On Finding Yourself…
5 years ago by
….I’ve never written into something before it feels vulnerable (yikes!) but I recently went through a world-shifting breakup. We had been best friends for eight years and dated for three of them. We supported each other through the biggest transitions of our lives thus far. It’s a choice I’m fully at peace with, I know it’s best for us both but now that we’re apart I’ve realized nearly my entire identity was defined by our relationship. I’m curious what guidance you’d give a friend on how to even begin a process of finding yourself?
Break ups are the worst. They feel like we’ll never wake up from a nightmare. They feel like the world has stopped. They can be SO DARK.
And yet they are the best experiences to show us that nothing lasts forever, not even a broken heart. Anybody who has experienced it has also experienced that day when we finally wake up and are able to live again. It might be for a second the first day. Just a glimpse that maybe, we could do it. Life slowly grows back on us. And then one day we’re ready, and we’re free.
It’s important to take the time to grieve and cry. It’s important to feel the pain. So we can let it go, when it’s time.
In your letter, you said you realized that your entire identity was defined by this relationship and so I say : most of your work is done.
Recognizing such a thing is the first step towards the real work : knowing yourself.
What you are going to become is a seeker.
And the only way I can guide you is by telling you how it works for me, because I think it it’s absolutely different for each and every one of us. And that’s why I call it seeking. Because the process is absolutely part of the work. There will be trials, there will be errors. Never be hard on yourself, just keep the ride as joyful as you can.
Here are ways that I believe, really helped me to know myself:
Choosing my own type of therapy
For years I saw therapists, the sit-on-a-chair-and-talk-about-your-mom-type. It helped, but cost a lot of money, and I never felt quite free. I felt like I always had to go back. It took me a long time to recognize my thirst for alternative type of therapies. For years, because of how I was raised, classic therapy was considered the only valid, serious thing. All the rest? BS.
See how the path becomes the work?
I had to throw my family culture and preconceptions away. With much caution for charlatans, I saw hypnotherapists, shamans, body workers, even psychics. I still do! Some really help, some don’t do much. But on the way, I experience some truly wonderful moments – nuggets that guide me closer and closer to the heart of who I am.
Listening to my body
This is one of the easiest, simplest, most wonderful ways to find and know yourself. Connect to your gut. Our body’s wisdom is endless. I often think that my body is more intelligent than me. See, I think too much. But my body just knows.
How does my body feel in that situation? Do I wake up in a good mood? How does my body feel after eating that meal? I explore, get to know my own reactions, so I can have a real, constant, peaceful dialog with my body. Life changer.
Reading self-help books, whatever comes my way
My iPad saved my life, ahaha. I have bought so many self-help books in my life, so many that I would be too embarrassed to have on my shelves. In my Ipad, my books are safe. I can look like I’m reading Nietzsche. Self help books are weird. If you read enough of them, you realize that you had all the answers – because your true teacher is you.
But it sometimes takes a lot of average teachers and books (and a few brilliant ones!) to get to that self confidence. I know I needed that. Some people can’t go through a self-help book without laughing out loud and I understand it totally, but for me – they were (and still are) true help.
Anything that helps me escape my monkey mind works magic to get insights about what’s truly right for me. A bike ride when I need to make an important decision. A sweaty yoga class. For Chris, it’s surfing. Some like knitting. I also love weird patience stuff like making very complicated puzzles. That’s also why i’m an illustrator.
Focusing on something very precise keeps my mind busy and helps my soul speak to me.
Going to nature also puts everything back in place – if we’re open enough to receive its wisdom.
Writing is my thing. It’s my way. There is the writing that’s destined to be read, and then, there is the writing I do just for me, the writing I do to talk to the universe. It’s my one sacred practice. I do it in the morning, when I am still half asleep, with my dog on my lap and a cup of warm coffee. I do it entirely freely. I write my stories, I ask questions, I write poems… Whatever comes to my mind, absolutely no filter. Every, every, every day.
If I don’t do it, I don’t feel connected to myself. And if I am not connected to myself, then I feel like an empty shelf with nothing to give and nothing to live for.
These are just my ways. Part of the adventure is finding yours.
But what I know is that the day you have created that connection is the day where you can officially say “I have found myself” – only, it’s just the beginning of actually getting to know yourself.
It’s a life long adventure. I could write a book about the benefits of it. In the meantime, feel better, and rejoice : you’re about to meet the most wonderful person you’ll ever meet : yourself.
I know, ugh, sounds so cheesy.
