Have you been through an identity crisis? I’m not just talking about the full-on “who am I?!” meltdown, it could just be that you’ve lost what you thought was your signature style. Or perhaps for whatever reason your priorities have suddenly shifted but you can’t put your finger on what works for you anymore. This is a subject I’ve been dealing with on and off for the best part of four years which, funnily enough coincided with when I became a mum for the first time. The first few months of constant feeding, nappies, all-nighters and establishing new routines as a family of three were enough of distraction, until the dust settled and I was quite suddenly faced with the stark reality of losing track of who I thought I was. I felt like an impostor in my own home. I couldn’t wear the style I used to love anymore because my body shape had changed and clothes shopping became a nightmare of fitting room disappointments. It happened again when we moved two years ago and our new home was nothing at all like what we’d come from – none of the furniture worked in the new space which at the time was the antithesis of our ideal home and I struggled to feel like I belonged here. Then our daughter was born five months later and in the midst of all this, I left an established career as a wedding planner that I was comfortable in and knew well for one in editorial styling that I didn’t know at all. It was back to square one all over again and as my work really does define who I am as a person, so I felt completely cast adrift. Are you still with me?
If you’re nodding frantically at the screen but still at a loss as to how to reconnect with yourself, here’s how I worked my way out of it…
✚ Recognise It & Own It
Understand that this is just a transitional stage; it’s not forever, so rather than wallowing under the duvet, choose to be proactive and accept it – it’s happening so learn to use it as an opportunity to grow. Don’t get me wrong, there were far too many days to count on both hands when I’d rather crawl under a rock than engage with myself or my family and I’d focus on everything I didn’t like about myself, the house, my work-whatever. But that’s counter-productive and actually really quite damaging. In the end, I had to learn to be honest with myself and my family and admit that I felt lost. Once I’d taken that first step, I could give myself over to it and buckle up for the ride.
This is the best part! Allow yourself to experience something completely new and out of your comfort zone. In my case it was landing that first assisting job, swallowing those nerves and jumping with both feet into an unfamiliar situation, guts over fear. Just that one day opened up many more amazing opportunities which in turn exposed me to new people with very different styles from my own and suddenly I wasn’t such a blank canvas anymore. When I’ve felt stuck in the past, I’ve used Pinterest to spark some inspiration and I have a beautiful blank wall in my workspace to moodboard any images I come across in print that catch my eye. Learn to be a little risky and buy those leather trousers. Put yourself out there in a different social scene or switch up your reading list. At this stage, it’s not important to have a goal, just open up some creative conversation. You might discover a side of yourself you never knew existed.
✚ Take Your Time
It’s a well known fact that I am the world’s most impatient person. I want everything yesterday, so going through such a slow and tentative process as this was hard for me. So hard! You might find yourself grasping at things for a while to try and find a new sense of normality, to find where it is that this new version of you might belong but try not to focus on it too much. Over-thinking can be exhausting! Keep in mind that you’ll always be a work in progress. I don’t think anyone is truly ever 100% happy with themselves as there is always room to learn, grow and improve. It’s quite fascinating to watch this as a visual, stylistic process unfolding on my Instagram, if you scroll back to the beginning and compare then with now. So much has changed! As a personal process this is going to take time and things won’t change over night, so remember to go easy and take it slowly.
✚ Let Go
Don’t hold on to things just because you loved them once. If it’s not working for you now, then move on. This applies to the circles you socialise in as well as what you choose to surround yourself with at home. Do these people have a positive influence on you? Do they inspire or support you? Perhaps they hold you back or inhibit you in some way? Whilst it’s not always possible to make clean breaks, you can be proactive in reaching out and making connections with a new set of friends. Blogging has been a wonderful way for me to nurture new friendships with people with a shared interest, just proving how important it is to explore even if it is from the comfort of your own home.
I’m a lot less sentimental than I used to be and whilst there’s certain possessions of mine that I will hang on to, I can be detached enough to get rid of it if it’s standing in my way. You’d be shocked to see the amount of “stuff” I have cleaned out in the past few years on my quest for clarity, I’ve been single handedly keeping our local charity shops open for months! But trust me, you won’t miss any of it once it’s gone. Keeping mountains of clothes I used to look good in in the hope that they might still work a few years down the line was just counterproductive. So I eBayed all of my vintage dresses, donated my collection of T-Bars and put the proceeds towards some wall art for the house instead. There’s something to be said for the “tidy home, tidy mind” way of life and we are firm believers. When you’ve got the head space to welcome in the new you’ll find the whole transition so much easier.
✚ Find What Makes You Happy
It took me a year to realise that my career was actually making me really unhappy and resentful. After six years of putting my all into running my business it hit me that I just wasn’t invested in weddings anymore. I could plan a wedding with my eyes closed but I’d lost the love for it and would often bring home my frustrations. If I didn’t care then I needed to get out of it before it started to affect my work. So I did and wow was it scary. Yet here I am, a few years down the line settled in a career that is absolutely right for me, because I changed as a person.
It’s ok to be selfish sometimes – I had to remind myself of that when we went away for 24 hours to celebrate our ten year anniversary (the first time we’d been away alone in years). The sky didn’t cave in while we were gone and the kids barely noticed we’d left. So take yourself out for that coffee on your own and read that magazine you’ve been meaning to, sign up for the online course you’ve had bookmarked for ages. Find what makes you happy and the rest will take care of itself.
So tell me – this is you right now? Or perhaps you’ve come out at the other side? Either way, I’d love to hear from you…