Discovering Yourself — for Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families
If you were raised by a dysfunctional parent who didn’t know who you really were and forced you to play a role that had nothing to do with your identity, you probably entered into adulthood scratching your head about what you were good at and which way to go.
By now, you may have had quite a few of the wrong jobs and wrong partners, and wondered if you’ll ever be sure of what suits you best. Finding yourself isn’t easy when you grew up with someone who was bound and determined not to let you know who you really were.
So…who is this mystery person you live with 24 hours a day?
The process of discovering yourself does take some patience, which is something adult children of dysfunctional parents were not taught to have for themselves, so remember, this isn’t an overnight process; you’ll need a while to uncover all the clues.
But where can you start? You can start by recognizing and acknowledging what you like…
Try the “Stuff I Like” Project
- Take out a big piece of paper and something to write with (poster board is great for this, but several pieces of paper will work just fine).
- Get yourself a kitchen timer, or a watch you can keep an eye on, or something else that will time you, or at least tell you the time.
- Make sure there are no distractions – this is YOUR time.
Now, set the timer/plan for 5 minutes, and – hurrying – jot down everything you love and like in the 5 minutes. Never mind whether or not you’re trained in these things, or even whether or not you think you’re any good at them. Pay no attention to whether it’s something you like to eat or something you watch, or even something you have never done. If you like it, you write it!
We’re looking for what kinds of things express you and make you feel good, not what kinds of things you’re supposedly supposed to think you “should” do or “should” like.
And above all, don’t lie to yourself!
If you are that one in a million person who likes anchovies on pizza, say so! Boldly write, “Anchovies on pizza!”
Keep going and going, writing everything you like or think is great, from meteors to bubble baths to fun gadgets to naps to wrinkle dogs to cranberry muffins to Harley bikes to deep-tissue massages to your programmable coffee machine.
Pay no attention to whether or not you can afford it, whether or not you are capable of receiving it or anything else — if YOU like it, just write it down.
One important tip — don’t forget to write all the intangibles, values and actions you like, such as “efficiency”, “generosity” “the joy of discovery” “feeling like I belong” and “free time”.Those answers will be key to determining the quality of life and the kind of partner that is right for you.
No Censoring or Shaming
If you like, love or think it’s great, no matter what it is, write it down. No “shoulding” or “shouldn’ting”. If it takes you longer than 5 minutes, great! Keep going until you can think of nothing more for a solid minute. See just how long you can make the list.
If you do this activity without shaming or censoring yourself about any of your answers about what YOU honestly think is great, you will start to feel something — you will start to feel a sense of yourself. And that’s a great start to figuring out what kinds of things to move toward and what kinds of things to move away from, and knowing who you are.
Now Meet Yourself…
Once you’ve finished the answers above, have a look over them. What kind of person do you think is this? What advice would you give them about how to live their life, or what you think they would like to do for work? Better yet, show the list to someone else, and ask them — what kind of person do you think this is? How should they spend their time?
The secret to who you are is rooted in what you love. Adult children of dysfunctional families were not taught to pay attention to what they love, so the first step to uncovering your true self is to answer that question, honestly, with all the answers you can think of, and without all the limitations.
Join us next time — we’ll be talking about a toxic mainstay: passive-aggression.
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