?”
“No, just deal with it.” Ugh.
Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now. But please do strike that from your mind even though you’ve heard it and you can’t unhear it. Like I said, some things you probably can’t unhear.
I highly respect the therapeutic and counseling professions. There are many, many good ones out there. I’m going to say that you probably didn’t have one of those (one of the good ones, or at least a compatible one).
“Just deal with it” may actually work for some people. Maybe somebody else would hear that and think okay, I’ll just deal with it! Maybe it would work for people like that. But I don’t think he read you well and he didn’t make you feel very hopeful at all.
So now let’s figure out what we can do instead of just dealing with it. I’m going to go over a couple parts of your email and address these things. The first part that you wrote was, “I don’t know how to find my true self, or even discover who I truly am. Because I’ve always had someone telling me who I am and what to do with my life.”
You’ve already heard me say this, but your mom is still there in the same house, in your proximity. And that is what I call “relationship radiation”. I lovet his term because it truly exemplifies what radioactivity can do to you. If you are near a radioactive source of any type, you’re going to feel the burn. It’s going to make you sick. It’s going to make you unhealthy, day after day, continuously, until you’re so sick that you can’t be around it anymore or you’ll die.
That’s extreme I realize. I’m not saying that she’s going to do that to you but I am saying when you are around something radioactive, or “toxic” in this case, you’re going to feel it, even if she’s not in the same room. Radioactivity goes through walls. You may not know it’s there, but you’ll feel it. You will sense it. You will think about it. It will eat away at you like I said earlier, even if she’s not doing anything harmful anymore. Even though she’s gotten to a point where she’s too old to try to control you and she knows she’s in a bad situation.
Unless she has fully apologized and reached some sort of emotional enlightenment, and realized that she’s been harmful, telling you, “I am so so sorry. I have been neglectful. I shouldn’t have treated you that way. I shouldn’t do that. You are my daughter and I love you, ” if she didn’t say any of that, or even come close to something like that, then she’s pretty much the same person that you tried to deal with since childhood. She probably hasn’t changed too much. Or the dynamic of your relationship hasn’t changed too much.
This means two things. One, she’ll probably never change because she’s at that age now, and she hasn’t changed yet. You’re in your 20s so it’s been many, many years. If she hasn’t changed by now, she probably won’t.
Two, you now have to do things, think about things, and communicate a little differently because I’m worried that you might be responding and reacting the same way you used to react with her when you were a child.
If you were submissive and she was controlling back then, and you’re that same way now, that will continue the toxic relationship. It will continue the “relationship radiation”. Not that it’s easy to get away from that toxicity, but if your responses to her are still in any any way submissive instead of, “I’m confident in myself. I’m confident in who I am. Let’s talk about that in a respectful manner. This is my house and you have no right to talk to me, my husband or my kids that way.”
If you’re not showing up like that, with confidence in yourself and spewing self-compassion, self-love, self-respect, and self-care, no wonder you don’t know who you are. You can’t know who you are if you are still under some sort of control.
Even if she has no control over you, you probably still feel like she’s a controlling element in your life. In fact, I would say from my limited perspective right now of your situation that because she’s in your house, you feel like you don’t have your own space. You probably feel like you don’t have your own privacy, even if you do, but really, you don’t, because she’s in the next room. You really can’t speak freely about her or anything. You probably still feel controlled. If that’s the case, you have no identity.
You can’t feel like you have your own identity around her because you still feel like you’re under that same level of control, and that you’ve never left your childhood home. This is one way to look at it, is that you’ve never left your childhood home because the person that was controlling you is still there even if she’s acting differently. She’s still in your mind as that controller. And you may still be responding to her in a way that is disempowering to you and giving her that control.
If she says, “I want my bed made and you’re not making it.” How are you answering her? I’m just making up a scenario of course. She may be the nicest person now, I don’t know. You didn’t actually mention if she’s still a toxic element in your life anymore. But let’s just say that she said that: “I want my bed made now. How come you’re not making it before I go to bed? It’s too hard for me.” Her complaint may be valid, but the way she is telling you makes you think, “Ugh. I have to deal with this now.”
You might be going through something like this every day, so how are you showing up? Are you saying, “Well that’s too bad. If you want your bed made, you’ll have to make it yourself.”
That might sound cold because she is ill. Maybe she needs someone to take care of her. If that’s the case, and that person is you, then there has to be an empowering element for you to be in this controlling environment so that you don’t feel like you have no power.
