How many hats do you wear in life? And are you actually happy in each of these roles you play?
What started off as a silly argument led to a much more productive contemplation recently as I reflected on the various roles I play in my life. The starting point was in defining the hats I was wearing, as a writer, student (of life), mother, daughter, partner, school mum, house keeper, money manager, cook, business advisor, business support function, friend and cousin, the list seemed endless.
Then I began considering whether these were even hats I wanted to wear, and whether the role I am playing when wearing them is shaped the way I want it to be. It is an interesting exercise to go through, to challenge yourself on whether you are playing certain roles (or playing them in certain ways) because you want to or because you feel duty bound in some way.
As we are moving into 2017, I know I have one really important intention, or goal if you prefer, and that is to put myself first.
It might sound selfish, and it is. But think about it, if you don’t who will? Who can? Only you know what you truly like and want in this life, only you know how you really feel in each moment of every day, only you can take immediate action to make yourself feel better and make your life a happier experience for all concerned.
If you are playing a role (or playing it in a certain way) and resenting it, who is benefitting from that? Sure, there is a pay off somewhere (on both sides) but is it the best outcome for either party?
I know all this, yet I was arguing with myself. My thoughts went racing into corners of my mind exploring beliefs I hold about each of my roles. Beliefs are a funny thing, they shape all of our experiences, yet few can actually articulate what they are.
Do you truly know what you believe? Do you know which beliefs you inherited? What situations are always playing out for you? How often are you the victim? What thoughts and feelings do you have as you wake up each morning? What beliefs do you hold about your body? What does 'home' mean to you? What are your feelings about laughter and fun? What do you think it's possible for you to achieve in this life? What do you believe you deserve from life?
All these questions can be confronting and revealing. I love unearthing thoughts I was previously unaware of, constantly shaking out my beliefs – which are just repeated thoughts after all – and evolving them.
For example, in my role as a mother I started from a place thinking that parents have to discipline their children, but I quickly shifted my thoughts on that after an incident with my daughter and an attempt at the naughty corner concept. By no coincidence I came across the work of Alfie Kohn shortly afterwards which led me on the first step of a different path entirely.
In my role as a partner, there are just as many concepts and beliefs I adopted from my experiences and society in general. Last week I talked about the best relationship vows I’ve ever heard, worth a read if you haven’t already, they are certainly vows about putting yourself first so you can give the best of you to another.
Then there are the expectations the school has of parents, the expectations of my partner, my children, my parents, my in-laws, on and on. What it really all boils down to is my interpretaion of those, the expectations and attitudes I hold for myself based on an accumulation of lifetime experiences. And the only person who controls those is, well, me.
Yes, others may hold expectations, but so what? How you play those out in your life is up to you. If I put my happiness on someone else’s shoulders, or vice versa, I’ll be disappointed. You are not as important to people as you think you are. So, for me, it’s about getting myself squarely in the centre of my own universe where I belong.
That doesn’t mean I’ll wake up one morning and decide I want a walk at the beach and leave my young children at home unattended, it means I’ll get out into nature with the kids as a priority. Or I’ll organize play dates so I can have some solitutde. It means I won’t just ignore my own needs and ‘sacrifice’ for others. Because who I am I then? Some grumpy, resentful version of myself, urgh, who wants that?
In each of my roles I hold the intention to give my best, and that means I have to put my own needs first. To give my best I have to be at my best, and to do that I have to be completely in tune with the inner me.
So this new year, as I look at my life and you look at yours, I wonder if you will do the same. Do you have the courage to put yourself first? Do you feel worthy of that? Even if it’s only wearing one hat, make 2017 the year you say yes to yourself.
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