Muddled

With Love...We’re talking authenticity this week in the Mondo Beyondo Winter Dream Lab. As I linger over this concept I feel uncertainty in my gut. Uncertainty about how to be authentic when I don’t necessarily know who I am. But even more uncertainty because I believe this to be the root of all my struggles, the hardest layer to unearth and shed.

I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. For as long as I can remember I have worried what others would think of me, what picture I was painting for the world. But I also worry about the needs of others and have no problem sacrificing my own comfort in the interest of pleasing others. As a little girl I vividly remember feeling responsible for my father’s emotional well-being. I hid my feelings and insecurities for fear that they would hurt him, make him worry or feel sad. It was a heavy responsibility that folded into my adult life.

In one of our sessions Brené said that she really had to work to stop creating who she was and to start discovering who she is. This makes sense to me, it’s what I’m trying to do through my writing and in other ways. But it’s hard work, it’s soul work. Like parenting there are no right or wrong answers. As I tread carefully along the path, I’m finding it difficult to separate the real from the perceived—my true self versus the self I think I should be. There are moments when I feel it acutely, but they are hard to hold on to. I get caught up in life and it all becomes very muddled.

So the question remains: How to be authentic when one hasn’t uncovered their truth and lives with so much uncertainty? It’s like a maze, just as I discover one promising pathway I turn the corner only to find a dead end, a barricade that sits firmly blocking me from something. There is no direct route, just alternate routes that lead to different obstacles, some easier to find than others. Muddled.

In the Gifts of Imperfection, Brené defines authenticity as the “daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.” What a simple, yet powerful notion, one I think our generation struggles with more than any before. We’ve been raised in a society filled with expectation and opportunity. We are a generation of achievers. We have greater access to knowledge that others before us. We are taught that if we work hard enough, doing the right thing, for the right amount of time that the world can be our oyster. We learn to set aside our hearts for reason. To push ahead. To do more. To have it all.

I’ve lived this life—the life I thought I wanted and that everyone expected I would. And it has been good to me. I have a beautiful family, a promising and flourishing career, a comfortable lifestyle with a beautiful home and family vacations. I enjoy luxuries that most of the world can’t even dream of. I am a lucky woman. I know this.

And yet I feel so profoundly incomplete. I need something more. I don’t mean things, or greater success. I mean I need me. I need to know myself. I need to feel safe learning and living who I am. I want to be inspired. I want to inspire. I want my mind to swell with grace. I want to be happy and fulfilled and living my purpose.

Image: ‘With Love…‘ via a Creative Commons license.

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25 thoughts on “Muddled

  1. Stacia says:

    I am a people-pleaser, too, and very much wish I knew how to be otherwise. Like you say, it seems it would be easier to know myself, to really know myself, if I weren’t. As you’re muddling through, so am I, vicariously.

  2. Lindsey says:

    God, Christine, I could have written this (though less beautifully). Straight from my own muddled heart. I dont have answers. But I can offer companionship.

  3. Ironic Mom says:

    I think you’ve articulated what so many women feel (and have felt for generations). I love these words of yours: “I want my mind to swell with grace” and “it’s soul work.”

    I think the quest to be authentic may be the be-all-and-end-all of being authentic. I wonder. For me, this past year I have learned to ask for things, especially help. This has both made me less complete (i.e. less perfect) and more complete (recognizing I’m not perfect and don’t need to be). It’s been somewhat life changing.

    Anyway, thanks for making me think. Again.

    • Christine says:

      Asking for help hasn’t been easy for me, nor has admitting I can’t do it and just saying no. But I’ve started, and you are right it’s quite liberating. I hope it keeps up momentum. I also find that scheduling less, on weekend and during the evenings, makes a huge difference.

  4. Kate says:

    I want my mind to swell with grace. — beautifully said!

    I’m feeling muddled too, and stretched out by all the needs of others.

  5. franticmommy says:

    “I’m a people pleaser. I always have been. For as long as I can remember I have worried what others would think of me, what picture I was painting for the world. But I also worry about the needs of others and have no problem sacrificing my own comfort in the interest of pleasing others. As a little girl I vividly remember feeling responsible for my father’s emotional well-being. I hid my feelings and insecurities for fear that they would hurt him, make him worry or feel sad. It was a heavy responsibility that folded into my adult life.”…WOW you SO nailed it. It’s like we are twins. EXCELLENT post 🙂

  6. Courtney says:

    I feel very much the same way, so this hit me. My biggest struggle is the stuff part, I think I need all the stuff to make me who I am, and I don’t. I am trying to simplify the stuff and focus on me without caring about all that stuff… It makes me nothing more than stressed.