This is kind of step one of building the structure of who you are. You have to find a way to get your power back. I look at power as the ability to say what you want, be what you want, and do what you want. Doesn’t mean you can be, do and say all anything you want all the time, but you show up in a way that you feel comfortable and more authentic. It has a lot to do with your beliefs and values. When you have those, you feel more powerful. But when somebody is around who takes that power away, you feel drained.
She may be this element that’s draining you, causing you to feel like you have no structure in your life. That structure is built from the power that you currently feel like you don’t have.
So how do we get our power back when we’re in this controlling environment? My first thought on this, again with the limited information I have about you and your situation is that you have to remember that she is in your house, under your roof.
She may need help, yes. And you are choosing to help her. You’re obviously making some sacrifices here, but she is still in your house. She is still under your roof. Plus, and this is important, she’s no longer your mommy. I’m saying that from the kid’s perspective. She’s no longer “Mommy”, she is your biological mother, but not Mommy. And you don’t have to be the child with her. She is another adult in the house. She’s older than you, but her age doesn’t matter now because you’re both adults.
If you see age as some sort of hierarchy that you must follow, that’s not how I want it to work for you. I don’t want you to look at it that way. As an older, wiser person, I want you to look at that other person in your hour as another adult. An adult that should treat you as the head of the household which means she doesn’t have to treat you as a daughter.
It would be nice if this relationship was healthy and she could treat you like a daughter but she doesn’t have to. All she has to do is respect you as another equal adult and respect that this is your house. You know if you want some sense of identity, start owning this stuff. Start owning the house.
That might mean you respond to her like this one day: “This is my house. Your bed’s a mess. I didn’t get to it so you’re just going to have to deal with that.” Again, I know that sounds cold! “But Paul, she’s a dying woman!”
Yes. And you are taking care of her. You are helping her live her final days in the best way possible, but you also don’t have to take crap. You own the house. You own the space you are providing, the roof over her head.
She might say “But I raised you! I gave you your life.”
Of course she did! She had that responsibility. She chose to be a parent. But now you are the parent which means you get to control the environment because you own the house and you own the space. And if she treats you right, you will treat her right back. You may have to say that to her. You may have to say, “If you start treating me with love and care, I will do the same for you.”
She might get angry and she might storm off. At that moment, you might feel like a little girl again because some old fears may kick in because that’s your “mommy”.
She’s not your mommy anymore. Now, if she shows up as a loving, caring, healthy, supportive, generous mommy, and you want to be a little child in that moment because it’s healthy, by all means! But when a parent doesn’t treat you the way they should treat you, in my opinion, the way they should treat you is to view you as someone who’s lovable, important and worthy.
If a parent is not treating you like that, then they’re no longer your mommy or daddy. They’re just another equal adult that you’ll just have to treat like another equal adult. If a friend moved into your house, or a stranger moved in as a roommate, and they started doing the same things, you’d probably have a problem standing up as the head of the household and saying, “I’m sorry, that’s unacceptable here. You can’t do that here.”
I know I’m making a lot of assumptions here. I know that I’m assuming that your mom is doing all this behavior. You might be thinking ‘she doesn’t do any of this. It’s not that at all.’ But I want you to take away what you can from what I just said about all this. I want you to feel comfortable in your own skin, in your own house, and own this place that you’re in, not just the house, but who you are.
You are an equal. A fully grown adult with kids and a marriage. You own the marriage. You own the fact that you’re a mom, and you’re doing the best you can so no matter what anyone else says, it doesn’t matter. You’re doing the best you can. Nobody can convince you otherwise, because you’re doing what you believe is right for you and your family. Plus you’re making some big sacrifices having her in your home.
This can be tricky because some people say “Yeah, but she’s your mom. She’s family.” I get it! I totally get that. For the most part, I agree. We have to take care of family when we can if we can. And it sounds like you might have the means to help take care of her. But at the same time, just like I say in my other podcast Love and Abuse, you have to be treated with respect and kindness. You have to know that you are in control of the situation.
Whether she likes it or not she’s going to have to “just deal with it.” That’s maybe where I’d apply that comment. Maybe you can apply that comment to her. You already know you have to deal with it. You’ve made some decisions to have her in your home, which is quite noble and, as you know, emotionally dangerous for you.