Oh well, one thing I learned about myself : I am a true romantic ;)
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Could you recommend a list of the *good* self-help books you have found? Specially for anxiety and self-love, if you happened to encounter any. I’m sick of empty words in that kind of literature…
Spiritual Warrior was gifted to me by a friend, and it was filled with so much wisdom. Truly enlightening.
-try “the untethered soul”. i can only read a chapter at a time but find it immensely comforting and grounding.
“Ce” si tu peux, pars, pars loin dans un pays si dépaysant, si différent de ta culture où tu vas découvrir en toi des énergies ressources que tu ignores. Des facettes de toi vont apparaître, qu’elles soient super ou pas, n’aie pas peur du vide, laisse ton coeur s’enthousiasmer ailleurs en mangeant autrement, ton corps aussi aura à s’adapter. Ce sera déjà une première phase de “décrassage” du passé ! Se retrouver seule et découvrir cette nouvelle amie, toi ! Tu as des talents encore inconnus, trouve les. Les ruptures sont toujours des libérations, c’est comme avancer sur une route inconnue sans carte. Trouve en priorité ce qui te centre et te donne du plaisir. Ta confiance et ton intuition te guideront.
Enjoyed reading this over my morning cup of coffee although I’m getting déjà vu as if you re-published a former question. Maybe I’m wrong but it read so familiar.
Pour mes 40 ans, j’ai fait la promesse à une amie de ne jamais cesser d’être romantique. Et ce n’est pas toujours aisé de tenir une telle promesse ;-)
Ton identité, Ce, va se redéfinir. Tu vas retrouver doucement le goût de ce qui est toi et apprendre à trier ce qui venait de l’autre. ;-)
This is great advice! Ce, I understand your feelings and please be kind to yourself when processing this new change. I can’t stress enough how practicing gratitude can shift your entire life, not just your mood or perspective. May you find peace xo https://youtu.be/lfLJPGRAXlc
Hi Garance, I’ve been reading your blog for years now and first time commenting! I’ve loved reading ways which helped you come to know yourself. I so relate. I’m 41 and have only just come to a deeper acceptance of who I am and how I heal and what I’m interested in and what helps me. They are all the things which you talk about…except writing. I might just try that! I make art instead. This led me to study art therapy which has been amazing in helping me to know myself on a deeper level. Funny how it takes so long to de-program and find out what was underneath it all along. Thankyou for your blog, I’ve really loved it over the years I have been reading it. :)
You didn’t loose your identity, you gave yourself in to a relationship, you shifted yourself to be part of one unit. We as women are more flexible and moldable than man. Face it you like to belong in a couple. It’s only natural. I went to unexpected breakup recently and it felt so odd to be alone. It’s 4 months now I actually am becoming a new person. I was so into being a couple that I lost myself in it. I find the things I enjoy really enjoyable because there is a room for me. Think a bit how much you gave up from you to be in a unit with your best friend? Look in the mirror and see how beautiful you are and breath. If something didn’t survive time it was just part of the painting of your life. It’s was an important lesson to learn about yourself, be thankful for the love you experienced and remember- you are the master of your life, you are the heart that can love, you have the eyes to see. Just breath…and life will happen again.
First of all, I’m sorry for your breakup. Second (tough love warning ahead) I think you or anyone who reads your question can see— by what you wrote— that you do need to work on some areas (sorry to sound judgemental, but you posed a question for the internet to see): Come on— “world-shifting breakup”….”nearly my entire identity was defined by our relationship .” I think the universe, the god or goddess of your choice, fate, destiny, the cosmos did you a HUGE favor by setting into motion your breakup. You might not need self-help books. I recommend doing things like going out to lunch or dinner by yourself, taking a trip solo, smiling at strangers, talking to people you might not necessarily have talked to when you were with your ex, going to a museum or movie by yourself, doing something you put off because you were consumed (judgemental word, I know) by your ex, taking a city bus to see the world of people around you, walking down different streets…. basically any type of behavior that’s not associated with a maybe too-significant other. Remember, YOU are the significant one now.
Est ce que tu voudrais bien partager avec nous tes meilleurs lectures? les livres qui t’ont aidé?
Dear Ce and Garance,
I’ve just finishes “How to fix a broken heart” by Guy Winch, from the TED books series, and a whole chapter was about “redefining your own identity” :) (TED talk link also in this message).
It also states the importance of being kind with ourselves, accepting the grief and not feeling silly for feeling SO bad, as heartbreak hurts in the same way at any age.
All the bets for your recovery!