Lifetime Connections

Exploring women's relationships in families and friendscapes

The Best New You is the Authentic You

Where we found joy as a child is a key to where we can find joy as an adult.

Feeling like your life isn’t what you’d hoped it would be when you were younger? Does it seem like you have just become what others expected you to be? Do you find yourself resisting the “path of least resistance” now? Wishing something about your life could change, but you are not even sure you know what it is?

Well, not only do kids say the darnedest things, they also know themselves more authentically than many adults often know themselves. Perhaps the best way to figure out how to become a “new you” is to remind yourself of who the authentic “once-upon-a-time you” really was.

Here are five steps to uncovering the person that you were meant to be:

  1. Think back to a significant positive event or satisfying experience that you recall from when you were a kid about 9, 10, or 11. Reflect on what you were doing at that moment, who was with you, and what the mood was at that moment.
  2. What emotions were present then and arise now as you remember the activity or event? Maybe love, joy, satisfaction, pride, hope, connectedness, belonging, acceptance, enthusiasm, or confidence.
  3. Think about what your role was in that momentExplorer? Teammate? Academic Super Star? New Big Sister? Best Friend? Accomplished Yard Mower? Teacher’s Pet? Video Game Master? Dreamer? Artist? Poet? Rock Star?
  4. Now that you know the role you were born for, write it down at the top of a piece of paper. Brainstorm ways that you can create that dynamic todaywith family, with friends, on the job, in your leisure time.
  5. Evaluate your ideas for feasibility and create a clear plan to bring the simplest plan to life. As the opportunity to bring authenticity and fit grows, you will find the joy you felt as a child living out that role whether it is within current relationships, on the job, or in your leisure time.

Even Small Shifts Matter

While life circumstances may not necessarily support seismic shifts in occupation or employment, getting started in small ways toward infusing your life with that “kid spirit” can bring a great deal of satisfaction. Someone I know loved the moment that she became a “new big sister” when she was 10. When she reached a point in her adult life when she “had it all,” but felt so empty, thinking back to her childhood joy at this relationship encouraged her to get involved withyou guessed it!Big Brothers/Big Sisters. A small step, but one that gave her the opportunity to reconnect with that authentic piece of herself that had been neglected for so long.

Making Sure No One Gets Hurt

Of course, there are caveats to this exercise that must be acknowledged. While some people might remember the joyful pleasure of being called “best friend” and the close connections they had with their friends, others might recall the pleasure they felt by bullying others or exerting power over another. Clearly, positive moments will vary based on the individual. But, if “Victor” or “Winner” are the roles that you crave, brainstorming ways in which you can recreate those roles in socially acceptable ways is essential. Being responsible for a group, advocating for those less fortunate, etc. are ways in which the need for power can be safely enjoyed. And for victims of bullying who recall the joy of vanquishing their tormentors, advocacy is a great way to recreate that dynamic of speaking out against mistreatment of others.

Living Out the Childhood Dream

Dreamers need time and space in their lives to let their imaginations run wild. Former BMXers need to get back on their bikes and find adult leagues to join. Track stars need to begin training for that marathon and academic super stars should get back into the classroom whether simply for lifelong learning or to earn a new degree. Social butterflies may find satisfaction in taking on leadership roles in the PTA, Kiwanis Club, or neighborhood association. Tapping into that "inner winner" from childhood can lead to a great deal of satisfaction for adults.

The “new you” that is going to be the best fit is the authentic you. Sometimes, we have to double back to begin at the beginning to unravel the mysteries of who we are meant to be.

Suzanne Degges-White, PhD, is a licensed counselor and professor at Northern Illinois University.
more...

Subscribe to Lifetime Connections

Current Issue

Let It Go!

It can take a radical reboot to get past old hurts and injustices.