But let’s change your perception. You own this place. You are the one in control. If she has a problem with that, it’s just too bad. She’s going to have to make do. She’s going to have to deal with it. Because you are going to show up as a loving, kind, caring and compassionate like I’m assuming you already are.
If she doesn’t recognize how you’re taking care of her, you may have to remind her. Remember to remind her: “Look, I’m caring for you. I am trying to love you. I’m trying to be compassionate toward you, so when you treat me like this, it shows me that you don’t care. It shows me that you aren’t thankful. It shows me that you don’t even respect me. That’s you’re right, of course. You don’t have to care, but don’t make it hard on me because I’m trying to make it easy for you. But if you make it hard for me, it only makes it worse for you.”
That’s part one of my reply to you. This is part one of starting to structure your life so that you can figure out who you are. It’s to own this stuff and get back in control of who you are. Don’t treat her as “Mommy”, own what you have in your life. Be proud of what you have in your life. Because that’s going to start defining you in small ways. And sometimes big ways. And you’ll start feeling better about yourself.
That’s part two: You want to feel better about yourself. You want to make sure that you’re doing things that make you feel better about yourself. If you are submitting at all, and it makes you feel like disempowered, then maybe submitting is the wrong thing to do. So part two is figuring out where you lose your power. What behaviors are doing that? What do you say? What do you do that drains you?
Whether your mom’s involved with this or not, what do you do that drains you? What do you do that makes you feel powerless? What do you do that doesn’t enhance your life, but instead diminishes it?
You mentioned you’re a parent, but you’re not sure who you are. Let me say this, becoming a parent changes you. For most that is. For most people that become parents, they change. They become A Parent.
They become that person that has kids and needs to take care of them. Most people probably know what I’m talking about. They went from doing anything they want, anytime they want (for the most part), to becoming somebody that has to take care of someone all the time. So yes, just becoming a parent changes you.
What I noticed from your story is that you didn’t really understand or fully realize who you were before you became a parent, so the transformation into a parent caused you to change before you even knew who you were. This tells me that you probably had no solid foundation of knowing who you are.
That’s like being twice removed from who you really are! You might feel that way. It’s like a double dissociation. Before you were a parent, you felt dissociated, as if you didn’t quite feel connected to the world. Then, while in this dissociated state, you became dissociated again because you transformed into a parent while already dissociated, causing you to become double dissociated.
It’s like you’re separated from your true identity so far, that yes, you’re going to feel lost. You’re going to feel like you just can’t figure things out. You just don’t have the solid foundation you need that would really help you understand yourself. If that’s what happened to you, I get that.
Again, I’m making some guesses here. I’m assuming that’s what happened. You went from not being a parent and not knowing who you are, to being a parent and really not knowing who you are because you had no foundation.
One way to create a new foundation of who you are is something I already mentioned: Figuring out what you do that drains you and what you do that enhances you.
It’s very helpful to know this stuff. This is not necessarily creating your identity, but what you’ll find out is when you do things that you like, it usually fulfills you. When you do things that you don’t like it usually drains you in some cases. And what ends up happening is that if you have more that drains you, then you feel less compelled to do those things because they are simply less compelling. After all, if you get drained whenever you do those things, there’s be no incentive to do them anymore. This is how the drain is created.
If feel obligated to do the things that drain you, then you are less of who you want to be. I look at trying to identify who you are and trying to understand your role in this universe as moving toward who you want to be and what you want to do more and more.
As you do that, you discover who you are.
If you’re always doing things that you don’t want to do, things that disempower or drain you, you will forget who you are.
It’s not always easy to not do the things that drain you. It’s not even always possible. I’m not saying that you can just go out and do anything you want because there are obligations in your life. And you know that it’s a given you have to deal with it.
I’m not saying that you have to, but what can we do in addition to that so that we can understand ourselves better and help us with some self-identity stuff?
I think aside from just doing what you want more often, which is again, hard to do sometimes, is to do this exercise that I’ve talked about on another episode, which is to create a circle in the middle of a piece of paper and write your name in it.
This is the Happiness Mind Map. I just made up that name. The Happiness Mind Map works by writing your name in the middle of a piece of paper, then drawing a circle around it.
That’s your identity. Everything you are. Everything you think. Everything you feel and believe. That’s you in that circle.
Now draw a line from that circle in any direction and draw another circle. In that circle, write the name of the person you’re around the most. Now draw another line from the center “You” circle and put someone else’s name in that circle.
Draw yet another line from the center circle, make another circle off the end of that line, and put somebody else’s name.
