Here is July’s installment of “Ask Shelby” from Chester County’s own Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Shelby Riley.
I feel like I’m on a treadmill, doing, doing, doing, but not really living. I feel like I don’t even know who I am. I live for other people. I know my kids’ wants, my husbands’ wants, but I’m not sure what I really want anymore. I feel so disconnected from my own life. Is this some kind of phase, or my mid-life crisis? How do I get back to myself?
What you describe is actually very common. I am so glad you are searching for ways to reconnect with yourself. I watch people respond to this lost feeling by drinking to avoid the sadness, or starting affairs to start feeling something again. There are much healthier ways to cope with the feelings you’re having, and much healthier ways to reconnect to who you are and what you want in life.
I recently read an article in which the author posed the question: How do you want to be remembered? It’s a bit morbid, but it can be an incredibly helpful way to start thinking about what you want your life to look like. What would you want people to say about you at your funeral? What values, characteristics, and behaviors do you want people to associate with you? What kind of person do you want to be? Because it doesn’t just happen, you have to make it happen. This type of thinking begs you to be ultimately responsible for who you are and how you act. It begs you to live intentionally.
If you want to be remembered as a dedicated athlete, you actually have to complete that triathlon training program you started. If you want to be remembered as a loving spouse, you need to behave in a loving way toward your spouse and talk about them in a loving manner to others. If you want to be remembered as a devoted parent, you need to be present in your children’s lives. So many of us haven’t really taken the time to consider what type of person we really want to be.
Here’s an exercise: write down twenty characteristics you value. For example: financially successful, physically fit, kind to strangers, gracious host, firm disciplinarian, playful parent, sexually responsive, spiritually mature, well-read, charitable to the poor, devoted spouse. Then, rank your top ten. Think about the past week. What activities did you engage in that allowed you to express that value as a part of who you are? If you value being physically fit, did you exercise at all? If you value being an honest friend, did you confront your friend on her hurtful behavior? Maybe you thought about doing it. Maybe you meant to do it. And that’s a step in the right direction. But unless you live in a way that clearly reflects the values you hold, you are not being true to yourself and living in a way that honors who you are.
You deserve this. You deserve to consider who you are and then intentionally make choices, week by week, day by day, hour by hour, that honor you. You deserve to have people remember you, not as who you could have been, but for who you are, in thought, word and deed.
Good luck to you. I am quite certain you are about to get to know one amazing woman,
Remember to check out Shelby’s website www.shelbyrileymft.com for useful information about therapy for individuals, couples, and families.