….I’ve never written into something before it feels vulnerable (yikes!) but I recently went through a world-shifting breakup. We had been best friends for eight years and dated for three of them. We supported each other through the biggest transitions of our lives thus far. It’s a choice I’m fully at peace with, I know it’s best for us both but now that we’re apart I’ve realized nearly my entire identity was defined by our relationship. I’m curious what guidance you’d give a friend on how to even begin a process of finding yourself?
Break ups are the worst. They feel like we’ll never wake up from a nightmare. They feel like the world has stopped. They can be SO DARK.
And yet they are the best experiences to show us that nothing lasts forever, not even a broken heart. Anybody who has experienced it has also experienced that day when we finally wake up and are able to live again. It might be for a second the first day. Just a glimpse that maybe, we could do it. Life slowly grows back on us. And then one day we’re ready, and we’re free.
It’s important to take the time to grieve and cry. It’s important to feel the pain. So we can let it go, when it’s time.
In your letter, you said you realized that your entire identity was defined by this relationship and so I say : most of your work is done.
Recognizing such a thing is the first step towards the real work : knowing yourself.
What you are going to become is a seeker.
And the only way I can guide you is by telling you how it works for me, because I think it it’s absolutely different for each and every one of us. And that’s why I call it seeking. Because the process is absolutely part of the work. There will be trials, there will be errors. Never be hard on yourself, just keep the ride as joyful as you can.
Here are ways that I believe, really helped me to know myself:
Choosing my own type of therapy
For years I saw therapists, the sit-on-a-chair-and-talk-about-your-mom-type. It helped, but cost a lot of money, and I never felt quite free. I felt like I always had to go back. It took me a long time to recognize my thirst for alternative type of therapies. For years, because of how I was raised, classic therapy was considered the only valid, serious thing. All the rest? BS.
See how the path becomes the work?
I had to throw my family culture and preconceptions away. With much caution for charlatans, I saw hypnotherapists, shamans, body workers, even psychics. I still do! Some really help, some don’t do much. But on the way, I experience some truly wonderful moments – nuggets that guide me closer and closer to the heart of who I am.
Listening to my body
This is one of the easiest, simplest, most wonderful ways to find and know yourself. Connect to your gut. Our body’s wisdom is endless. I often think that my body is more intelligent than me. See, I think too much. But my body just knows.
How does my body feel in that situation? Do I wake up in a good mood? How does my body feel after eating that meal? I explore, get to know my own reactions, so I can have a real, constant, peaceful dialog with my body. Life changer.
Reading self-help books, whatever comes my way
My iPad saved my life, ahaha. I have bought so many self-help books in my life, so many that I would be too embarrassed to have on my shelves. In my Ipad, my books are safe. I can look like I’m reading Nietzsche. Self help books are weird. If you read enough of them, you realize that you had all the answers – because your true teacher is you.
But it sometimes takes a lot of average teachers and books (and a few brilliant ones!) to get to that self confidence. I know I needed that. Some people can’t go through a self-help book without laughing out loud and I understand it totally, but for me – they were (and still are) true help.
Anything that helps me escape my monkey mind works magic to get insights about what’s truly right for me. A bike ride when I need to make an important decision. A sweaty yoga class. For Chris, it’s surfing. Some like knitting. I also love weird patience stuff like making very complicated puzzles. That’s also why i’m an illustrator.
Focusing on something very precise keeps my mind busy and helps my soul speak to me.
Going to nature also puts everything back in place – if we’re open enough to receive its wisdom.
Writing is my thing. It’s my way. There is the writing that’s destined to be read, and then, there is the writing I do just for me, the writing I do to talk to the universe. It’s my one sacred practice. I do it in the morning, when I am still half asleep, with my dog on my lap and a cup of warm coffee. I do it entirely freely. I write my stories, I ask questions, I write poems… Whatever comes to my mind, absolutely no filter. Every, every, every day.
If I don’t do it, I don’t feel connected to myself. And if I am not connected to myself, then I feel like an empty shelf with nothing to give and nothing to live for.
These are just my ways. Part of the adventure is finding yours.
But what I know is that the day you have created that connection is the day where you can officially say “I have found myself” – only, it’s just the beginning of actually getting to know yourself.
It’s a life long adventure. I could write a book about the benefits of it. In the meantime, feel better, and rejoice : you’re about to meet the most wonderful person you’ll ever meet : yourself.
I know, ugh, sounds so cheesy.
Oh well, one thing I learned about myself : I am a true romantic ;)
If you want more of Garance’s advice in your inbox, sign up for our newsletter here and be the first to read all her musings on life!
If you have a question you’d like Garance to answer, please submit it to [email protected] We encourage questions of all types; love, relationships, family, personal dilemmas, the meaning of life, and of course, career.