What you’re essentially doing is creating your circle of influence. Well, more like circles of influence. You’re a circle in the middle, and the circles around you are everyone in your life. These are the people that you deal with the most, talk to the most, are hanging around the most, are in your mind the most.
I’m not talking about people that live thousands of miles away. You can think about them all the time because you miss them but they are not in your proximity. I’m talking about the people that still have a direct influence on you. They’re around you, you’re talking to them, you’re probably around them a lot. Or you’re on the phone with them a lot.
Put those names in the circles around the center circle. Just fill up your paper with all the people in your circles of influence and soon you will see everyone that makes up part of the totality of all the people that go through your mind and go through your life every day.
It’s helpful to do this with a pencil (or even a computer) because we’re going to do some erasing. But before we do that, I want you to look at that piece of paper with you in the middle and all these people around you. These are all your associations, your relatives, friends, coworkers, whoever. What’s drawn in front of you is a good outline of who affects you.
We started off with your name and the circle. Then we put all these other circles around it. All these people. What I want you to do now is close your eyes and visualize your life and all these people in your life. Think about how they affect you and your day to day routine. Think about how you feel in general, most of the time with these people in your life?
Just do that. Close your eyes and consider how you feel most of the time.
You wrote down all these names, all these people in your life. And as those people come in and out of your thoughts, check in and feel what you feel.
You might feel one way when someone you love comes into your mind and feel another way when someone else comes to mind. How does it feel when your mom comes in there? You have these feelings that will come and go. Some feelings will stay with you and some will not.
Keep doing this with all the people in your life and ask yourself “How Do I feel in general with all these people in my life?”
You might have some mixed feelings. There will definitely be some people that don’t make you feel very good. You’ll think of some people that make you feel really good.
Keep doing this until you’re ready to open your eyes and continue.
Remember how that felt.
Look down at your paper and you see all those circles again. So here’s what I want you to do, this is the next step, pick any name, maybe someone who’s not around you all the time, but only sometimes. Once you pick a name, take your eraser and erase their name (or cross it out, whatever you want to do). Take them out of your circles of influence.
That person is now gone. This is the visual metaphor I want you to use. Say to yourself, “That person is no longer in my life.”
Close your eyes and check in, asking yourself how that feels. All of these other people are still there, but that one person is no longer in your life.
Just sit with that for a moment. There could be some positive thoughts or negative thoughts. There could be a bunch of different thoughts. Or maybe it doesn’t affect you too much it. Maybe it was a co-worker or whatever, but without that person in your life, how do you feel now?
Soak that in for a moment. That person is no longer around. How are you doing?
Once you’ve sat with that for a minute or so, erase somebody else’s name. Maybe someone you see more of. Choose any name. I understand you may not want to do this someone very close to you, but if you really want to play this full-on, I would try it. It might be emotionally challenging for you and I’m not asking you to do this for long. You don’t have to sit in sadness or anything that makes you upset for long. Just do this for a moment. Even just a few seconds. If you don’t want to erase a particular name, you don’t have to. If it’s too painful, just put their name back. All we’re doing is trying things out.
There’s actually a lot you can get from this because we tend to take advantage of the people in our life because they’re in our life. But when they’re not there, it makes us feel a little different. We might come out of a visualization like this with more appreciation and more gratefulness. Not that I’m saying you didn’t feel grateful, but just in case, it gives you a taste of what it would be like without them.
Again, you don’t have to spend a lot of time on this. Erasing someone you really love or are close to is tough. But it helps with perspective because what you’re going to do now is erase someone that maybe has a negative impact in your life.
Do that now. Erase their name. Then close your eyes and ask yourself what life is like without this person. How do you feel in general, overall, without this person in your life?
While you’re doing this, you could think about what life would be like in a week if this person wasn’t around. You think a year ahead. How does it feel thinking about an entire year without this person in your life? Where are you? How are you inside? Is life better? Is it worse? Is it different?
This is just an exercise. It’s just a way to help you connect with something that may be hard to connect to because some people are always around. Some people you think you’ll never get rid of are just there and you might think there is no way to get away from them and there never will be.
Try that on! For the person who wrote to me, try that with your mother. Try it with your husband. Try it with other people that may or may not be more important or less important. You don’t have to go through everyone, but go through a bunch.
Sometimes you’ll erase someone and things will be a lot better. And sometimes they won’t. What this exercise does is help you determine what makes you happy and what doesn’t. Not that people are the reason for your happiness, but some people are the reason that we can’t feel happy just because they exist in our lives.
