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Life Lessons I Missed

Have you ever had one of those a-ha moments when you realized that something very well known to others was a complete mystery to you? A totally foreign concept?

I find myself lately, uncharacteristically—at least I thought—lacking the self-confidence necessary to make some changes in my life. While I know the changes are necessary, I am afraid to let go of life as I know it. To address this fear, masquerading as apprehension, I decided to undertake a refresher course in self-confidence. A bit of research led me to articles and listicles that clearly defined my issue as not a lack of confidence, but rather of self-love. Who knew?

Now in theory, I totally get the concept of self-love. It’s relatively simple. But not wanting to leave anything to chance, I found a working definition I could leverage:

Self-love means valuing and caring for your own needs, wants, and desires. It isn’t about being selfish. It’s about making sure you have time to recharge to have the energy and resources to be there for others. It’s about putting on your oxygen mask first. Because if you run out of air, it becomes a lot harder to help anyone, including yourself.

More reading on self-love, a couple of on-line surveys later, with several listicles thrown in for good measure, it sure seemed my self-love issue was specifically related to a lack of boundaries. I need to set and maintain boundaries.

Boundaries, I learned,

. . . are an essential form of self-care because they let others know that you deserve and expect respect. Boundaries are limits that we set to protect our time, energy, and physical and emotional wellbeing. Boundaries are a way to tell others what we expect and how we want to be treated. When we don’t have boundaries, we lose our sense of self; we focus on meeting other people’s expectations rather than being ourselves.

Ouch. I didn’t see that one coming. And I really didn’t think it applied to me until I got to the fateful line “ ... we focus on meeting other people’s expectations.” Expectations. There it is. And it is so true.

In my current life, I know exactly what is expected of me and how to balance it all. From mountain dweller, daughter, sister, friend, neighbor, aunt, consultant, small business owner, pet parent, book group participant, volunteer, etc. it is a total balancing act. And I have gotten really proficient at keeping all of these balls in the air.

If things changed, the balance would change, and then what? Would something hit the floor? How would I manage? I found myself trying to create a strategy to adapt to a new balance, when I thought I better read the definition again. And once I did, I realized that I had missed the whole point. Sometimes you just can’t see the mountain near.

By focusing on meeting other people’s expectations, rather than being ourselves, we lose our sense of self.

I tried to convince myself that maybe it wasn’t as bad as it seemed. Perhaps it wasn’t that I had lost my sense of self as much as I was trying to fit me into the leftover margins. Maybe because I am of a certain age and a certain generation. Maybe because I was raised with a very strong sense of accountability, reasonability, respect, and service.

It was all fascinating, though it felt a bit like being in remedial life summer school.

Clearly there are some life lessons that I totally missed. And this one, boundaries, is a big one. How could I have missed it? When did I miss it? Worse yet, what else could I have missed?


PS. Dear readers, I would be grateful if you could share any life lessons you missed. As the African proverb points out, we go farther when we go together. And I have some remedial life-work to catchup on. Thanks!

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