Take a Vacation from Yourself!
Dr. Michelle Kmiec, Founder OHH
Out of all the emotional work I did to recover my health, this one (by far) was the most powerful. I couldn’t believe how much emotional weight I had been carrying for years and I am not talking about emotional traumas here, but rather self-induced personas that I created to be more liked by people, taken seriously, “fit in”, and most of all – to be loved. The problem was, however, none of these “personas” were aligned with who I really am. In fact, there were so many, that I had no idea who the real Michelle was… and it left me feeling paralyzed and numb. Over time it created negative patterns of thinking such as:
- Feeling overwhelmed and hopeless
- Fatigued and depressed
- Self-critical and withdrawn
I knew that I had to do something to change things around and FAST! Otherwise, all the work I had been doing nutritionally and physically to regain my health would only be a tempory fix and not the cure. I needed to change these negative patterns of thinking into ones that are positive and more productive toward my goal – optimal health on all levels.
So, I needed to find my authentic self and start living from that perspective and not the one I created by what I thought society deems who I am or who I should be.
I’ve written quite a bit about living authentically and why it is vital for optimal health and a better sense of well-being in articles such as ‘Rediscover Your Authentic Self To Feel Alive!’ and ‘How To Reach Your Health Goals’ – Authentically! And in those articles and plenty others, I’ve found that a major obstacle in not living authentically is all the personas that we believe we need to create in order to be accepted in life.
The problem is, when we do this we become so out of line with who we really are that we do not accept ourselves.
Personally, I had no idea how many personas I actually created, and how different each one was from the next. It is important to note that this is not the same thing as multiple personalities, in fact, what I am talking about is extremely common.
We all have different personas specific to the different areas of our lives and the people within them. I think you’d agree that we act very differently in different situations (At work, with friends, family, meeting strangers at a party, with your children, etc.) Now don’t get me wrong, most of this is completely innocent and normal. Naturally, you would act differently with a child
However, if we allow ourselves to lose our authenticity for the sake of what we believe others will think about us, then this is where problems begin to occur. Whether your boss or your child, despite the change in your manner of communication, the key is to remain true to you.
When you meet somebody for the first time, of course, you want to present your best “face”, the best version of yourself, even if you feel that your life situation is not optimal or even close to satisfying. But as relationships develop and people get to know you a little better, it becomes difficult to hide deep emotions that may be brewing inside. You will likely find that how you feel about your life and how you present yourself are at different ends of the spectrum.
Living in a scenario such as this day after day, week after week, not only compromises your psyche but also your physical health. If you compound this with maintaining different personas for the various people you deal with on a daily basis then you are in a constant divergence from your core—from the authentic you!
And in many cases, over time we are left feeling as though we do not know who we are anymore, forgetting our real passions and more importantly…what feeds our soul. And over time, this is when adverse health conditions can or will likely develop.
Perhaps when you did the “Persona Hat Activity” found in the article ‘Have You Ever Asked Yourself, “How Did I Get To Where I am In Life?”‘ you likely found that one or many of your personas did not coincide with the authentic you. And perhaps you were surprised!
By realizing that you have not been true to yourself, it is easy to see how you may not have been the best possible friend, family member, partner, parent, or any other label given to a particular persona.
It is additionally important to realize that when you are authentic, you will attract others who are also authentic.
It is extremely liberating to know that you can have authentic conversation with others about what expectations they may or may not have with regard to a potential relationship with you. And honestly, isn’t it a relief to realize that all you need to be is authentic with yourself? Isn’t it a load off your shoulders to realize that you do not need to try to figure out what someone else expects of you?
Of course, I am not in any way suggesting that by being authentic you can be rude, demanding, or anything else that would be intrusive to the well-being of somebody else. Instead, being authentic makes us capable of expanding to a higher frequency of living, tolerance, and love.
The following activity, with help you define your authentic self by using something you may have forgotten how to use – your imagination!
Sometimes we all just need a little break from reality. So, what this activity can do is help reduce your stress levels and, more importantly, it is a wonderful tool that can help you organize your priorities.
I remember a time when I was asked, “What in life brings you pleasure? What are you passionate about?”
Wow, you know, I was surprised that I really couldn’t answer those questions. And even more interesting was that the first answers I gave were really not my responses, but what I believed to be my responses. I had compromised so much of myself that I had even adopted someone else’s passions! I couldn’t
It’s true that in every relationship we compromise, but too often we go beyond compromise and give up the essence of our true selves. The part of ourselves that makes us unique.
We try hard to be many different things to many different people, and in the process, we lose sight of what fills our heart…our soul.
So this is why I think, before starting anything, you need to “plug-in”!
Plugging – In is Vital!
It is vital to understand that taking time to remember what your passions, desires, and dreams were, and are, is not a selfish act, as many sadly believe. Happily, there is something that you can do that can significantly help you reconnect with your authentic self and even your lost passions – “Plug-in”.
To help demonstrate what could happen if you don’t “Plug-in”, I invite you to check out this short video clip.
You must be able to “plug-in” to something that can re-energize you. It’s really no different than how we must plug in our computer when the battery gets low because if the battery dies we no longer have the ability to use our computer.
Life can be demanding and it can drain you until you have nothing left to give unless of course, you find a way to “plug-in”.