I don’t want to say that but it’s true. Some people exist in our lives, and we can’t find happiness because they exist in our lives. When you do this exercise, it will help you identify some of the components that are causing you to stay in this bad space and feel drained. The more drained you feel, the less connected to yourself you’ll be. And the less connected you are, the more trouble you’ll have figuring out who you are.
You can also expand this. It doesn’t have to be just people. It can be places like, “Okay, I’m going to put the yoga studio up here, and I’m going to put my workplace right there, and I’m going to make a circle for the park down the street…”
You can try that out with and without those components in your life if you want. Again, you can do this in your mind without writing it down. It’s just an interesting process to help you discover what you want in your life versus what you don’t want.
This leads to something you mentioned your email: What motivates you.
I’ve discovered that some people are demotivating. For example, you tell them something great that you want to do with your life, you’re so excited about it, but they immediately deflate it. They immediately say all the stuff that’s wrong with it. And they also think you’re stupid for even thinking about it. So you hold back and don’t tell them anything great anymore because they’re so demotivating.
Of course that’s going to demotivate you! I’m not saying the person who wrote is dealing with that. I think that when you became a parent that you felt that double dissociation I was talking about earlier. You never got a chance to explore who you are.
I’m going to give you a couple more reverse-engineering tricks that you can do. Besides the Happiness Mind Map I was talking about earlier, and owning who you are – owning the house, owning your marriage, owning the fact that you are an equal adult with all the other adults around you, owning that you have every right to stand up for yourself and honor and protect yourself and your family…
Just the mind map and owning all those things about your life is you going toward what you want and understanding what drains you versus what empowers you. Owning your place in this world helps you to start to define the structure of your life. And as you do more and more of this, that structure helps you form your identity, or at least reveal it.
A third component of this is honoring your personal boundaries which is similar to owning it. And part of owning it is also honoring yourself and enforcing your personal boundaries. Because when you enforce your personal boundaries, you’re telling people what’s acceptable and what’s not, and that also helps create a foundational structure of your life because you may not know who you were.
You may not have ever had a fully formed identity which means you have to create it today. You have to move forward, saying the things that you want and telling people what’s acceptable and what’s not, making decisions and standing firm on those decisions because you’re an adult.
You can make decisions and you can also make mistakes, but to own those decisions is to stand firm. And if you make a mistake, you’ll own that too. As you own things and as you stand up for yourself, it helps create the structure of your identity. This helps you start to form better decisions which helps with your confidence, your self-worth your self-esteem. It also helps to create an understanding that maybe you never had.
Everything I’m sharing with you today is a way to create your identity or reveal it so that you can really step into it and make it yours. Because if you’ve never had one, or you don’t believe you’ve had one, it sounds like you have to start making things yours. Given your upbringing, you may never have had your own identity. In the end, it’s all about owning it.
Let me give you this final piece of advice which has to do with something else you said in your email. You said you’re having trouble losing weight and you can’t get motivated.
Doing something challenging like that starts with the mental game. The mental game has to be addressed first. Everything I’m talking about in this episode is that mental game. If you start an exercise or a weight loss routine and you just can’t stick with it, it’s almost always the mental game.
The mental game consists of your thought processes and how you handle yourself. If you are at all wishy-washy, and you’re not confident in yourself, and you have low self-worth, then it’s going to be very difficult to stick with any routine. So you may have to put aside your struggle with weight loss and constantly thinking about what you’re not doing right when it comes to that and really start doing the steps that I outlined in this episode.
If you start to master those steps first, the routines will come a lot easier because you’ll have a clear head. You’ll be able to get rid of the fog. The fog is what causes us to fall off the bandwagon every time. When you don’t have that fog and you own your life, owning who you are, owning your decisions, then you become unstoppable.
Nothing will be able to stop you if you start a weight loss routine or an exercise routine. You’ll do it every day or every day you want to do it. You’ll take charge of your life and tell yourself, “This is what I want for my life so I’m going to do it.”
When you get the mental game down, you’ll know what you want for your life and you’ll do it until you accomplish it! But there’s probably stuff going on in your life right now that you haven’t really stood up for. Or, you feel like that little child that’s still stuck in an old situation when you were growing up.
