Don’t Lose Yourself In Responsibility: How To Stay True To The Inner You

I’m sitting down to write this post at 6am PST, and I had intended to start writing at 5am this morning, but life happened. My daughter woke up first, and after convincing her to go back to bed, pouring a cup of coffee, sitting down and reading the news (bad decision) for five minutes, I realized it was already 5:45am, and my son was awake asking for his ‘bubby’ (blankie) and ‘mott (milk) on the couch.

So here we are, it’s 6am, and my sweet 3-year-old son is asking me questions here and there, in between sips of milk, and snuggles. It isn’t easy to write with my little guy wanting my attention every three minutes, but these moments where I get to sit back, snuggle, and just be with one of my children are some of my most cherished each week. And that is why I am writing this post. With the disclaimer that all of the things I do each week, and the perspective I want to give on the topic of not losing yourself in the day to day is a constant work in progress, and I am by no means an expert. {pause while I get more milk for my baby boy}

Being a mom is the best. Taking care of myself makes me a better mom too!

Being a mom is the best. Taking care of myself makes me a better mom too!

Maybe we need to start by discussing the concept of ‘not losing yourself.’ To me it’s the idea, and I say ‘idea’ because it’s a constant aspirational-goal in my own life, that I can split my time in a manner each week that allows me to get work done, exercise, have time with my kiddos, QT with my husband and also support my creative needs. This is a long list, and most weeks I am only able to support a few of these things and neglect the others. Being a working, married, mother of two, time is a precious jewel, and most of the time (no pun intended), there is just not enough hours in the day to meet all of my ‘ self-needs’ and everyone else's. This has really gotten me down lately because the work portion of my life has been dominating everything else. And when that happens, I start to feel like I am constantly grasping at the most necessary things I need to do to get through each day, kind of like Alice in Wonderland, falling down the metaphorical hole grasping at anything to help me slow down.

It’s particularly annoying when there seems to be no bottom to the ‘falling sensation with no bottom’ that comes along with too many responsibilities, not enough time, and no free time for the inner me. But I try, try, try to remember when I get completely lost in work or home-life responsibilities that I have a choice in how much emotional energy I give. Keep in mind, I usually don’t remember to remind myself of my choices until I’m in too deep, so here are some things I’ve learned by NOT balancing my time correctly. I hope my ‘learning as I land’ approach will help you avoid some of the mistakes I make every time. 💁

Hit Pause & Assess

With work, in particular, my husband is always reminding me that “it will all still be there tomorrow.” He’s a wise man, and also knows that I am an all-in or all-out kind of person. Thank goodness I found him and have this reminder on occasion. It usually is around the time that I’m about to have a total emotional breakdown though, so in those moments I make myself take a step back, hit the pause button and breathe so that I can clear my mind and figure out where the issue lies.

Remember What Makes You Happy

All of us have specific buckets in life that we need to give attention to stay happy. Personally, I like to break mine down by the following categories: Family (what I need and want to do with my husband, kiddos and extended family), Personal (diet, exercise, outdoor, writing and art), Work (my day job, and my side gig). But whatever these are for you, if one gets too imbalanced all the others suffer, and your mood will start to take a nose-dive. I’ve learned over the years that I also have to have an aspirational breakout of my time and a more realistic one. For example, I need to work out almost every day to stay focused and happy. I would love to write for my blog every day too, but it doesn’t always happen. If I miss a day of blog writing, I tend to be okay, but if I miss a workout class that I had planned on attending, I’m in a funk and feel like everything is worse than it actually is. So I’ve learned to skip the writing if I must, in favor of the physical activity. 🏃

Give Yourself Time Limits

If you’re sitting there thinking, “this all sounds fine and well, but I can’t help my own situation, work asks for too much!” Or, “my kids just need what they need, and that leaves me no time for me!” Know that I totally get the uncontrollable factors of life. At that, I am a victim to these most of the time as well. But if you stop focusing on how little control you have, and start thinking creatively about where you can make room for your inner self’s needs, you’ll find that there’s always a little room. And, what you can always do is give yourself a time limit, or commitment limit to the thing that is dominating your time. If staying at work an extra 30 minutes means you will miss the workout class you planned to attend, or the glass of wine you were heading out to grab with a friend is it really worth it? I know, I know, the job needs what it needs. But I’ll tell you a secret--coming from someone who’s been a boss, an employee, a vendor and more--no one respects a person who doesn’t respect and take time for themselves. Your boss is not going to give you that promotion because you stayed late every night for a week. In fact, if it were me, I’d look at the situation and think, “this employee doesn’t know how to balance their time. They’re probably going to burn out. I should take something off their plate.” Moral of the story: give yourself time limits on the ‘must-dos’ of life so you can get to the things you want to do each day. And remember, it will all still be there tomorrow--waiting for you. But you will feel better about your responsibilities if you have taken a moment to satisfy the inner you! 🌟

Pick One Thing

When I sit back and think about all of the things I wish I were doing to make the inner-me happy, it’s overwhelming. There’s probably no way--this year at least--that I will write a novel, take up fine art again, run a half marathon and see my girlfriends one a week for wine, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t tackle one of those things. When I first launched this blog, I had aspirations to write one post a week. Quickly I realized that I was not going to be able to do that with all the other things on my plate, and when I first had this realization, my instinct was to just give up. But, that’s something I would have done in my twenties, and it would have been the wrong choice. Instead, I took a month to see how much I actually could write and post, with work, kids and home life also being a priority. And lo-and-behold, I was able to post 1-2 blogs a month. Is this what I wanted? No. Is it still making me happy? Absolutely. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater when you meet your first obstacle. It’s easy to go to work every day, and buy groceries, pick up the dry cleaning, etc. It’s easy because you are in a routine with those things. But, if you don’t find a way to get to the more aspirational goals in your life, they will never come to fruition. And a routine starts with small successes, aimed at a more significant purpose. Read my blog post on ‘good routines’ here for more on this topic. The cool thing about picking one thing at a time to focus on is that over time, you’ll actually realize you can take more on! Like that half marathon you’ve been wanting to train for, or the cooking class that you’ve always wanted to take. Don’t give up on yourself! Just give it time.

Keep It In Perspective

I’ve often wondered about aspirations I had at different points in my life, and whether or not they would have succeeded if I had just kept taking the next step to see them through. Like all of us, I have many goals that have ended up in the goals-graveyard--like becoming a prima ballerina--is it too late for that? But really, many of the things I’ve thought I would do or could take on have not happened, but I’m at a point where I will no longer let work or any other must-do force me to give up on something I genuinely need to make my soul happy. I just sometimes need to stop and remind myself of what’s really important, and you do too!

I’ll end with a story that I often remember when I’m questioning where to go next. My niece is a smart little cookie. She’s now in middle school, but when she was a toddler, she was a little firecracker. We were hanging out one day, and she spilled juice all over the outfit she was wearing. We weren’t at her house, so there was nothing to change into. I found a tank top and sweatshirt in my closet that she could wear until I could dry her dress. Showing her a few options, I asked which she wanted to wear. She looked them over thoughtfully, then looked at me, and said: “Auntie, I don’t like my options.” I started cracking up. She was so bright and truthful without being insecure about her feelings. We ended up looking through more of my clothes until she found something she likes--a sparkly, sequined tank in the bottom of my drawer. So take it from an opinionated and confident three-year-old; if you don’t 'like' your options, change them! 🙋You be the boss of your inner child, and find a way to make time for her! 👊

Let me know what other creative ways you’ve learned to make time for the inner you! Leave your thoughts in the comments.

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EM 💜