Plugging in is similar to taking a vacation, but is different in that plugging in is something you can do daily for only minutes. It is also similar to meditating but is different because you are not trying to remove thoughts from your mind, in fact, you are trying to put thoughts that spark happy feelings. I found one of the easiest ways to do this by “taking a vacation from yourself“. But, hold on, we will talk about this in more detail later in the article.
The bottom line is, if you can’t “plug-in” on a regular basis, then the chronic stress will build up until eventually one day an illness manifests signaling a warning from your body that it’s time to re-evaluate your life and makes changes! Of course, you don’t want to allow your life to reach that point.
But I understand that there are times and situations in which it becomes impossible to do what you need in order to re-energize, or like me, you may have reached a point in which you have no idea as to what would energize you!
Major contributors to this phenomenon are your parents or those who have raised you since childhood. Many parents with good intentions simply want the best for their children, and as the children are growing physically and emotionally they are subjected to their parent’s desires and beliefs. When in many cases the offspring have their own ideas, opinions, and preferences. Children of all ages want to please their parents and make them proud, so you can see how this conflict can be the beginning of a life stressor.
As children grow up, this need to please and conform continues in other relationships, such as with teachers, friends, co-workers, religious leaders, and so on.
In this next activity, we are going to stop looking at our personas and spend some time alone. We will be taking a vacation from ourselves in an attempt to reconnect with our passions so that we can “plug in” and reenergize.
This is not an activity of fantasy, but rather an act of exploration to help you to figure out what will fill your soul, and what will bring more life and energy to your physical and mental well-being.
This is an activity that should lead you to a place of better health.
And lastly, It should help you find your authentic self so that you can embrace it and share it with those around you.
Are you ready to take a vacation from yourself?
The first few times that you engage in this activity it’s important to give yourself plenty of time to understand and get a feel for what it is you are doing, and to allow your imagination to come back to life. Over time you will be able to reduce the amount of time spent on this activity while continuing to reap all of the rewards.
Though this will take some time and practice, what I love the most is that once you get the hang of it, you can “plug-in” whenever, and wherever, you need to. After all, I think we can agree that frequent vacations are a wonderful thing!
To begin, consider making an effort to find a place where you can walk in nature rather than simply sitting in a quiet place. If you truly aren’t able to physically walk for this activity, try to take a walk in a beautiful place within your mind.
Sitting quietly is certainly an option, but for best results try to put some movement into your feet.
Movement of the body adds a different dimension, and the flow of energy that comes with walking can help you tune in to what gives you vitality, and what depletes it.
As you mindfully walk, pay attention to your breath. Slow deep inhales, and slowly exhale. The added blood flow and oxygen to your brain and body can stimulate more awareness and bring forth creativity and imagination. It can also bring life to the deep-rooted passions and desires that may have gotten lost when somewhere along the line you may have forgotten who you really are.
As you are walking, or sitting quietly, imagine that all of the personas which were created out of all of your needs, wants and expectations of those in your life, are taking the shape of your body, much like a shadow, and then allow this shadowy figure to float away from your body connected only by an imaginary cord.
Give this shadowy image of yourself a dark grayish color. Gray because this is not the “real” you, but only the projections of yourself that you
Now, the cord connecting you to your persona shadow is like a rubber band that can stretch. And much like all of the emotional baggage you continue to carry year after year, you will be dragging this shadow persona along with you on your walk.
However, because you have now created a separation between your true self and your shadow persona, it is possible for you to temporarily be with only yourself, within your own mind – thus “Taking a Vacation from Yourself.”
In essence, you are “Taking a Vacation” from your shadow persona.
As you are walking and starting to feel as though a weight has been lifted, it’s time to start your vacation. The following questions are designed to help you get started. Consider your answers as you walk.
And remember, it is important that you be totally honest with yourself as you answer:
- What gives you energy? How do you think you could “plug-in”?
- What does your perfect life look like?
- What would you like to do on a daily basis?
- What does the environment you’re living in look like? What is the temperature?
- What does your perfect body look like?
- What is your energy level in your world within your mind?
And this next question is a powerful one:
How does the energy level within the confines of your mind compare to your reality?
When I first started this particular Emotional Thought Exploration, I found it difficult not to take into account those people in my life who depend on me and/or who I love. Even though this was just an activity within my own mind, I still felt somewhat guilty, even selfish, allowing myself to spend a few minutes within my own thoughts. I actually felt as though I was betraying the people I love. Especially if in my vacation, I didn’t want to include them. Perhaps you encountered this as well.
We are told that we need to always take into consideration other people’s thoughts, needs, and desires. Considering our own needs and desires before those of others would be selfish. There is a flaw, however, in this pattern of thinking.
If you are not physically and/or emotionally healthy, how can you possibly entertain the idea of being fully present for others? Especially those you love.-
Do you really have the energy required to meet the needs of these other people?
And are you really in the best possible frame of mind to help others?
I would never want to be responsible for someone else feeling as though they needed to give up the “food” vital for them to live and enrich their soul. And we shouldn’t allow our own souls to starve either.
Slowly and with practice, I began to feel as though I could live my life in such a way that it would enrich my soul. Each time I allowed myself to “plug-in”, the division between my “shadow self” and my “authentic self” became clearer. The cord connecting my shadow being was getting thinner and thinner. And as I continued working through this exploration I found that my thinking became more focused and I began to feel lighter.
I was transitioning to a happier person because I was finally tapping into what feeds my soul. And I know the same can happen for you!