To find what you really want to do, ask yourself, when are you most yourself?
I recently had cause to pose one of my absolute favourite questions to a client when she was really struggling with being able to identify just what it was she really wanted to do and ascertain what it was that she loved. So, I came at her from another angle by asking her, “describe to me when you are most yourself?”.
This can appear at first like such a pedestrian exercise, when you are called on to describe your vision for your life, yet if you are truly to answer it honestly, it is likely to be one of the more complex and provocative questions. To know what you want from your life, what the vision you hold of your future life, and to get clarity on what that might look like for you, will undoubtedly require a little piece of investigative work on your part.
From childhood, you are told how to behave, to fall in line, to fly under the radar, to be seen and not heard and advised that it’s always best not to stand out. It’s hardly surprising then, that later in life, you find that you struggle with being true to yourself. Many of you miss out on the chance to indulge in your curiosity or your creativity and instead are subjected to doing exactly the same thing as your friends and siblings and at the same time. You conform, you become institutionalised and you dim to fit in, because it is deigned to be the right thing to do.
Adding insult to injury you learn to measure your success and progress against those around you and the implication that follows is, that it is far more important to ‘appear’ successful in relation to other people, than it is to feel certain, fulfilled or confident within yourselves. Can you see just how messed up that is and why it leaves you grasping at reasons as to why it is you rarely know what it feels like to do what makes you happy?
To counteract this, let’s start with some helpful questions that really cut straight to the point.
Who is it you want to become?
What will she look like?
What will she be doing?
How will you feel when you get there?
What’s stopping you from being her?
What are you avoiding?
These are all really powerful and important questions that will help give you greater clarity on the direction you are headed, but to really provide you with the kick-start, I find that every single one of us can benefit from being able to answer this one … ‘when am I most me?’.
WHEN WE IGNORE OUR NEEDS
How many times in your life have you listened to yourself or observed yourself doing something that you know doesn’t feel like you; but you do it regardless? It can feel incredibly isolating to feel like you are living a lie; when you hide how you really feel, saying only what you think other people want to hear and find yourself doing things you don’t want to do, being places you don’t want to be, simply because you feel it is expected of you. So why do you do it? The answer sadly isn’t a straightforward one, especially because a lot of the time you won’t even recognise that you’re doing it! You may have a sense that something doesn’t feel quite right, you may feel more than a little out of sorts and yet have no idea what’s wrong or indeed how to change it. And I would feel confident in guessing that you, more often than not, feel resentful for not being free to be you.
FINDING YOUR HAPPY PLACE
We have become very used to looking at images on social media of luxurious surroundings accompanied with the caption ‘my happy place’. Apart from this being a lazy way of someone trying to brag about where they are, I also find this to be deeply misleading. Happy places change and evolve as we do. At least they should. Being in a nightclub with your pals in your twenties, may not quite fulfil the same brief in your forties!
WHERE AM I HAPPIEST?
I have a few happy places. My current ones are when I’m walking among the trees in the woods early each morning, or when I’m sitting by the sea in Seapoint, Dublin, or being in front of the fire with my husband and dog while watching an episode of ‘Endeavour’, or sitting writing at my desk. Each of these places taps into something in my soul, something that makes me feel peaceful and very honest with myself. When I’m there I know it’s because it’s where I want to be and it’s also where I am certain it feels safest for me to be me. So, it’s no coincidence that it’s where I feel most me. As a recovering people pleaser, the feeling of being ‘me’ had eluded me for such a long time. As is often the case, it took my world crumbling down around me, for me to decide that pleasing other people was no longer serving me and when I connected back in with myself, I learned exactly where and when I was most myself. To achieve this feeling, you really do need to be honest with yourself and with others, about what it is you think, you feel, what you want and what it is you know you need? You also need to prepare yourself for knowing and then admitting what it is you might be avoiding.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW YOU ARE BEING MORE YOU?
These are a couple of tell-tale signs that you are on your way to being who you want to be:
You accept fully that you teach others how to treat you by how you treat yourself and so you start to treat yourself better.
You realise that your needs or what you want doesn’t have to resemble what other people want for you. You’re too focused on ensuring that what you’re doing or saying is in alignment with who you are to really care!
You not only set better boundaries to protect yourself, and your energy, but you do so consistently and in spite of resistance or objection from others.
You do what’s right for you, more often, and yet ensure that those you love feel that love even if it’s in a different way.
You know that you’re not for everyone, and rather than that send you into a blind panic, you learn to be okay with that.
When you begin to feel like the person you know you want to be, you also find yourself doing something every day that allows your mind a chance to quieten, so that you can hear what your intuition is saying to you, what it wants for you. Your soul always knows what to do and over time you learn how to listen. And in case you need reminding, the reason you are doing all of this, is quite simple – your aim should always be to create a life that feels good on the inside rather than one that looks good on the outside. Think of that and you won’t go too far off course!
Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation Coach and Author of GET UNSTUCK who through her private practice, writings, programmes, workshops and podcast has inspired, activated and helped thousands of people to make significant changes in their lives. She is an accredited Personal, Leadership & Executive Coach and the Lead Coach in the IMAGE Business Club. Instagram @1niamhennis. Her debut book “GET UNSTUCK” is available now from www.niamhennis.com/book and selected bookshops nationwide.