If you’re feeling lost and adrift (as I talked about in my article Lost, and Found), you have been sidetracked, derailed, and thrown off the scent of your authentic life.
There are countless ways this can happen, and that’s because you are unique.
What lights you up is unique to you.
The circumstances of your birth, your childhood, and the details of your adult woman life are all particular to you. No one has your exact set of strengths, gifts, and challenges (both internal and external).
And even though the possibilities of how you’ve been thrown off the scent of your path are endless, there are three categories of experience that are dominant for most women.
The first is your childhood.
The template for every component of building a life begins in childhood.
Between birth and about 18 years old, you received a template and body of knowledge that was seamlessly and sometimes invisibly created for you about:
- What it means to be a girl or woman
- How to take care of ones’ self
- Emotional and physical nurturing
- The role of fun, desire, and pleasure
- Finances and money
- Home life, or how one creates home or place
- Human rights
- Health and the body
- Eating, nutrition, and relationships with food
The second influence that can derail you from your truth path is culture.
The dominant culture you experienced growing up taught you many things including what is “important,” beautiful, valuable, acceptable, unacceptable, and how to gain approval or acceptance through conforming to cultural norms.
The wicked nature of culture is that the rules change over time.
What was beautiful in the past is no longer beautiful. What was valuable in the past may not be valuable today.
The third major influence that can throw you off track from your authentic nature is religion.
You may have been taught by your religion that certain activities or behaviors are sins.
You may have been taught in church that men are fundamentally more valuable than women.
As an adult you may be plagued with guilt for engaging in activities that you actually find fun, enjoyable or even pleasurable because you were taught that they were wrong or are sins. Your guilt doesn’t come from acting outside your value system, but from a hard-wired teaching that can create suffering for you if unexamined or acknowledged.
These lessons from your family of origin, culture, or religion are learned through the spoken word, words left unspoken, looks, gestures, and modeling (behavior).
What you learned by its absence, or by what was unspoken, is often the most difficult to identify.
For example, many women have shared with me over the years that at some point during their life they witnessed—either with their eyes or through hearing—another woman being physically abused.
These are excruciating and gut-wrenching situations to find yourself in.
When you are a witness to another’s trauma, you are also traumatized and shocked.
Most women (and men) instinctively want to do something—to help or to call for help. Yet, they often don’t. Or when they do they later feel terrible discomfort or even guilt about standing up or calling the police.
This is such a courageous thing to do in a terrifying situation!
Why would a person feel guilty for taking action to protect another woman, and possibly save her life?
The confusion and thought distortion arises from being desensitized— repeatedly witnessing women being abused and unprotected as if there is nothing unnatural or outrageous about it.
When something becomes commonplace, responding or acting differently becomes difficult and uncomfortable.
And this is one of the ways that, once thrown off the scent of your path, you may have difficulty finding your way back.
Have you been derailed, sidetracked, thrown off the scent? Most of us have.
The good news is that you can return to your truth path and reclaim what is authentic for you.
One of the things you can do right away is to simply be aware of what you were taught by your family, your culture, or your religion.
What you were taught, who you truly are, and what you believe not be in alignment for you at all.
Here’s a simple exercise for you to explore:
- Draw a straight vertical line down the middle of a page to make two columns.
- At the top of the left-hand column write, “What I Was Taught.”
- At the top of the right-hand column write, “What I Believe or What I Want to Believe.”
Then, make a list of all of the major learnings you received in the left-hand column from your family, culture, and religion. Include an example of how this particular “teaching” came to you. What did you observe that resulted in this particular learning?
Then, write in the second column what you actually believe, or what you want to believe.
The reason you need space for both is that you may have some very sticky beliefs from your family, culture, or religion that are actually not authentic for you. In that case it is important to know what it is you want to believe instead.
As you write your list of what you were taught, be sure to reflect on what you learned through modeling (other people’s behavior) or what was taught through the absence of action or words, which can be as powerful—or even more powerful—as what you learned through direct teaching or words.
Here’s an example of how this might look:
What I was taught: I was taught that it is more important to invest in the education of boys than the education of girls. The way I learned this is that my parents paid for my brothers to go to college but they said I didn’t need to go to college because I was a girl.
What I Believe (or What I Want to Believe): I believe that the education of girls is just as important as the education of boys. I believe my education is just as important as anyone else’s education.
Notice what happens, especially in your body, as you consider and write what you believe or what you want to believe. This is your truth, and the way back to your authentic path.
I would love to hear what you discover about you.💙
© Victoria Tidwell Palmer (2022)
I thought it was interesting that you left out a fourth thing that can derail you from your true path – poor boundaries. A relationship or significant other can easily influence you and make it difficult for you to figure out what is in your heart. My husband and I are now retired and sorting through what we want the next chapter to look like. For the most part, we’ve been doing this independently. But I can still find it difficult at times to separate his wishes/ideals from mine.
Sharon, poor boundaries and countless other inner and outer challenges will certainly derail us from our authentic path. My wish was to convey those that are often the most challenging to see.