  7. YES. You nailed it. I wonder if people pleasers spend so much time being who people want them to be that they never actually “think” about what they want and who they are. If you grow up putting on a show for people, do you ever develop your own personality to start with?

    • Christine says:

      Good question Kitch. I think that’s why it’s so hard to know, because we’ve never allowed ourselves the opportunity to think about it. And when we do, we feel guilty. It’s a terrible cycle that I wish I knew how to break. Frankly, I wish I knew how to even recognize myself sometimes.

  8. Christa says:

    Yes, yes, and yes. This is my favorite piece that you have written, and one of the clearest things I have read in a long time.

    It’s no wonder we found each other – very similar paths.

    And you will get there, Christine, you will. What you can’t see yet is that the good in you is right there, right now, you are so filled with grace. It is, as Brene says, a practice. Like a puppy learning to walk on leash, you will wander here and there and stop dead in your tracks sometimes, but just gently, SO gently, bring yourself back.

    Bravo. Sometimes naming what you need to do is the lions share of the work. I hope it all unfolds with ease.

    Love to you.

  9. Rudri says:

    The crux is purpose. I, like you, have a good life, but feel as if the purpose is what I lack. Defining it, knowing it and living it is something I struggle with.

  10. ShannonL says:

    I think all women have the same or similar needs and wants. Figuring them out and getting there is something that is difficult to do and I think many of us NEVER get there.

    Good luck to you in finding what you want (and deserve). I love reading all about your journey and I look forward to seeing what answers you uncover. You explain your feelings so eloquently – it’s just lovely.

  11. denise says:

    Wow Christine. Holy wow. You’ve gorgeously unearthed part of the intricate shadows of my journey. Thank you for this candid, thought-provoking and incredible post. I’ve been, as I believe you know, on a similar quest….searching, in the end, and along the way, for me. With kindred spirits along the way, like you, the path is lined with light. Thank you.

  12. Your posts make me head hurt…in a good way. They always leave me thinking. At the beginning, I always think I have my opinion set, but you’ve muddled me by the end. And that’s every time, not just this one! That said, I think I believe in creating oneself more than discovering oneself. But that’s because I’m a ‘do-er’, a pleaser, etc.

    • Christine says:

      I’ve always been a doer and a pleaser too. For the first time in my life thought I’m realizing the gifts of really listening.

      And I really do hope that the head hurting is in a good way. 🙂

  13. Amber says:

    It is really, really hard to peel back the layers and find what’s beneath. For me, at least.

    But here’s the good news. Asking these questions, and taking baby steps, is the way to start. Slowly, slowly, it will come to you. I know it will. 🙂

  14. The legacy of being a people-pleaser is so often the woman’s domain. It is reinforced by our culture, and certainly your early childhood circumstances as well.

    There’s nothing wrong with pleasing; most of us take pleasure in it. It is when we please others before ourselves – nearly always – that we forget to learn about who that “self” really is.

    I believe we can get there. It takes time, work, and patience – a gift we need to give ourselves.

    Sending all good thoughts on your journey of learning.

  15. There is so much packed in here, Christine — I feel like I need to read it again twice to let it all soak in. But at the heart of it is the fact that you are on a path, a journey. Sometimes the path feels muddled — sometimes God leads us into the wilderness…with intention. And he will lead you out again, into truth.

  16. Kelly says:

    … “stop creating who she was and to start discovering who she is”…

    This quest seems like one so many of us are starting or have already begun. I understand that feeling of emptiness, of no direction, of a void when I’m not actively engaged in fixing and pleasing and completing an interior list of “shoulds.”

    I keep reminding myself that the void is inside me and can’t be filled by anything but me. I just have to be patient, learn to be still, and do what feels good rather than what feels expected. Soul work is right.

    • Christine says:

      I just had this discussion with someone very close to me. We talked about what it would be mean to really know yourself. Neither of us could describe it, we realized that it was likely a feeling. Like love. You just know, but there aren’t words to express it. I’m thinking of a post about it! Coming soon.

  17. I feel this. My challenge is that I take things too personally. If someone around me is in a bad mood I get anxious, as if I’m responsible–either for the mood or for making that person feel better. Trying very very hard lately to let this go a bit. I am plagued by far too much anxiety.

    • Christine says:

      Jen you articulated part of my own problem perfectly. I feel intensely and that usually means that I take on the emotions of others like you describe. It’s exhausting. I’m trying to shut it off, but it takes A LOT of work.

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