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  • Writer's pictureAmy Leggett

Travel Guide for the Journey to Self Discovery

Updated: Jul 16, 2022



Recently I was hanging out with a group of women celebrating National Margarita Day (who knew it was even a thing?). Once we were a few flavored margaritas deep, we began discussing the trials and tribulations of being modern day women at approximately the mid point in our life journey. Otherwise known as middle age. We all had very different life situations, but one thing was clear. We had all spent a majority of our life taking care of other people. We all agreed that we took on this responsibility willingly and with joy. The pride with which we caretake was evident in the passion and depth of emotion we showed when talking about the important people in our lives.


The problem with this primary focus on making sure others in our life are properly taken care of, is that we are often last on the list. We run out of steam and time before we have a chance to turn the spotlight on ourselves. Again, most of us don't begrudge this choice and it is just part of being a "mom" and a "wife". However, we all eventually reach a point where the chaos quiets and we are left standing alone with ourselves. This can happen at any time for any number of reasons. All the kids finally leave home. You get divorced or are widowed. You retire or are laid off. A serious medical diagnosis. Or, as in my case, many of these things happen within a short period of time.


When life throws you a curveball or the rug is unexpectedly ripped out from under you, it can be overwhelming. After taking time to absorb the shock and feel ALL of the emotions of the experience you are having, it is the perfect time to begin your journey to self discovery. This journey is necessary to rediscover who you really are after all this time, what things truly bring joy to your life, and what kind of life you want to live from this point forward. This journey to self discovery is not for the faint-hearted. It will take some real soul-searching and honest reflection. It may require some difficult decisions. It may necessitate some changes in the way you live your life or the people in it.


I began this journey in earnest about a year ago when my marriage of almost 25 years ended. When the future I had planned was no longer a possibility, I had to do some heavy lifting to figure out who I was and what I wanted. I was no longer someone's wife. I was no longer a hands-on, day-to-day mom. I was no longer part of a cohesive family unit. I was no longer a corporate lawyer. Without these labels and these roles, who really was I? I thought back about the person I was before I got married. That person was an individual in her own right with her own distinct dreams and plans. She had an energy about her and an enthusiasm about life that had somehow dimmed along the way. I decided I needed to get back to that person taking along with me the life lessons I had learned over the years. The combination of that energy and enthusiasm with the wisdom I had acquired would be a very powerful one indeed.


I am by no means done with my self discovery journey and I honestly believe that it should be one that continues for a lifetime. But I can provide you with some tips that have led me to the happier place I am now. You can use this travel guide whenever you decide to take that journey to your own self-discovery.


WHAT TO PACK:

  1. Courage-You are going to need courage to take an honest look at yourself and your life and make an assessment of what should stay and what should go. Some changes may be hard if you have really put yourself on the back burner and need to get your mental and physical health back on track. Maybe you haven't set proper boundaries with people in your life and establishing those new limits will be difficult to impose and difficult for others to accept. But it is time to dig deep for that courage and make the changes necessary to rediscover yourself and what is important to you.

  2. Vulnerability-This journey will also require you to be vulnerable. Take a close look at mistakes you have made along the way and take responsibility for the role you have played in straying away from your authentic self and the difficulties you have faced.

  3. Compassion-After you have done an honest self-assessment, make sure you have compassion for yourself. Forgive yourself for your mistakes and choices along the way. You did the best you could at the time. As Maya Angelou said "When you know better, you do better." Also, have compassion for the people that have hurt you. This doesn't mean you have to allow them to continue hurting you or that you have to accept their behavior, but understand that everyone is just doing the best they can. There may be reasons you aren't aware of that causes someone to make a choice you don't understand.

  4. Curiosity-You will need to bring a healthy dose of curiosity on this journey. Spend time really thinking about the things that bring you happiness. What were you doing and who were you with when you think back to times you really felt joyful. What are those things that you have always wanted to do, but were too busy or they seemed impractical. Learn to play an instrument, plan a trip, join a tennis league, volunteer for a cause that is important to you, write a book? Maybe start a blog? :) Also, what kind of lifestyle do you want to lead going forward? What activities and hobbies do you want to incorporate into your everyday life. What about your surroundings? Do they reflect your truest self? Are you happy in the suburbs or do you want a more city vibe? I decided to move from a traditional house in the suburbs to an apartment in Saratoga Springs where I can walk everywhere and there is always something going on. I didn't realize how much I wanted this lifestyle until I actually did it. It brings me great joy.

  5. Excitement-This is the most important thing to bring with you. This journey of self discovery is exciting. You will uncover new truths and reveal things about yourself that you may have forgotten. Perhaps your introspection will confirm that you are on the right track with where you are and feel grateful and peaceful with that knowledge. If you discover that the way you are currently living is not in alignment with your authentic self, this is great news! Knowledge is the first step in making changes. You can dig deeper to figure out exactly what changes you want to make and start taking action to create a more fulfilling life.

