Rediscover Yourself: How to Create Meaning in Middle Life and Beyond

Rediscover Yourself: How to Create Meaning in Middle Life and Beyond

Fulfilment, happiness, meaning. To be really truly fulfilled in life we have to experience pleasure, we need to pursue activities that we regard as worthwhile, and we have to have meaning in our lives.  Many people, particularly women who are experiencing some kind of radical change in their lives such as children leaving home, retirement, retrenchment or divorce feel that there has to be MORE to life and query whether their whole self-worth is wrapped up in their families, their role as a spouse, their paid work.  When radical changes take place in areas in which we’ve invested a lot of ourselves, we’re left with wondering who we really are when we’re not being of service.  Where did we lose sight of ourselves and the things that really speak to our hearts?   How do we find ‘us’ and what thrills us to the core again?

Feeling like this can be overwhelming when you’ve spent literally years living your life for and through others. When you finally get some time to yourself you don’t know what to do with it.  You’re so used to spending every spare second with those you love or thinking about what the next thing on the ‘to do’ list is, that even if you think of having some spare time you don’t know what you’d like to do with it.

Over the years you somehow lose your sense of who you are, what you relate most to, the things that you, as an incredibly special woman, love to see, hear and be part of.

Some examples:
My daughter was born prematurely and spent the first four weeks of her life in hospital. When I finally got to bring her home, I consciously gave up listening to music, something I’d previously adored. The reason was simple. A’s cry was so weak that if I had any kind of music playing and I was in another room, I was terrified that I wouldn’t hear her. As a first –time mother, the idea of her crying and me not being there for her immediately struck terror into my heart. I made the only logical decision I felt was reasonable at the time - I stopped listening to music and started listening to her instead.

When I was admitted to hospital because of ill health during my pregnancy, I left all of my jewellery at home. For the two weeks that I was bedridden prior to her birth, I wore no jewellery, no make-up or nail polish. I’d never slathered the makeup on, but had always loved to adorn myself and took great pride in my nails. By the time A and I got home, I was so tired, so anxious and had so much to do in terms of caring for my family that I didn’t have time any more for the things that used to make me feel more feminine and added to my self-confidence.

How do we then move forward?
Slowly, insidiously, we often give up things that make up who “we” are and when that particular phase of our life is over, we’re left with a big hole to fill but have no idea what to fill it with. Time has moved on and you’re no longer the woman you used to be, the things that used to be of interest no longer appeal, but you have no idea what does! Fortunately there are many ways to explore who you are now and what speaks to your heart.

The first step is to rediscover who YOU are. Not you as a wife, mother, daughter or even best friend: YOU as an individual, as a woman with many years of experience and wisdom, passions, yearnings and desires. This is your chance to explore far and wide to discover what you really love today – right here, right now. You can do this in many enjoyable ways:

  • read books, see films and journal how you feel about them – either in text or by creating art
  • join book clubs and discuss what the books mean to you, hear others points of view and expand your mind through discussion
  • take up something creative like painting, drawing or ceramics
  • start a scrapbook of the things that make your heart sing – colours, textures, beautiful ornaments, furnishings, clothing and go from there
  • take yourself out on coffee dates in beautiful places and people watch
  • join women’s circles for companionship, discussion and other things that make your heart sing such as meditation, exercise, craftwork and outings. If you don't know of any, join the Wise Woman's Forum here on Joy and Resonance and get to know others in a 'virtual' setting!
  • think back to the dreams and goals you used to have and see which of these still moves you and investigate what steps you need to take to pursue them now. The trick is not to discount ANY of them that really speak to you now
  • ask around and find a great hairdresser and work with them to find a hairstyle that really expresses who you are today
Painting of a Yellow Flower

Image courtesy of twobee / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Joy of Rediscovering YOU!
You need to rediscover and redefine what YOU find acceptable in life and what isn’t. Making way for new interests and pursuits means that other people may have to get used to the new you. This can mean setting new boundaries.

  • When adult children keep asking you to do the same old stuff (washing, cooking, picking up something from the shop for them) and you want to finish that incredible book you’ve borrowed from the library because it has you under its spell, gently but firmly tell them that you would prefer to continue with what you’re doing and that you’re sure they’re able to do it themselves
  • If you’ve decided to start meditating but the phone is always ringing off the hook, take it off the hook or divert it to voicemail
  • If you’ve discovered a course that interests you but it would mean you won’t be there to cook a meal for your partner, provide them with the ingredients for something really easy and a recipe so that they can do it themselves. Note here that I didn’t say cook extra – they’re just as capable of cooking wonderful meals as you are. (Something I recently discovered myself with much joy!)

