You know the feeling. Those pangs that sear through your soul.
You’re hungry ... again.
It’s not the physical kind, though. It’s emotional. So, how do you satisfy those cravings?
You may not even be aware of what is gnawing at you. Everything on the outside seems to be in order — your career, your family, your friends. Yet if you feel restless, you could be emotionally and spiritually starving — with a hungry soul begging for change.
What are you hungry for?
Telling the truth — at least to yourself — about what you deeply long for is at the very core of satisfying this soul hunger. Instead, you’re more likely to go through the motions and ignore this call.
Until a crisis hits. Some outside force (illness, accident, death of someone close to you, job layoff, etc.) hits and forces you to examine your priorities.
The appetizer — granting yourself permission
I’ve always found it interesting that we need this external “permission” to really make those life changes we know we need to make on a gut level. You may have heard the expression, “the C card.”
When someone gets a cancer diagnosis, those around them immediately accommodate whatever changes need to be made. I’ve even heard folks explain that they’re “going to play the C card.” And there’s certainly nothing wrong with this.
I’m reminded of the ruby slippers in “The Wizard of Oz,” though. You’ve had the power all along.
It shouldn’t take a life-threatening wakeup call. Yet, it often does.
The main course
It’s just so hard to step back and make wide sweeping changes when everything seems to be going along OK. The operative word here is “seems.” You may have played the game so long — and kept all those plates spinning in the air — that it’s foreign to approach life any other way. And, yet, there’s that hunger ...
If you’ve tried numbing out with overeating, overworking, drinking, television binge watching, doing drugs, gambling or shopping, you’ve probably found these are only temporary fixes. And the cravings return.
Dr. Robin Smith, noted psychologist, talk show host, ordained minister and author, talks about a time she felt at the end of her rope in her book, “Hungry.”
“Even though I looked alive and vital, the hourglass measuring the aliveness of my soul was swiftly draining to the bottom,” Smith says. “I was losing my battle to be myself.”
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar:
- You feel empty inside, despite outward appearances that you have it all
- You find it hard to take off your public mask
- You value others’ opinions more than you value your own
- You have an obsessive need for the approval of others
- You’re not even sure what defines you anymore.
It’s as though a type of identity theft has taken place, explains Smith. That of your own identity. We all adapt in different ways, based on our personalities and the ways we’re wired.
If you’ve been a people-pleaser all your life, it’s not surprising if you end up being resentful of everything you do for others, including giving up your own identity.
If you’re a more aggressive personality, you may have pushed others away in an attempt to “get them before they get you.”
The good news is that, no matter where you fall along this behavioral continuum, you have the ability to change. It takes a lot of hard work, though.
You need to give yourself permission, rather than waiting for some catastrophe to hit. And expecting FEMA to show up.
While reclaiming your identity can seem like a scary process, I prefer to look at it in a positive way. Think of it as a process — like a new cable network.
The Self-Discovery Channel
Just like any other network, programming is available 24 hours a day. If you plan to launch this network, take a look at some of the shows you’ll need to create:
- Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone
- Stop Faking It
- Speaking Up and Reclaiming My Identity
- Setting Healthy Boundaries
- Putting My Own Oxygen Mask On First
- I Gotta Be Me
- Getting My Strokes Internally, Not Externally
- Dining On My Own Loaf, Not Others’ Crumbs
- Staying Tuned In and Getting Full
You’ve taught those around you to expect certain behaviors. So, there will likely be some rough sledding. Keep tuning into your inner barometer, though. And give yourself kudos for every little victory — no matter how small.
You’ll need to armor up. Feel free to try a neutral phrase to deflect the demands of others — and to buy some time while you’re figuring things out: “That just won’t work for me right now.”
Not only are you retraining yourself; you’re retraining those around you. And this takes time and discipline.
Maybe you feel that gnawing, that hunger. But you’re just not ready to take action. Or you’ve decided to accept certain conditions because of the trade-offs involved. That’s OK. It’s your life.
Nobody has the right to tell you what to think or dream. You — and only you — can know what you feel at your core. And if or when you’ll want to do anything differently.
One of my favorite terms is YOUGOTTAWANNA. And one of my favorite quotes from author Anais Nin seems to sum it up nicely:
“And the day came when the risk to stay tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”