Do you remember dreaming about what your first job would be after college? Maybe you pictured yourself putting on business clothes every day, sitting in creative brainstorming meetings and—arguably the best part when you’re a broke college student—finally getting an adult paycheck. I know I sure did.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t what happened—not even close. My first job after graduating was as an advertising coordinator at a local newspaper in Nashville, TN. I was so excited about this position. From the name alone, I thought it sounded perfect for me.
I envisioned myself working across every department and helping them come up with creative ways to market their messages. Well, it wasn’t long before my little fantasy was crushed. Turns out that “advertising coordinator” was really just a fancy title for data entry.
I spent my days inputting data into a decades-old software program that crashed every few hours. Every day, I walked into a gray cinder block building with gray walls, gray ceilings, gray cubicles and fluorescent lights. I died a little inside every day I worked there. It was a mind-numbing, miserable job for someone like me—creative, energetic and a people-person.
But the problem wasn’t only that the job made me miserable. I couldn’t be myself. I wasn’t doing something I was good at. I wasn’t in a position that made me come alive, gave me energy, or brought me joy. I wasn’t even using my strengths or talents. I wasn’t being me.
Related: Recognizing Your Gifts
Have you ever felt that way?
Have you ever been in situations, gone through seasons, or even spent years feeling like you lost yourself? Feeling like you didn’t even recognize who you were anymore? I meet so many women who feel like they’ve gotten lost in motherhood, their careers or in other people’s expectations of them.
That last one—other people’s expectations—reminds me of a fascinating book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. Bronnie spent years working in palliative care. During her time caring for the terminally ill, Bronnie wrote a blog that later became a book about the most common regrets of the people she cared for. The number one regret was having worked too much. But the second one really surprised me. It was not having lived a life that was true to themselves.
What Bronnie learned is so important. It’s an opportunity for us to adjust our perspective and start making choices today that will help us avoid that same regret.
Because a life well-lived is one where we live as our truest selves.
Women often tell me they’ve lived for other people for so long they don’t even know what they want anymore. Even worse, they don’t even know who they are anymore.
If this is you today, I want to encourage you: You don’t have to stay there and wonder who you are or where “the real you” went. I want to give you five questions you can ask yourself that will help you get back to you. Consider them road signs to point you in the right direction.
Related: Push Forward and Get Unstuck
Don’t ask yourself what your spouse wants, what your kids need, or what all your friends think you should do. Ask yourself what you want. That’s a tough question to answer because we so often consider our own desires to be selfish. But the truth is that the desires of your heart are not bad things. They are God things. In fact, Jesus asked this same question.
A blind man once approached Jesus asking for mercy. Jesus responded by asking him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:41 NIV). Don’t you think Jesus knew what this blind man wanted? Jesus didn’t need the blind man to tell him, but I believe Jesus wanted to draw out those desires in him. And He wants to do the same for you.
If you don’t know where you’re going, you’re never going to get there. That’s why I think it’s so important to ask yourself where you want to be in one, three, five and even 10 years. It’s too easy to get caught up in the day-to-day rut of life. We’re so overwhelmed with what’s happening right now, we forget to plan for the future.
But if you don’t stop and ask yourself where you want to be in the future, then you’re going to be in the same place one, three, five and even 10 years from now. Look ahead. Think about where you’re going. Give yourself a sense of direction—not just for the person you are today, but for the person you’re going to become.
What breathes life and energy into you? Your energy level is a great indicator of how much an activity or commitment is in line with your true self.
Have you ever noticed how completely drained you are when you do something you’re not good at or that you don’t enjoy or care about? Sure, what you love might still make you tired, but it’s the good kind of tired—the kind where you want to wake up and do it all over again. So what activities from your past or present do that for you?
Too many times in my life, I’ve done things for other people to make them happy, and I hated myself in the process. I’ve even made purchases that I didn’t want to make with money I didn’t have because I didn’t want to hurt the salesman’s feelings. Isn’t that ridiculous?
I bet you’ve done similar things. Because, as women, we just hate to say no. I’m willing to bet you’ve made commitments and said yes to things you didn’t want to do. But it shouldn’t be that way! Let’s start asking a different question: What makes you like yourself? When are you the proudest and most confident? Do more of that.
Before you got married, had children, and started your career or business, I bet you had a set of strengths and talents you offered the world around you. If we’re not careful, we’ll stop offering who we are and what we have, and instead become who we think the world needs us to be. Chores completed. A warm meal on the table. A ride to soccer.
But what if instead of going around asking yourself what everybody needs, you asked yourself what it is that makes you come alive? What your husband needs from you more than a warm meal on the table, and what your kids need from you more than a ride to soccer, and what your job and business need from you more than tasks completed, is a woman in their lives who has come alive.
I believe every single one of you was created on purpose and for a purpose. And nothing makes me come alive more than watching women set free to pursue their God-given gifts. When you do that, you can get back to you, live as your true self, and make God proud in the process.
Chrystal Evans Hurst comes from a powerhouse family. You probably know her parents, legendary pastors Tony and Lois Evans, and her siblings Priscilla Shirer, Anthony Evans and Jonathan Evans. Every single one of them has dedicated their lives to full-time ministry.
I feel like Chrystal and I are kindred spirits. We both get energized by encouraging women to live out the truest version of themselves. Chrystal is a speaker, author of the books She’s Still There, Show Up for Your Life and Kingdom Woman, host of the Chrystal’s Chronicles podcast and a great friend of mine. Chrystal also has five kids! So, y’all, if anyone has an excuse to not live as her true self because she’s busy and overwhelmed, it’s her! But nonetheless, she’s doing it, and you can too.
In this episode, Chrystal and I talk about:
The other day, I was talking with a college-aged woman who I mentor. She was telling me about a friend of hers who is toxic and full of drama and negativity. So, I asked her the most obvious question I could possibly think of: “Why are you friends with her?”
She responded, “Well, she goes to my church, and we’re in the same friend group.” Still confused, I responded, “But why are you friends with her? You’re not a child anymore. As an adult, you get to choose who you spend your time with. So, why are you friends with her? Why do you want to be friends with a toxic person who brings you down?”
That might sound harsh, but it actually led to a great dialogue between us.
We might not be 19 anymore, but sometimes we still struggle with letting go of toxic friends as well. A few years ago, I was still hanging out with a woman who always just made me feel terrible after we’d spend time together. We’d meet up for coffee, and then I’d come home and complain to my husband about all the ways she brought me down. One day, he asked me the same question I asked my mentee: “Why do you hang out with her? Why are you friends with her?”
I couldn’t come up with a logical reason. That’s when I knew I had to cut her out of my life.
Related: How to Be More Confident
Do you have anyone like that in your life? Let me shoot straight with you: Why do you spend time with people who bring you down, make you feel bad about yourself, or bring negativity into your life?
Friend, your life is just that—yours. You not only have the right to protect it, you have the responsibility. That’s why my challenge to you is this: Make some choices. Figure out who in your life might need a few degrees of separation or need to be removed all together. Don’t spend your life with people who bring you down.
You have the right to choose your friends.
1:20 Five Questions to Help You Discover Your True Self
16:38 Getting Back to You with Chrystal Evans Hurst
42:12 Challenge to Choose Your Friends
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