I've been through a lot of self-evaluation and introspection over the last few years. It seemed necessary to take some kind of inventory of the person I was and decide if I was the kind of person I would want my kids to grow up emulating. There were definitely characteristics within myself that I was proud of, but also some that I needed to change before they noticed and began to follow suit. I want the absolute best for them. In order to help them on their journeys, I need to feel comfortable in who I am, and personify a confident, loving, compassionate lifestyle that will teach them responsibility, love, generosity and kindness towards others.
The key to my own personal change has been understanding who I am and where I belong in the life I'm living. It seems so easy. I live in a small town close to family. I am married and have three children who amaze me every day. I stay at home and care for my kids. I think this idealistic scenario is actually where a lot of us get caught up. I know that not everyone is like me with the internally wired worry and anxiety plus a dose of mediocre self-confidence. But I do think that we all, most particularly stay-at-home moms, get lost inside of the identities of our children and their needs. I have learned that there has to be more. I need to be me first. Where will I be when my kids are grown if I still identify myself as Braeden, Evan and Maggie's Mom?
I knew there were several areas that needed my attention most. Making friends and maintaining friendships, taking risks, and accepting failure when it's necessary. These three things have always been complicated for me due to my many issues with fear. Attempting to make friends meant the possibility of being rejected and I've always taken rejection way too deeply to heart. Risks again mean putting yourself out there and trying something that, gasp, may end in failure. A two for one special. Because I've always been so shy and anxious, I couldn't deal with the end results of any of these possibilities. I think that's what growing up is about. In my thirties I have become far more at ease with who I am and started to embrace the many qualities that make me valuable to those around me. It probably sounds egotistical to speak about my impact on others without any one else's input, but if I don't value myself, how is anyone else supposed to value me?
Friendships have been the key to the success of my transformation thus far. Spending time with my friends has given me something else to do that is just for me. I can talk about anything, laugh over my mistakes, and enjoy the company of people I don't live with 24 hours a day. I have reached out more to others, no longer waiting at home for someone to seek me out. I pushed away the shell and started to involve myself more in the lives of those around me. What a beautiful, fulfilling experience it has been. Face-to-face interaction I'm learning, is food for my heart and soul. I love being able to write a quick note to a friend through Facebook or share with a friend who lives far away over email, but those interactions lack the human experience that is so necessary for all of us. I wish those email connections were close enough to spend the face-to-face time with, but they are a level of friendship that enhances my life in a different, also useful, way. Being able to hang out on my couch or someone else's for even an hour can make a whole day better. I am a happier, kinder, and far more confident person now thanks to the friendships I have tried much harder to maintain.
I'm still working on the risk-taking. It is one area that is truly a stretch for me. I don't like unpredictability or uncertainty. I need to be able to foresee an outcome and that outcome needs to lack danger. However, I have been more willing to try doing new things and even enjoy the new experiences I have had. It doesn't mean that I'm not nervous or worried about what may or may not happen, but I force myself to try. I would never have offered to coach t-ball a year ago, but I know I will enjoy it so I'm taking the chance. Not very risky right? Probably not, but it's a decision that doesn't come without second thoughts for me. Admittedly though, these choices are becoming easier as I learn to accept myself and the potential outcome. Instead of immediately answering no to things, I think about them first and actually often say yes. Failure could still happen, but I also could find great success and as I read somewhere yesterday, you're guaranteed to fail if you never try.
I love the newer me that I have become. Honestly, I am probably the happiest that I have ever been in my life. There are people around me to offer support, encouragement and some excitement. My family gets to benefit from more interactions outside of our house, and I don't go stir crazy trying to entertain them all by myself every minute of every day. I have discovered strengths that I knew I probably had, but didn't want to test, and have become willing to share them with others. I have found self-confidence. I have learned to love who I am, at least for the most part. The journey is far from over, but I'm actually excited to continue along the path. Woot woot for living life!