THINGS TO DO TO FIND THAT INNER VOICE

  1. Walking-Walking and listening to podcasts is literally one of my favorite things to do and brings me great peace. I go for walks with some of my best friends: Brene Brown (Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead), Glennon Doyle (We Can Do Hard Things) and Oprah Winfrey (Super Soul). These women provide great insight into things that block our happiness and teach us how to become unblocked. Even when I think a podcast isn't going to be particularly interesting or relevant to me, I am always surprised to gain some new knowledge or a different way of thinking about something going on in my life. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my walks and podcasts!

  2. Meditation/Journaling-I started a practice of meditating 15 minutes every morning when I wake up. I read the daily entry from Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie and then turn on meditation music and a timer. Focusing on my breath and thinking about the message from the book starts my day in a positive way. I have noticed that my general mood is calmer after starting this meditation practice. Some days I am able to completely relax and zone out, other days I have to constantly push thoughts away. But it is a "practice" that I will keep working on. I honestly don't journal as much as I should, but I can say that when I do it really helps to get all my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. It clarifies things and often helps me to make sense of some of my emotions. I should definitely do this more and it is always recommended as a helpful practice in self discovery so I included it in the travel guide.

  3. Yoga-When I do yoga on a consistent basis I am always amazed at the impact it has on my life. My muscles are less tense, my flexibility is good and I feel great! This exercise impacts both mind and body so you get a double whammy! If you notice, the first three things to do all involve some level of stillness or inward focus. It is necessary to quiet the mind of all the useless (and often negative) chatter to hear that soft inner voice that has all the answers for us. Once you start paying attention to it, you will notice that it nudges you when something feels off or not right. If we are not still or quiet enough to pay attention, it gets lost in the chaos.

  4. Self Care-For me this is something that definitely got neglected. I have discovered how amazing it feels to really take care of myself. For me this not only means getting exercise (my walking and yoga, as well as a little strength training), but also taking the time to nurture my physical self. If it fits into your budget, getting periodic massages and getting your nails done are small things that reap great rewards. Even if your finances don't allow for those things at the moment, doing self care things for yourself shows that you are worthy of that time and attention. You feel better about yourself when you have taken the time to give yourself the nurturing and care you provide others. I have what I call Self-Care Sunday when I do a face mask, hair mask, slather on some extra lotion and put on my coziest sweatpants and read a good book or watch a show I enjoy. It is rejuvenating and re-energizing after all that self-discovery work.

  5. Therapy-I cannot overstate the importance of being able to talk to a neutral third party that can provide fresh insight or lead you down your path of self discovery. Talking to my therapist I have discovered things that were impacting my choices and decisions that I wasn't even aware of. Having this insight or knowing where you may have some work to do to clear up some feelings is invaluable in getting to your authentic and wholehearted self.

THINGS YOU CAN SKIP ON THIS JOURNEY

  1. Self Pity-It is very easy to get stuck feeling sorry for yourself when things don't go as planned or someone disappoints you. However, in order to find your joy, you cannot stay in this place. The one constant in everyone's life is change so you have to realize that these things happen. If the pandemic has taught us anything it is that we truly don't have any control over things so we just need to go along for the ride. When something happens that disrupts our life, we need to Shake It Off (in the words of Taylor Swift) and look at it as a directional pointing us toward a better path.

  2. Negative Energy-When bad things happen, which is usually why we set off on this journey of self-discovery, it is easy to become pessimistic and focus on everything that went off track or how people did us wrong. There is some benefit to spending a little time in this space to learn the lesson it can provide and to make different choices the next time. Once you have made that assessment, it is time to move forward and pull out that curiosity and excitement you packed to bring on this journey. Positive attracts positive. A good mood and good energy will bring good things into your life. This also applies to the people you surround yourself with. Make sure those closest to you are supportive of this journey of self discovery and are encouraging of your efforts to find joy.

  3. Numbing-As hard as some of this self-reflection is, it may be tempting to numb any hard emotions you are having with busyness, excessive activities, alcohol/drugs, sex, shopping, or any other things that distract you from your feelings. Not feeling those uncomfortable feelings will inhibit the growth that comes from dealing with the truth of what you are discovering. Numbing is only temporary and can actually cause more heartache and disruption in the long run.

  4. Dating Apps-If your journey to self discovery finds you traveling solo, take the time to learn to be by yourself. You may think getting back out there and finding someone to fill your time with will make you feel better. It might temporarily, but it can be just another form of numbing. It is important to focus on yourself during this journey so you don't get confused by the voice of someone else when you are trying to figure out what YOU want. This journey takes a lot of time and energy and you will be a more attractive partner when you are finally in your own power and living your most authentic life. You will also attract someone who is aligned with your discovered (or re-discovered values) and that will lead to a stronger more authentic connection. Looking back at the past year, I realize that I was in no place to put myself out there and use my energy to get to know someone else until just recently. I am finally at a place where the thought of possibly meeting someone new is interesting, but I am also so enlightened by my journey that I don't NEED it. That feels like the best place to be for me.

By following this travel guide in my own journey to self-discovery, I have learned many things about myself. I am feeling empowered by my independence and am happy with the choices I have made after really thinking about what I want this second half of my life to look like. It has been painful, difficult, eye-opening, humbling, joyful, exciting, unexpected and adventurous. I still don't have a complete picture of where this journey will take me, but I know for certain I am heading in the right direction. As the quote above says, I have always had the power, but I just had to figure that out for myself!


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