How I’m finding the me I didn’t know was lost

I used to be the kind of person who would snort-laugh and roll her eyes if anyone would have used the phrase, “I need to find myself.” Humor and sarcasm are coping mechanisms I’ve cultivated over the years, and the truth is that I was afraid and maybe jealous.

Because for a lot of years, I didn’t really know who I was.

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

Mikael Kristenson | Creative Commons | via unsplash

That never seemed like a big deal until I started to figure it out. Now, it’s like new doors of possibility are flinging open and chains are dropping off my soul.

I didn’t know that the first step in finding yourself is acknowledging that somewhere, somehow you lost yourself. Once you know you’re lost, you can get on with being found.<Tweet that.>ow_whole

I can’t tell you the day or time I realized I was lost, nor can I pinpoint the start of the “finding myself” journey. But I know that so far this year, my year of “whole,” has been unlike any other. As in years past, when I’ve picked a word to focus on for the year, I see the theme in a lot of places. And those previous years of “release” and “enjoy” were important. But this year is becoming transformational in a way I couldn’t imagine.

I’ve been mulling this quote in my mind for a few weeks now.

When we are fully ourselves, He (God) is fully glorified. – “Longing For Paris,” by Sarah Mae

I think I’ve wrongly believed that God is only glorified when I behave a certain way or follow His lead. And He is glorified in those ways, but I never really considered that the me He created me to be brings Him glory, even if I don’t look anything like what I think a child of God should look like.

I have this same problem with my definition of what makes a good mom. My therapist listed out on a white board all the characteristics I thought would make me a good mom and none of them are realistic or accurate. There were a lot of “always” and “never” type of descriptions. (Always happy, never yells, has a clean house, etc.) She reminded me that God picked me to be Izzy and Corban’s mom and who I am is not a mistake for them. (Summer is giving me all kinds of mom guilt because I’m not crafty or entertaining. It’s draining on this introvert mama, and yet I want to spend time with them.)

Being the mom God created me to be brings Him glory and is much better for my kids than trying to become some other kind of mom. And being the woman He created me to be is a far better way to  live than trying to stuff my personality into a box  or conform to a mold that doesn’t fit.

Trying to be anyone other than who I am doesn’t lead to a happy life. It just makes me tired and frustrated. I am finding freedom and joy in saying “no” to what is not good for me and saying “this is who I am” about other things. It’s not always comfortable, but in the end it is good. It is good to admit that I love my kids AND I need a break. That I love Jesus AND I am full of doubt. That I’m glad I am married AND it is hard work.

I must also say that this self-discovery journey is not a solo project. I am grateful for a husband who gives me space and time to be who I am and discover who I am. (Even when that means he’s uncomfortable with my occasional swearing on social media.) The same goes for our church family. There are no boxes that we must fit into to belong. We are free to explore our faith and wrestle with our doubts in the community of saints who gather each week. We are guided and corrected when necessary but no one is turned out because of who they are. (Or who they aren’t.)

This is a gift we can give each other: the space and time and freedom to figure out who we are. It’s an ongoing process, I’m learning, and I’m not sure when or where it ends. All I know is that I want to keep figuring it out.

I recently read, in the span of  day or two, Glennon Melton’s Carry On, Warrior. I’ve been a fan of her Momastery Facebook page and blog for a little while but hadn’t taken the time to read the book yet. (Aside: YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK.) Her vulnerability inspires me. Here’s one (of many) quotes from the book that spoke to me, especially in this experience:

We find out early that telling the whole truth makes people uncomfortable and is certainly not ladylike or likely to make us popular, so we learn to lie sweetly so that we can be loved. And when we figure out this system, we are split in two: the public self, who says the right things in order to belong, and the secret self, who thinks other things. (Carry On, Warrior, p. 51)

Her story is in the context of addiction and mental illness, but it’s all of us who do this. And  I’m not saying that everyone, everywhere needs to know our deepest thoughts all the time, but there is a way to make the two line up. I think. I hope.

It’s a slow death, but I’m gradually trying to kill that public self who only wants to say the right thing so she doesn’t get rejected. This is what it means to me to be my whole self. To be unafraid to let my secret self have a voice every now and then. To open the door a crack so that others can see that what they perceive is not how it really is.

This whole self stuff leads to relationships. Like, honest-to-goodness ones that survive the hard times. Melton also says:

I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness, my emptiness, and my life-as-a-wild-goose-chase-to-find-the-unfindable. (p. 21)

Knowing and accepting who you are makes you more approachable. Some of my best moments of connecting with other moms are when I talk about how I struggle and we find out we’re all struggling in the same way.

Just one more book quote that’s been helping me along. (If you didn’t already know this about me, books are my community, too.)

Part of becoming yourself, in a deeply spiritual way, is finding the words to tell the truth about what it is you really love. – Savor, by Shauna Niequist

This devotional by Niequist is one of my favorite things ever, and her writing touches a deep place in my soul. She said this in the context of admitting how much she loves to make and prepare and serve and eat food around the table with people. When I can say without embarrassment or hesitation, I really love to do this, then a part of me opens wider to the world around me. I used to think as a certain kind of woman I had to enjoy all the same things as other women. But I don’t. It’s okay. And my love for one thing does not have to cancel someone else’s love for something else. We are uniquely created by God, and our love for the things He has made us to love is lovely to Him.

What are your thoughts about “finding yourself”? Do you know who you are? And who you aren’t? What has helped you in this process?

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