There’s a lot more to talk about regarding this subject, but I’m going to leave it here because I believe I’ve given you some things to work with. At least I hope I have. I hope you don’t feel like I’m just telling you to deal with it. That is not what I’m saying at all. I don’t want you to feel that way. I want to give you hope.
This is sort of the stoic or Buddhist philosophy. It’s not what happens, but your reaction to what happens and what you do instead of the way you used to react. The way you used to react, or at least how you’re doing it now, might have to change so much that people don’t know who you are.
If people don’t know who you are, they really can’t define who you are, can they? Because you’re showing up as a different person. They’ll ask you, “Who are you?”
That might be a scary thought, but if you want your life to change, you will have to make some changes. That doesn’t mean you have to become a total stranger. There are probably many wonderful things about you that you don’t want to change. I’m not asking you to change the wonderful things. I’m asking you to change what drains you. I’m asking you to notice and change your responses and reactions to things, and to notice if you are responding or reacting to something.
Then ask yourself, “Is my response or reaction disempowering to me?” Because if it is, you’ll never, ever be able to identify with yourself. You’ll always feel that dissociated feeling, and never be able to crawl out of whatever hole you feel like you’re in.
We don’t want that. We want you to be able to get out of that hole. And some of the things I talked about today feel like sort of leaps of faith. You might think if you honor yourself in one situation, you might get yelled at.
Yep, you might.
I’m not saying you honor yourself with violent or aggressive people. And I’m talking about physical aggression. If they just yell at you, that’s probably not aggressive enough to be fearful for your life. But we still have to pick our battles wisely, of course. But we also have to look at what’s draining us and make sure that we show up in a solid, confident way, even if we’re about to say something we feel fear about it.
One way to learn what empowers or disempowers you is to ask yourself, “What would I do or say if I had absolutely no fear of the consequences?”
That’s how you figure out what you want and what empowers you. You learn what disempowers you when you go against what you’d really do or say if you had no fear. In other words, to the person who wrote to me, what would you do or say to your mom if you had absolutely no fear of the consequences?
Then the next step is actually doing or saying it. So,d on’t just deal with it. Do it. Just do it. I want you to succeed.
I hope to hear back from you. I hope this has been helpful. Thank you so much for sharing this and I wish you the best with this challenging situation. I know it’s tough, but you can do this. I appreciate you.
Often what you do defines who you are.
Often what you say defines who you are.
Often how you behave defines who you are.
How you react defines who you are.
How you respond to things and how you perceive things defines who you are. And because of that, you get to create who you are every day.
You get to create who you are every moment of every day. This is something I try to remember all the time when I’m around others, especially toxic people. If a toxic person like my stepfather shows up when I’m visiting family, I’ll ask myself, “Who am I going to be? Am I going to be the little child that was always afraid of him growing up?”
My stepfather was an abusive alcoholic in my family. I was scared of standing up to him all my life until one day I did. I was in my 40s when I did, but I finally did. How did I do it? As he stood there wanting to enter my mom’s home after their separation, I asked myself, “Who am I going to be right now?
That moment defined me. It added to the foundation that defines who I am.
You define you in every moment of the day.
Sometimes you do things that are disempowering. Sometimes they’re draining. Sometimes you have to things you don’t want to do. But what are you doing the rest of the time? Are you always showing up in a disempowered state, or do you do that in select moments because you have to? And if so, do you show up in a more empowered state the rest of the time, owning who you are, standing up for who you are, and honoring your personal boundaries?
I try to practice this all the time. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it feels like a leap of faith into an endless pit sometimes. It is scary. Sometimes it feels like I’m going to die.
That’s sort of exaggerating, but it can feel that way sometimes. I think, “Oh my god, I’m going to die if I do this.” But then I do it anyway and find out what happens.
I’m not saying you should always do that. I’m just saying you define who you are in every moment. If you’ve allowed people to control you and have power over you and take your power away, what part can you control so you can take some of that power back, even if it means taking a risk?
Taking a risk is usually the emotional challenge inside of us that we need to get over. Unless it’s too risky because the person we’re around is too dangerous. That’s a different risk. We don’t want to take those kinds of risks because we don’t want to put our lives in danger. But think about everything else you deal with and all the other types of people that you deal with in your life. Most of them are not going to be physically dangerous. If they are, maybe you should make a decision to not be around those people, if possible.
I know it’s different for everyone so use what you can today and leave the rest for another day. I just want to give you some tools to help you stay out of disempowering situations and give you the mental strength you may need to create the life you want.
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