How I Stopped Pretending and Started Honoring My Authentic Self

It was an early weekend morning that I found myself on the floor of my shower, crying the ugly cry, asking myself why I was in this place again.

My kids were with their dad for the weekend, and I had planned on a couple days of rest and relaxation with my boyfriend of two years. Instead, we were fighting again. At that moment he had stormed out, wordlessly, with no indication that he was coming back - a classic move he employed to make the point that I wasn't worth even the most rudimentary update.

As the water rained over me washing my heartbreak down the drain, I thought about everything that had gotten me to this exact point in my relationship. The truth of the matter was that I had actively participated in every moment of our relationship and the resulting misery I was feeling. My boyfriend was not, by any means, the only culprit; I had plenty of my own baggage to tend to. The question I had for myself was, why? Why in the world did I continue to participate in a relationship that was so enormously heavy, so entirely draining, that I found myself on the floor of my shower, crying, at 7:13 on a Saturday morning?

I truly had no idea who I was anymore. I had spent so much time trying to be who and what I thought he needed that I'd consciously chosen to place my own authenticity in the backseat and, in doing so, ceased being the woman he'd fallen in love with in the first place. My intentions were pure; I genuinely was trying to help. I felt like if I could only twist myself to fit into the void he had in his life, that we could get through whatever it was we needed to get through to find the other side of our struggle together. The problem was that I couldn't fill that void, no matter how hard I tried. And in the process of trying, I completely lost who I was.

Our relationship came to a sudden and terrible end and it took me some time to adjust back into life on my own. The biggest problem was in not indulging the blame-game, but figuring out the role I played in the decimation of our relationship, and how to avoid that in the future. The biggest component to that was finding myself again, and refusing to let that individuality go. In my quest to rekindle my authenticity, I tried a number of things - these five worked the best.

1. I asked my friends and loved ones.
It made me feel like the world's biggest narcissist, but I asked a handful of close friends and loved ones what they loved about me. They were surprisingly willing to oblige my stupid request and as they answered, I felt the pieces fall back into place. "Yeah," I thought. "I can make an adventure out of anything. Yes, I do see the best in everyone. You're right, I love my small-town roots, and I love passing those values on to my children." I gained valuable insight from my most trusted circle, and was even surprised by some of the things they'd noticed about me.

2. I tried things I'd never tried before.
Turns out, stand up paddleboarding is not for me. Or it is, as long as I'm down for a swim. But damn it was peaceful (sitting) on that board in the middle of the lake at sunset. I'd do it again just for that sense of calm. I'd never have known how much I love being on the water at dusk, had I not been willing to try something new.

3. I wrote in my journal.
It started out as an exercise in gratitude and turned into writing out goals and dreams, what was bothering me, and some of the things that made me feel alive. Through writing, I reconnected with the little voice in my head that I'd kept gagged and shoved in a closet somewhere so as to better tend to the needs of others. That voice was quiet at first, tentative, but the more I respected it the more certain it got.

4. I started saying 'no'.
I've never been good at this: guilt always got the better of me, and I'd acquiesce into doing whatever it was that someone else felt I should be doing. The moment I started listening to my gut and saying 'no' to things that didn't serve me, I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I felt free to live in the way that I chose, doing the things that I wanted to do, and following the passions that were uniquely my own. I felt free to live my own life, instead of the life someone else had conjured for me.

5. I meditated.
The simple process of calming my mind and focusing on my breathing helped enormously. I found a sense of calm and inner peace where before there had been chaos. I was surer of the choices I made, and my heart spoke louder than ever before. Meditation helped me find patience, comfort and forgiveness during a tumultuous time of uncertainty.

These things helped me remember what makes I rekindled my passions, renewed my zest for life and found magic in places I'd long since forgotten (like a terrific sunset). I dusted off the old boxes where I'd kept pieces of myself stored for so long that I'd forgotten them. I learned that not honoring my authenticity not only does a disservice to myself but to my partner, as well. And I learned that sometimes I'm not going to like what my heart has to say, but in the end it's more important to be true to myself than try to be someone I'm not.

In all of this, I'm thankful for the heartbreak and for the man who taught me the things I needed to learn, even if it didn't work out the way we'd planned. There are no failures in life, there are only lessons.