There was something about turning 40 years-old that made me stop in my tracks and ask myself some pretty important questions—perhaps what one might even consider life-altering questions. I have heard people use the phrase “mid-life crisis” when they reach 40 years of life and suddenly decide to make significant changes in their life. Turning 40 had me asking myself the all-important questions: “Where is my life going?” “Am I happy in the life I am living?” “Can I imagine myself living the same life for another 40 years?” “Is there more to life than just this?” And most notably, there was the question, “Am I living my life’s true purpose and full potential here on Earth?” This last question had me reflecting about whether I was being myself and using all the gifts God had given me to make a difference in the world. Internally I felt that something was missing and that I was destined for more, but what?
I'll never forget the day I was having coffee with a dear friend of mine and as hot tears began to stream down my face, I murmured, “My life is not my own.” This was one of the hardest statements I had ever said to myself, let alone aloud to another. I had admitted audibly something I had been feeling internally for a long time but that felt selfish to express aloud. I had indeed lost myself in my everyday responsibilities that filled my time.
My friend's response was, “That makes sense Teresa. You have two small kids at home. You're busy trying to manage your house, your job, the courses you're taking. It's hard to have time for you at this point in your life”.
The issue was not so much about having time for myself as it was about how I was living my day to day. Was I living my life according to Teresa, or was I living my day to day according to what everyone else expected me to do? Was I being my true self or was I trying to live up to external expectations set out for me by my family, friends, religion, culture, and society? It was then that I realized it was the latter. There was a clarity in that moment of vocalization that wasn’t there a minute before. I knew in that moment I had somehow lost myself in the living of my life.
As the eldest daughter in a nuclear family, I was brought up to believe certain things about being a “good woman.” Ingrained within me by my family, culture, society, and religion were some traditional beliefs and expectations. For example, the “good mom” brought her kids to play groups, read to them every day, only allowed them to watch educational videos, and fed them homemade food. The “good mom” also stayed home with her kids and didn’t put them in daycare. The “good wife” would have dinner ready every day when her husband came home, have clean clothes ready for him to wear, and sent him to work with a lunch in a paper bag. The “good daughter” was one who called her mom every day, who wore enough makeup but not too much makeup, who dressed up nicely but not too nicely because “Who are you trying to impress? You already have a husband,” she would say to me. And as you probably know, many mothers aren’t subtle about letting you know what they think. In trying to please everyone else, I wasn't pleasing myself or respecting my own personal beliefs. This would often leave me feeling resentful, voiceless, offended, and upset.
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Turning 40 was my reason to start making changes in my life because I couldn’t continue living according to everyone else’s expectations. I couldn’t continue trying to be the perfect daughter, wife, mother, or whoever I needed to be for everyone else while not respecting my own desires and opinions. Turning 40 was my wake-up call to reclaim my life, start living my life on my own terms, and begin living my life authentically by honoring and respecting myself.
So what did I do about it? Well the first thing I did, being a spiritual person, was ask God to help me to figure out if I am living my true purpose and my full potential here on Earth. And God responded by telling me to meditate. Meditate, I queried! What did I know about meditation? I didn't know where to begin. But luckily for me there was a meditation center close by my home and my spiritual mentors (as I like to call them) helped me to get started.
My first couple meditations at the centre were intense. Following the directions of my mentor, I soon found my body melting away as my mind became focused and immersed in the light in my mind’s eye. The physical space I was in dissipated and the weightless and absence of my physical body felt unnerving, like nothing I have ever experienced before. My energy, my spirit, was then joined by an energy more powerful and loving than my own. It was in that moment that I knew I was not alone. I had never felt the potency of a love so unconditional and without judgment. I had this innate feeling as though I had come home to where I came from and had finally connected with God, my creator.
Through meditation I was and still am reminded of who I really am, love and light. The greatness, wholeness, and awesomeness of who I really am is invariably felt in that dimension. When I meditate, I connect with this infinite and immortal part of myself, which is the energy that lives forever and returns to God when my shell (my physical body) dies. This energy is pure, unconditional love. Becoming attuned to this Universal Energy Source through meditation has only strengthened my relationship with myself and with God and I experience the Universe’s presence in my life every day. I experience small miracles each day as the Universe’s way of saying, “I love you and we are always with you.” Knowing I am never alone and loved unconditionally, just as I am, has helped me to embrace who I am and remember to love and honour myself every day.
Another practice I started was mirror work. At a conference I was introduced to Louise Hay and what she coined “Mirror Work.” This had me practicing positive daily affirmations in the mirror. Neuroscience has proven that by repeating positive statements about ourselves, our brain begins to believe the new statements and even elicits positive physical changes in the body such as reducing stress, reducing blood pressure, and improving one’s sleep. It was difficult at first to look into the mirror, to look at myself straight in the eyes and say “I love you. I love everything about you. You are perfect and whole just as you are.” It was hard for me to do this because of how poorly I felt about myself on the inside, but the more I practiced it, the easier it got. And the more I practiced, the more I began to believe in what I was saying. I affirm myself often using statements such as: “I AM beautiful. I AM a good person. I AM generous. I AM an amazing mother. I AM healthy. I AM abundant. I AM loved and cared for. I AM love. I AM peace.” It is also through the use of these positive affirmations that I have learned to love, honour, and respect myself.
There were a myriad of other changes I made; some of which are shared in my coauthored book titled “The Decision To Heal” (available on Amazon), and all the principles and practices I implemented are discussed in my own book entitled “Steps to True Happiness” (available at the end of this year).
With all the changes that I made I have come to realize that you can’t search outwardly for what is missing in your life because all you really need or are searching for already exists within you—you just have to discover and uncover it. I discovered that the lack of happiness and fulfillment with my life was stemming from the lack of love for myself. Loving yourself is hard to do in a world that wants to judge you, wants you to conform to societal, cultural and familial expectations, wants to tell you what to do, what is best for you, wants to fit you into the perfection mold (the perfect wife, mother, daughter, daughter-in-law, sister, sister-in-law, friend, employee, woman). Recognizing that I was living a life of the status quo and that it was still not making me happy was hard to grasp. I now know that trying to live my life according to the status quo will never make me truly happy because we are all unique and different. How could living a common, ordinary and unexceptional life dictated by others’ expectations and desires be perfect for everyone? It can’t. And nor would I want it to be.