It Took Losing Everything to Find Me

It Took Losing Everything to Find Me
Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. -E.E. Cummings

At 30, I was happily married, had a great career, many friends, and lots of money. During that time, I also became deeply depressed, was put on medication for anxiety and entered what would be a very long relationship with psychotherapy.

It was a real struggle for me to understand why I wasn’t happy when I had everything that I thought was important in life. Was I selfish? Were my expectations too high? I honestly couldn’t understand what was missing and how to fill this huge void that gnawed at me endlessly.

When I look back at my life, more than 20 years later, I realize that I really had no idea who I truly was or what made me happy. I kept expecting “something” or “someone” to answer this question for me. The journey to find out who I was and what really mattered to me eventually involved divorce, the loss of my career and most of my possessions, and learning to live with a chronic illness.

How Do I Know What Defines Me?Losing Everything Helped Me Find My Identity

It pretty much took me losing everything I thought defined me and made me happy to admit to myself that I honestly didn’t know myself very well at all. Who am I? What do I believe in? What is my purpose? What fills me with joy and wonder?

These are questions that I am just beginning to understand after 50 years of living my life and I have to admit that getting there has been extremely difficult.

The hardest part for me was just knowing where to begin. After much therapy, meditation, self reflection and reading, I asked myself several big questions that served as a launching pad to begin my journey of self discovery.

If you are ready to begin the process of truly understanding who you are meant to be, try starting with these 5 questions:

1. What or who would you be if you knew you couldn’t fail?

The risk of failure terrifies most people. How many times have you wanted to change jobs or careers, move to a new city, promote a cause that is important to you, or become an expert in a certain area? Think about it. No risk of failure. If you were 100% certain that you could be or do anything you wanted and not fail, do you know the answer?

2. What is your 90-second personal elevator speech?

This is probably the most important and poorly answered question in most job interviews. You can certainly include your career or accomplishments in your personal speech, but think of this from the perspective of how you might answer this question if you were making a new friend or going on a first date with someone. How would you describe yourself so that the person asking the question would truly understand who you are and what is important to you.

3. What are your core personal values?

Personal values are the things that you believe are important in the way you live. They give you a reference for what is good, beneficial, important, useful, desirable, and constructive. Once you are able to determine exactly what values are most important to you, you can better determine your priorities.

In fact, having this information about yourself is the key to making sure your daily life is aligned with those values. If you need help defining your personal values, there is a great 5-minute assessment tool you can use here.

4. What makes you genuinely happy?
This one is closely related to your core personal values. However, ask yourself this question once you’ve really nailed down what those values are. For example, if family is one of your core personal values, will taking a job that involves tons of travel make you happy? Take it a step further and really consider dreams you had when you were younger or didn’t pursue that you may now be ready to go after.

5. If money were no object, how would you live your life differently?

Many people equate happiness and success directly to the amount of money they have. How many times have you heard someone say, “If I hit the lottery, I’d…”? But remember, this question isn’t really about money at all. It’s more about thinking outside the limits we tend to put on our aspirations and actions because things seem out of our reach financially. You may not be able to do those exact things, but once you know what those true desires are, you expand your thinking and begin to develop a plan to work towards goals you may have never imagined possible.

These are tough questions and the answers may not come easily or quickly. In fact, I found myself having to think and rethink my answers several times. This work is hard, but necessary in order to really understand yourself on a deeper level.

So, find a quiet place and allow yourself plenty of time to reflect and really take a deep dive into each of these 5 questions. Go ahead. Begin your journey. Change direction. Create new dreams or rediscover dreams you left behind. Now that I have started, I haven’t looked back since.


Ready to pave the way toward the life you want? Learn how to make smart decisions to get there in this podcast episode: How to Make Decisions You Won’t Regret – 200

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