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Who are you? 

Not who has the world told you you are, or what job do you do. Who you are isn’t the roles you fulfil; wife, mother, daughter, teacher, sales assistant etc. The person you are deep inside, when noone else is watching. When you are at home, alone and you sit reflecting on what you enjoy doing, what makes you happy, what clothes you enjoy wearing, eating etc.

All too often we get swept along with who we have been told we are, over years and years, by parents, teachers, friends… we forget to keep checking and discovering if they are still right – if they were ever right in the first place!

Looking around I see people every day going through the motions, doing what they have always done, because they have always done it, even if it doesn’t make them happy.  

Who has influenced my sense of self?

Over the years there have been many times when I have stopped and taken stock of who I am. I have stepped away from my life in order to do that sometimes, literally, physically. 

A few weeks ago I did just that. I packed a bag and went to my inlaws caravan in Devon for a week. All by myself. I wrote the first few chapters of my book, I ate the food I love, I slept when I was tired and walked to see things that I was interested in. If you are a mum, you will understand what an incredible luxury this is. Everything I did for five whole days I did because I wanted to do it, without having to consider what anyone else wanted to do. It was liberating. It gave me time to create, to plan and to stop and think about what makes me happy and what I want to focus on going forward. 

I also took the time to watch some of my favourite films and read some of my favourite books. While doing this I realised just how much some fictional characters have helped me to work out who I am, who I want to be and even to be brave enough to make big decisions.

I love the March family

Throughout my life certain stories and characters have captured my imagination and my heart, for a variety of reasons. I remember the first time I read Little Women. Faced with these diverse representations of women I was only interested in Jo. She was feisty and passionate, caring and brave. She loved books, writing and education and she was, above all, true to her heart and herself. She wasn’t afraid to cut off her hair and face ridicule to help her family. When Amy is faced with injustice, it is Jo who jumps to her defence. I love Jo March. Over the years I have re-read the book many times and watched the films too, and every time it is Jo I resonate with. I like to think that had I been born into the March family I would have been like Jo. I aspire to be Jo March. 

Little Women
Beautiful book

In my twenties I loved a good romcom (ok, I admit it, I still do!). I remember the first time I saw “You’ve Got Mail”, it captured my heart. Not because of the romance between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. No! It was the romance between Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan’s character) and her bookshop that I was interested in. She loved her bookshop more than anything, with its beautiful wooden bookshelves, reading area and the essence of her mother’s passion for books. I have always loved books, I dream of owning a bookshop just like Kathleen Kelly’s. Not just the stories books contain, that I love, it is the actual physical item. I can buy books just to look at and never read (and I do!), because they look beautiful. Look at this gorgeous edition of “Pilgrim’s Progress” that I bought in Haworth last week! I will never read it, it’s too pretty, but I love just looking at it, and yes, smelling it!

Eat, Pray, Love

When my friend Lisa Williams gifted me “Eat, Pray, Love” while I was staying with her 14 years ago I wasn’t reading very often. My daughter was 3 years old and I had just had major surgery, but I started reading it on the plane coming home and I couldn’t put it down. Elizabeth Gilbert is a real person, but reading her adventure inspired me to make so many changes in my life. I have never met her, but I read her book and I felt her spirit. I learned lessons by reading her story. Reading how she changed her life by being brave enough to make some big decisions gave me the strength to do the same. I realised while reading this book, that it was ok for me to be selfish sometimes. That doing things because they made me happy was valid. 

Eat pray love

I finished the book in two days, I started a course, changed my career and started on a whole new path, because something in her personality resonated with me. I didn’t copy her. I didn’t divorce my husband and travel around the world. I didn’t decide that I wanted to be like her, to emulate her. Something in her spirit resonated with something in mine and she gave me the strength and permission I needed to make a change. Throughout my life fictional characters, and people I have never met, have helped me to form my view of self. 

The older I get the braver I get. It gets easier to hold my head high and tell people what I enjoy, to admit the things that I don’t want to do. I feel no compulsion to do things because everyone else is doing them, unless they appeal to me and will make me happy. Does that mean that I don’t ever do things that don’t make me happy? No of course not. Sometimes I do things I don’t really want to do because it will make someone I care about happy and that makes me happy. I don’t do things anymore that I know aren’t right for me. 

 

What changes could you make today?

My question for you is; Which characters have helped you to discover your true self? Have you taken the time to discover what makes you truly happy? Do you prioritise your own passions and pleasure when you live your life? If not, why not? What little changes could you make today that would increase your happiness and nurture your true self?

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