There is no advantage to becoming invisible when you fall in love, marry, become a wife, mother, caretaker. Everyone loses: you, your spouse, your children, your friends. The disappearing act can happen subtly and may take a while. Then one day, you realize you don't know whom you are anymore.
Let's take a quick test. Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to check if you have lost yourself.
1. Do you say what you really mean?
Are you communicating from your heart, from your juicy self? Sometimes we can slip into a pattern of saying what is expected of us and what we say may not be what we really think or feel. You will know the difference when you pay attention to what you are communicating and whether it rings true to your beliefs and values, or not.
If you see that you are not saying what you really think and feel, pay attention first of all to who you are trying to please by speaking as you do. Listen closely to what it is that you would be saying if it were the genuine you speaking. Figure out what the costs are for not saying what you mean. Make a decision to change your approach and speak from your authentic self, the self you know you really are. When the signals and balance of cost begin to outweigh the price of not speaking your truth, you may need professional help to learn how to communicate fully.
2. Do you state a preference?
If you are asked what you would prefer, do you make a choice? Or, do you ask what the other party would prefer and defer to that choice as a rule? If you find that you defer to someone's preference fairly regularly, here is a suggestion. First of all, this is not an easy transition to make. Sometimes deferring to someone else's decision comes from not wanting the responsibility of having made the decision in case something goes wrong. Find the courage to make a choice when one is presented. When asked which restaurant you would like to go to, what you would like to do next, when you'd like to buy the next car, take a breath. Before you automatically answer, 'What do you think?', TAKE A BREATH. That breath will give you a pause time, a chance to either say, "let me think about that a minute," or to give an answer if you have one. It's OK to take time to answer. It's OK to let there be silence while you think.
Little by little with practice, you will see how satisfying it is to state a preference and be a part of the decision making process from a place of having made your desires known. There is always compromise and it is still important to have contributed what you have to offer, whether your choice is the one used or not.
3. Do you take the initiative?
When was the last time you made a suggestion to a friend or your family or your spouse about an idea or activity? Do you rely on everyone else to make a proposal about vacation places, buying choices, ways to spend group time? What are the things you really enjoy doing?
Spend some time remembering what makes your heart sing. When you remember, start to put plans into place for them to happen. Invite those whom you would enjoy sharing the activity with. Let people around you know what you have planned and what that feels like to you.
4. Do you take care of everyone else first?
It is not possible to take care of everyone else first and still have time to take care of you. By taking care of you, I mean include the aspects of living that bring meaning and fulfillment to you. By taking care of you, I mean giving yourself the opportunity and time to express your creative and imaginative self. Check to see if you like yourself underneath it all. A good way to avoid who you are is to be in continual service to everyone around you.