It’s so fucking easy to lose ourselves.

We lose ourselves in the daily grind. We lose ourselves in our titles: I am a parent, I am my job, I am a spouse, I am this project, I am my hobbies. We lose ourselves in our whereabouts, in our responsibilities and in our fears.

When I was married, many, many moons ago, I lost the person I was into my marriage. It wasn’t his fault – he’s a good guy, and I will always love and appreciate him for fathering our children. But we all lose ourselves in relationships, to one degree or another, I think. The problem was, the person that I became was far from whole. And that’s where it all falls apart.

Who we are is a constantly shifting organism. On a daily basis, we lose who we were yesterday, sacrificed to the person we become tomorrow. That’s how we grow, and it’s actually a good thing.

Except when it’s not.

When I was married, I gradually lost the person that I had been, but I failed to grow into something new and whole. I just…lost myself. Bit by bit, I gave up parts of myself in order to keep from making waves, in order to keep the peace, to do what I thought would keep the relationship from falling apart. Attrition, pure and simple. Somewhere along the line, I decided, quite unconsciously, that keeping my relationship together was more important than keeping myself.

In the end, I lost both.

The marriage, well, it was right that it fell apart. Neither of us was happy, and both of us were becoming increasingly unhappy trying to make something work that needed to be let go of gracefully.

But never again will I so completely lose myself to the inner sanctum of a relationship. Not a romantic relationship, not a friendship, not a family relationship. I will not sacrifice myself for the sake of a relationship. If that’s what it requires of me, then I firmly believe it is not a healthy relationship, nor one that is worthy of my energy.

I was speaking to a dear friend about all of this recently, and she had some insight to share on the subject:

Loss in itself isn’t a bad thing, it is the lack of replacement with something that is the oversight. Without loss, we can’t have growth. It’s actually attrition that eats away at us, isn’t it? I just looked up the dictionary definition, and it definitely fits:

1. A rubbing away or wearing down by friction.
2. A gradual diminution in number or strength because of constant stress.
3. A gradual, natural reduction in membership or personnel, as through retirement, resignation, or death.
4. Repentance for sin motivated by fear of punishment rather than by love of God.

OK, maybe number 4 is not applicable, but one and two definitely apply!

It took me about 8 years before I really felt like I had recovered myself, or grown into a new person, whole and complete in myself. That’s a pretty long recovery cycle. It takes a long time to build new pieces that fit snugly into the holes in your soul. It just made me realize how completely I had disconnected from myself, when the healing process turned out to be so lengthy. And nothing could have made for a more convincing argument for me to never allow myself to walk that same well-trodden path again.

When I look back at my life, it’s a pattern I have repeated in many relationships. It was just easiest to identify in the breakdown and ultimate failure of my marriage. But I have given myself up or not stayed true to myself in some family relationships, in a few friendships, and over and over again in work relationships. The only relationship where I feel like I have stayed true to myself is the one I have with my children.

Now that I have deconstructed it and actually recognized how far-reaching this pattern is in my life, I have a shot at stopping myself earlier in the process from here on in.

What does that look like? Well for me it means not agreeing to make someone else happy, but having (and sticking to) my own opinion. It means not living my life and doing things (or not doing things) to appease others. It means making decisions that feel right in my gut, and not deadening my own gut instincts to better listen to another person’s. It means not being quiet when all I want is to live out loud. It means not dumbing myself down to keep from threatening someone else’s ego. And it also means speaking up when I don’t understand, instead of simply smiling and nodding.

I’m kinda over it, the smiling and nodding. You know?

It is so easy to lose sight of what we value about ourselves to the dimmer switch of someone else’s opinion.

It’s easy to get caught in our own crossfire and forget what we’re even fighting for.

So how about this? How about we remind ourselves what we value most about ourselves? What we find fun, sexy, genuine, funny, and whatever else floats your boat, about ourselves. As in, make a list. On paper. With a pen (no pencil – there are no erasers in this exercise.)

It’s a starting point. A jumping off point. If we can remember what we once loved and valued about ourselves, we sure as hell have a better shot at remembering to…well…remember it on an ongoing basis.

Put up sticky notes on the mirrors, computer monitors, kitchen cupboards, and wherever else you’ll see them all the time around your house. Positive statements only, about the great things about you. Little affirmations.

“I’m funny and it feels good to make other people laugh. I like that about myself.”

“I feel sexy in heels. I like to wear them, just for me, because I feel good in them.”

“I love to laugh. I like surrounding myself with kind, loving laughter, and the people who share it with me.”

You get the idea. Something along those lines.

What are some of the affirmations you’d like to remember about yourself to be more fully who you are? Leave some in the comments section. We can all help each other to remember to grow into, and not away from, our genuine selves.