By Karen McMahon
We can get so entrenched in being part of a ‘unit’ when in relationship that we lose ourselves. If our partner is the dominant one, we may have fallen into a pattern of acquiescing to his/her desires and demands. If there are issues of anger management, abuse, addiction or control, we may have shrunk so far into the shadows of the relationship that we got lost.
That is what happened to me. When my marriage was clearly on the rocks, I reached out for help to a therapist I had seen years earlier. I remember her stating (ever so gently) that I was a shell of the woman she had met previously. I was lost and truly didn’t know how to find my way back to being me.
If you haven’t been in that situation, you might cock your head to the side and wonder how is that possible. But for those who have, I hope this article is a beacon of light to help you find your way home to the uniquely beautiful, powerful person you were designed to be.
Whose Voice Is In Your Head?
When something goes ‘wrong’, whose voice do you hear in your head? Do you immediately wonder how your partner is going to react or what they are going to say and then figure out how you will respond accordingly? When you want to do something, is the voice in your head encouraging and building you up or tearing you down? Do you know what you think and how you feel and can you stand firmly in your own opinions? Or do you have doubt and look toward him or her for direction, guidance, and acknowledgement?
If you have lost yourself, take comfort in knowing that simply being aware of it is the first step to finding your way back.
Find Your Voice
First, put your bat away!! You have probably been ‘beat up’ enough by the words or actions of the controlling personality in your life and you do not need to berate yourself but rather to be gentle, loving and compassionate. I used to call myself ‘such an idiot’. That certainly didn’t help me get back on my feet.
Second, look at how you treat yourself. No one is going to treat you with respect until you respect and love yourself. If you have children, when they do something ‘wrong’ would you speak to them the way you speak to yourself? Most likely not. Begin to parent yourself the way you parent your children. Show love and compassion and patience with yourself.
Third, draw up an eviction notice! That’s right, it is time to evict him or her from you head. They are renting space in your head and it is not serving you in the least. Their voice is loud and booming and yours has become a barely audible whisper. Send them packing.
A fun exercise (especially if you feel intimidated by this person) is to imagine a caricature of them…all their most prevalent physical features enhanced. Now imagine them with a worn out suitcase looking timid while packing and leaving. Each time you hear their voice instead of yours in your head, imagine the caricature of you evicting them and you will smile and shift your thoughts.
Finally, now that they have been evicted, you need to move back in! This is sometimes the hardest step and a great place to work with a coach to help you dust off who you are and who you want to be and step back into your power. Ask yourself a series of questions when situations arise:
What do I think about ____?
How do you feel about ____?
How would I react if I did not have to consider anyone else’s perspective?
If his or her voice comes back, consider what you would do if they were not part of the equation…if they had taken a trip to the moon…no fear, no consequences, no criticism.
It is perfectly natural to be unsure, even insecure in your own thoughts and feelings if you have been living in the shadows of another person. No worries. It’s like riding a bike and before you know it you are clear, confident and fully capable of not only knowing what you think but of speaking your mind and standing by your values and beliefs.
What’s helping you find your voice? Are there some situations that are more difficult than others?
Karen McMahon, Certified Relationship & Divorce Coach and the Founder of JourneyBeyondDivorce.com. Karen has created a team of divorce coaches whose passion is to work with men and women facing relationship challenges or going through the divorce process. Her desire is to help them navigate their difficulties while focusing on personal growth and embracing the opportunities inherent in their changing circumstances.