When you become aware of how much you're doing for someone else, it can feel confusing when trying to figure out which parts of yourself are the real You.
I'd once lost myself to such an extent that I realized I had been convincing myself that I was a big fan of an entire sci-fi series... when in reality, if my partner didn't think it was so cool, I had to admit that it wasn't really my thing at all.
What IS the real me? I wondered. How could I tell when something was actually a true part of who I am, versus being drawn to something from a covert need to impress someone else?
Whenever I felt unsure, there were 4 questions that quickly and easily uncovered my true motives -- so I could then make a decision from a place of grounded self-awareness.
Here are what I’d ask myself when trying to figure out “is this really me”?
1. If this were invisible to others, would I still want it?
I was once drooling over a particular Egyptian bird necklace, wavering on if I wanted to take the leap and purchase it. "I love it!" I thought. "It's art! It'll spice up any boring outfit! It pays homage to my 6th-grade King Tut-obsessed self."
But something felt ever-so-slightly misaligned.
So I double-checked my expectations.
I imagined myself buying it, envisioning myself giddily tracking it's shipment progress, seeing the little package in my mailbox, and the transcendent moment of finally opening the box and having it.
...And then discovering that it was invisible to everyone else but me.
"Would I still want it?" I wondered, "If I was the only one to experience it?"
Would it give me delight? Would my inner-child revel in wearing it? Would I look in the mirror and feel private fulfillment in seeing me visually-expressed in such a way?
I had to admit -- no.
To my surprise, I realized that I subconsciously mostly wanted my boyfriend to see me wearing it. We'd bonded early on over our Egypt interest, and I anticipated it catching his eye and me winning "attractiveness-points" for it. That was the real motive.
So I didn't buy it.
And looking back, I'm so glad I didn't.
I probably would've worn it a few times, enjoyed it as a conversation piece, and then realized it was too heavy and gaudy for my tastes -- as I'd always known inside all along.
2. Do I need a particular reaction?
I remember being so excited at the notion of surprising my boyfriend with Japanese breakfast -- (a particularly delectable assortment of Japanese foods that they serve at many hotels in Japan).
He'd been talking about how much he'd enjoyed it while traveling.
So I fancied the idea of discretely driving to Little Tokyo in downtown LA, buying a bunch of Japanese breakfast foods at the grocery store, and have it all aesthetically put together by the time he woke up.
I felt the adrenaline of the challenge, the anxious-thrill of trying to make it there and back in time, and imagining his shock and surprise that I'd done something so unexpected. Exciting!
But I recognized this feeling. It felt like being eager to partner-please, to over-perform for validation.
So I wanted to double check first.
If his reaction was less-than satisfying, or if something didn't go as planned (like if he woke up grumpy, or caught me in the chaos of scrambling to everything together) would I feel resentment?
And I was happy to find that -- no, I actually wanted to do this. It genuinely seemed fun and a loving gesture that I wanted to give, even if he wasn't able to muster up the fullest amount of appreciation that I hoped for.
I really did want to give out of love, not out of love-seeking.
So I did it. And I enjoyed doing it so much so that I remember the experience (driving there, shopping, us enjoying breakfast together) more than I remember his exact reaction -- and it all worked nicely for both of us. I did it for myself, for the experience of giving love, which was it's own reward. And a good reaction from my partner was just the cherry on top.
3. Will I like myself more afterwards?
I had a dilemma.
Due to family drama, my sisters and I weren't invited to an important event until the very last minute, and it was a sudden great inconvenience.
I had less than 24 hours to decide whether or not I wanted to drop everything right this second, cancel my current plans, rearrange things for work (possibly inconveniencing others), and fly home that night to attend the event the next day.
I nervously hemmed and hawed.
The easier choice was obvious: Don't go. It would cost a lot of money for a last minute Hawaii flight and securing an Airbnb. I'd have to stress over rescheduling things. I'd be tired upon arrival. I might inconvenience people. I'd have to go to this thing and face the drama.
But deep down inside, I knew that I'd personally feel more proud of myself if I did the uncomfortable, more costly, inconvenient thing -- and go.
It made more sense to my soul to show up for my family. To make the effort. To be that person who acts in alignment with her values.
And so I did it.
My sister and I both flew in from separate states, and showed UP... even though it wasn't exactly fun, easy, smooth, or practical.
I got to experience being who I actually most wanted to be, and I am proud of how I did it.
4. Am I shoving my soul under the rug?
I've been working on a piece of short fiction.
It has no romance, no swashbuckling, no magical fantastical creatures, no crime or spooky stuff.
The only way I can describe it, is that it's kind of weird and slow-moving and philosophical.
And the only person in my life that I can imagine being interested to read it... is myself.
So as I sit down each week to work on it, I feel myself sigh and resist a bit.
"This isn't important," the voice in my head is saying. "Why are you doing this? It won't make you any money! No one's going to understand it. What's the point?!"
And then I have to remind myself:
"The point is that my story will come out of my head and into existence. That I will have written something deeply meaningful to who I really am."
Because, yes, I am in conflict with it only because I've been programmed to only see something as important if it's makes sense to someone else.
I see that I would be shoving my soul under the rug otherwise.
And I've done that long enough to know that no matter how much approval I'm receiving, if my soul is locked away in the dark collecting dust I will feel an incurable emptiness.
We gotta do it for our souls, folks.
Especially if no one else benefits or is impressed.
Even if it gets us no immediate approval, money, or recognition.
Because our souls ache and protest when we don't give IT recognition and approval and attention.
And when our souls are unhappy, there is nothing we can achieve in the world that will fix that feeling.
There is immense benefit in regularly spending time and energy on tending to our souls: we become more visible to ourselves.
Which is the whole point of breaking free from pleasing others, codependency, and relying on our partner for self-esteem!
If you feel like you've done everything to have a better relationship and self-love is the one thing you haven't been able to bring... I get it. It was the one thing I kept writing off, the thing I avoided until everything was falling apart.
I didn't expect it alone to change the entire dynamic of my relationship from being a passive, overly-sensitive, and dependent partner -- to being someone who showed up as her most secure, calm, and self-assured self, even when things weren't going perfectly.
If you'd like help becoming the partner who brings their own self-esteem and security to the table, I offer 1-on-1 coaching as well as ongoing support in Identity Love Club. Feeling more visible as who you really are isn't an ego thing -- it's what our soul craves for our highest wellbeing. I specialize in seeing the unique remarkableness in you, and helping you bring that to the surface in your own life so you can feel good about who you really are.