Remain open to possibilities and refuse to be stereotyped. You may very well be a lot older than the last time you had the freedom to pursue the things you love, but that’s even MORE of a reason to get out and start doing it. Life is short! When you reconnect or discover your loves, your likes and what leaves you cold, you get clearer about the stuff that’s important – the things you want to achieve, the stuff you yearn to experience, the things you want to find out more about, what makes your heart sing and puts a permanent smile on your face.

Reclaiming Your Individual Power
You come to value yourself as an individual a whole lot more and this, in turn, sets a wonderful example for others. You no longer tolerate people thinking you’re present purely to cater to their whims and needs and begin to assert yourself as a person who has their own values, dreams and desires. It doesn’t matter what those desires are: whether it’s to be the very best composter you can be or to climb Mt Everest - what’s important is that the desire is important to YOU and you realise your value and your right to pursue and achieve it.

Rediscovering yourself IS going to mean re-educating people and having the courage to step out on your own, stand your ground and get others to be more self-sufficient and respecting of your time and space. It’s an incredibly scary and liberating process. The thing is, you don’t have to do it all at once.

It starts with one teeny, weeny step and that’s the decision to rediscover what makes your heart sing and redefine a new purpose in your life.

Make a promise to yourself, right now, that as soon as you finish reading, you’re going to take one little step towards bringing more joy and meaning to your life today, even if it’s just spending five minutes thinking about it and writing out your ideas. Plant that seed now and enjoy the fruits that it brings long into the future. You’re worth it, you deserve it and you CAN do it!

First seen in Spiritual Wisdom Magazine July 2013 - Reprinted with Permission

10 Comments

  1. I’ll take this one: •take yourself out on coffee dates in beautiful places and people watch*

    Love this post, Shan! Thanks for sharing it.

    I’m slowly rediscovering what makes my heart sing, and it feels really great. 😉 Hugs!

  2. Dar, how thrilled I was to see your name pop up with a comment. Thank you so much for visiting, my precious friend 🙂

    I’d love to hear of the places you go for a self-initiated coffee date, when you get the chance!

    More power to you for rediscovering what makes your heart sing. I know my friendship with you is one of those things xxx

  3. Very Encouraging Post! I am rediscovering who I am by searching out different hobbies that would be a good fit for me. I love the coffee date idea! Thanks!

  4. Sharon, I’m so glad the idea of a coffee date appeals to you. It’s one of my favourite pastimes. Thanks for your comment. I’d LOVE to hear how you get on!

  5. I loved this post at I needed, although I had to wade through the typical sexism of the piece. Why is it that these are always geared toward women? Men need to rediscover themselves too. Just because we won’t admit it in public doesn’t mean we don’t need similar advice.

  6. Chad, thank you so much for having the courage to comment. I agree with you that men need to rediscover themselves just as much as women. The post was aimed at women because I’m a women’s coach and mentor. I write from the heart and from my own experience, therefore I’m unable to give my perspective from a male point of view.

    I would be absolutely delighted if you’d be interested in writing something like this from a man’s perspective and allow me to publish it here in order to encourage other men? You’d be more than welcome to follow the same format.

    If this isn’t something that you feel comfortable with, I hope that you were able to take the meaning of the piece and apply it to your own life. Again, thank you for your comments. It’s nice to have a male’s perspective as well.

  7. I love the idea of rediscovering yourself! It seems some much attention is paid to reinvention instead. I spent the year I turned rediscovering myself, and it has served me well.

    thank you for such a thoughtful post!

  8. Everything you said here is truly helpful. I am 26 years old and I want to rediscover myself as early as now. I’ve been in relationships for almost 6 years and now that I’m single, I’m having a quite a hard time figuring out how to “fill-in” my everday life. I guess I kinda forgot the things that make me who I am as an individual. Through this read, I’m inspired to reflect about “me” and to go back to the things that I really love doing.

  9. Shelly, I’m SO sorry I haven’t responded to your post sooner. I didn’t receive a notification that you’d commented and only saw it when I logged on to respond to April. It’s so nice to meet another ‘rediscoverer, as opposed to a ‘reinventer’. There’s so much joy and knowledge to be had reconnecting with our former selves and the things we’ve loved and let slide. Thank YOU for sharing your experience. If you have time and feel so inclined, I’d love to hear what you’ve rediscovered!

  10. April, how lovely to hear from you! I don’t think there’s any particular age that’s right for rediscovering yourself and I love the fact that you have so much insight into what’s the right thing for you this early. It’s so easy, particularly for women it seems, to become so caught up in relationships and pleasing others that we lose sight of who we are and what we love. Thank you so much for letting me know this has acted as inspiration. I’d love to hear more about your journey if you have the time.

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