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Monday, February 7, 2011

Disappointment Does Not Define Me

For as long as I can remember, I have defined myself by other relationships.  I was devastated when my marriage ended, I didn't like the new roles given to me: Single Mother, Breadwinner, Spiritual Leader.  Yes, those are aspects of my life and person, but those titles do not define me.  I choose to look at myself first as a mother, who happens to be single and working to provide for our little family.  It's all a matter of perspective...

In my therapy, I learned it is quite normal, but not healthy to view yourself through the lens of others' approval.  It worked for me for a while because my parents thought I was a great daughter, I generally had good friendships, teachers seemed to be positive and encouraging,  All this fed my people-pleasing tendencies and I wrongly assumed that when people were pleased with me, I somehow earned value.  This reasoning meant the converse was true, when a person was displeased with me, my value and worth could be diminished.

My husband was my closest relationship and I allowed his mood, his view to completely define me.  Without realizing it, I took my cues from him and lost myself.  He battled his own issues and so my self concept took a beating, my world became so small. 

When the secrets came into the light, my world felt like it went dark.  Lies whispered in my psyche:
  • If you had been a better wife .... more attractive, more verbal praise, more sex...
  • You must accept the way things are because you aren't strong enough to insist on change.
  • People will blame you, they will wonder what is wrong with you?
  • You're trapped, you really have no choices.
With the help of my therapist, I learned that I did have choices.  One of my first choices was to decide that I would go back to the young, naive girl I was before I met my husband and remember who she was, what she wanted.  I chose to add to that the things I learned and move forward to be the best me possible. 

I'm still determining exactly who I want to be, but there were some things that I knew right away:
1) I want to be a faithful woman, trust God even when I don't understand and strive to be honest in all things.
2) I want to be an engaged, consistent, fun and loving mother.  The fact that I'm single, doesn't matter!
3) I want to be a true friend, available and sensitive to others.

Even this blog has been an exercise in refining my own self.  For instance, although I am a single mother, I don't want the "single" to be what defines me, but the "mother." Another way I have learned to express myself is in my home.  I am free to decorate and purge however I feel will best suit me, and serve our family needs.  It's been fun and stretching to make changes within a tight budget.  I'd love to share more about that!

Most of all, I am learning that I get to choose what I represent to others by the choices that I make.  Yes, I am a divorce, single mother.  There are tough things that have happened in my life - we all have them, but that is not what defines us.  The way we respond to those difficulties creates the persona by which we are known.  I hope that when others think of me, they think of a hard-working, bright, upbeat mother and friend to call for help or a fun time.  My attitude and my priorities represent the "me" I want to become.