I have never lived on my own. In my entire adult life, I’ve been either married, a mom, or both.
I never intended to lose my identity, but there’s a reason it’s so cliché. My identity became one of the easiest and most satisfying things to surrender. This ended when I was empty nested. Being a mom of grown children and a wife in my late 40s can bring an immense amount of painful conclusions. One of which is that my lost identity no longer serves me.
Being lost in marriage and motherhood has been the joy of my life for a majority of my existence. It has filled me in a way that breathed life into my soul and has given me a deep sense of belonging, contributing, and fulfillment. It was easy to find value here.
In my case, it has been the place I’ve felt the deepest sense of worth. The problem is, when my kids became adults and my husband landed the job he’s always wanted, I realized—in my heart—I was living vicariously through them. Their joys were mine. Their hurts were mine. Their achievements, their battles; everything, all of it, had become intrinsically mine.
This was a secret I kept from everyone, including myself. When I began to realize my codependency, I worked hard to not broadcast it. I didn’t want others to see how deeply enmeshed I had become.
The reality is, I have absolutely no idea how to truly be me. Just me. In all honesty, it feels selfish. But here is the truth I have come to know: loving others more than myself isn’t selfless when I use it to feed my identity.
So, how will I love others selflessly?
I have decided to fall in love with myself.
I will pursue my own heart.
I will say kind, loving, things to myself.
I will take interest in my passions and encourage myself to pursue them.
I will date myself by spending time with myself.
I will smile at myself and tell myself I am beautiful.
I will not only compliment my looks, but my achievements, no matter how small.
I will do the little things for myself to remind me that I am important and worth pursuing.
I will pray for myself and won’t hold records of my wrongs.
I will establish reasonable boundaries for myself because healthy boundaries are part of loving someone. I know that keeping boundaries with myself equates to trusting myself and this affects my confidence.
And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.Mark 12:30-31
The truth is, I can love others better—more genuinely, more selflessly, more altruistically—when I learn how to love myself. I need to love myself like the One who lives inside of me and is daily changing me.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.1 Corinthians 13:4-5
By applying these things to my own life, hopefully there will be an overabundance of love, compassion, and grace that spills out as a result. And the identity that I long for, will start to resemble more of my true self: LOVE.
Jennifer is an Executive Assistant at Pure Desire. Seven years ago, she and her husband went through the Pure Desire Clinical Program. She has led several women’s groups and has served as a Regional Group Advisor. Jennifer is currently a certified Pure Desire online group leader. She is passionate about walking alongside couples, with her husband, as proof that the Pure Desire process works!