Holding on to My Self

Life is such a process, isn’t it?

I cruise along.  I am contented, productive, loving…

…and I’m gone.  I struggle, I’m useless,  snarky and and powerless.

Holding on to my self has been the single hardest struggle in my life.

In my twenties I would hear of people going off to “find themselves”.  That was laughable.  Who was their “self” anyway?  Couldn’t they just look down?  Look in the mirror? Touch their arm? Or their face?

It isn’t so funny now.  I realize that it was a time of my life when I didn’t know I had a self.  I knew my name, my address, my husband, my children, my parents and my sisters.  What more was there to know?  Today I can say for sure that I have a self…and keeping it on my own radar is a lifelong task.

It’s difficult for me to do in company.  It takes solitude.  It takes distance, either physical or emotional.  And often it takes a bit of time to shed all of the layers. I step away from my alter egos: daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, friend, citizen of the community; and get back to the core of me. All of these personae are a part of me.  But somewhere there is more…or less.   I re-center.

And then I re-enter.  The difficulty is still there when I return.  I have located myself, but how do I keep track on a daily basis?

It’s a matter of chipping away at my false beliefs:

  1. I am not the most important person.
  2. I’m not really okay just the way I am.  I must keep striving…for something.
  3. The people I love want me to be a certain way and I need to conform to their wishes in order to be loved.
  4. If I love someone, it means that I should give way to them most of the time in order to prove that I love that person.  (Except children who want everything)
  5. Almost everything I think, say, or do is wrong so I must guard myself and apologize often.
  6. My plans are not important if someone I love needs me, wants to be with me, or has a plan of their own that includes me.

I am continually reaffirming my life lessons:

1. That I am valued by others as I value myself.

2. That if I’m not there for myself, I can’t be there for the people I love.

3. That if I lose my real self to someone else, I have lost what drew that person

to me.

4. That if I bury my true self, I must dig out of resentment in order to love.

My eternal quest is primarily internal. It is my own job to recognize the pure being within which emanates loving energy, warmth, curiosity and generosity when it is nurtured by my loving care.

If you all stopped to wonder you wouldn’t comprehend.  My grandchildren wouldn’t dream that I struggle.  My children would be discouraged to know that it doesn’t get easier faster.  Many of my friends would verbally pat me on the head, perhaps with a disbelieving smile and remark on my strength.  And my husband would frown and tell me that I think too much.

And I’m holding on…




  1. To thine own self be true; it is indeed a wonderful thing to be comfortable in your own skin. Content whether with others or alone; with no need to read, watch TV, or listen to the radio.
    Our selves are the #1 work in our lives; to keep free from resentment, anger, worry, anxiety; serenity is all around us, if it is indeed within us.
    Then we can flood the areas around us with peace, love and joy; because it comes from within us.
    You are one of the most beautiful people I have ever known, both inside and out.


  2. Beautiful post.

    When I was around thirteen (and awkward, shy, geeky to boot), I felt like I was always running into well-meaning adults who were advising me, “Just be yourself!”

    It struck me then, and still strikes me now, as fairly useless advice, as the whole point of being thirteen (and the source of much of my misery) was that I had no clue who my “self” was. The good girl my parents wanted me to be? A partying rebel like some of my friends were starting to be? The hyper-sophisticated urban intellectual that I hoped I would one day be?

    I wish some adult around me had had the self-awareness to say, “Figuring yourself out is a lifelong process–don’t be in a hurry to decide what you are. For right now, just pay close attention to what you like and what you need and feel free to explore different ways of being you–the rules are there to help you do that safely. And don’t forget that everyone else around you is trying to do the same thing–they’re more worried about who they are than who you are.”

    How lucky your children and grandchildren are! And thank you for sharing your insights with the rest of us, too.


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