Feb 1, 2024
Cover Stories

Rediscovering the real you

If day-to-day life has buried your beliefs, dreams, talents, skills and even your personality, well, guess what? You are not alone.

Women worldwide are reaching critical points of feeling lost and asking, “What happened to me? Where did I go? Who am I?”

Apparently, it’s common for women of all ages to give priority to what parents, family, friends, teachers, business colleagues and many others think of them — demand from them — according to myriad psychology experts.

And without a strong notion of what matters to you and what kind of woman you want to be, you will continue living for others instead of yourself, agree the experts. And that means never resuscitating your true self.

“It gets blurry when trying to trace how you lost yourself,” said Shari Biery, founder of Alive with Purpose Health & Life Coaching, and a national board-certified health and wellness coach, representing a national standard developed by the American Medical Association and National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches.

“As a veteran military spouse, I have had what I like to call a ‘curvy’ employment history that included being a registered respiratory therapist, ‘professional’ volunteer, administrative assistant, financial analyst and project coordinator,” said Biery, who now splits her time between Gulf Breeze and Memphis. 

“Along the way, there were 10 moves with overseas assignments and deployments, multiple job changes, raising two awesome kids, Kyle and Kaitlyn, and a supportive husband, John, to help battle the stressful lifestyle. But in doing all this, I let myself fall off the priority list and was left feeling burnt out, and it started to show up in my health.”

Biery said for many years she kept her eye on the next move, the next job search, the next house, the next school for her children, keeping all the balls in the air while holding her breath.

“My excuses for not taking care of myself blurred with the demands of everyday life,” she said. “I felt trapped because I had become defined by what I was doing rather than being true to who I wanted to be. I no longer knew who the woman was looking back at me in the mirror.”

Biery said a life-changing epiphany occurred when her husband handed her the American flag at his retirement ceremony and said, “I love you, and it’s your turn.”

She realized she didn’t need his permission, and, more poignantly, she was the one not giving herself permission to be Shari.

“I was letting my circumstances dictate my beliefs and life,” Biery said. “Taking my turn became my call to action.”

The results were powerful.

“As soon as I realized that ‘I get to choose who I want to be,’ I started to see the door of possibilities open. I began focusing on my new career as a health and wellness coach and building the mission to help other women believe they can create the life they want. I took this new knowledge and invaluable experiences of the past 25 years and started Alive with Purpose Health & Life Coaching.”

Biery also busied herself putting the final touches on her book, which will be released with Muse Publishing sometime in 2024. And add guest appearances on podcasts and speaking engagements to spread the message: Women can create permission slips to take their turn.

Elise Lovelace stresses that self-discovery does not happen overnight, and it is not easy. It involves identifying what you value about yourself, much introspection, digging deep and asking yourself: What kind of impact do my choices have on the life I want?

“After years of following in the shadows of my husband John’s career in the Navy as a physician, we are walking on two paths beside one another,” Biery said. “We have mutual respect and our dreams and wishes to make the world a better place.”

Biery illustrates what has been befalling women for centuries, said Elise Lovelace, a Psychology Today-verified mental health expert.

Lovelace has been tackling the topic of  “a loss of sense of self” for years. She is a Florida-licensed mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist with a private practice (Gulf Coast Counseling LLC) in Pensacola. Since 2007, she has worked in community mental health and private practice settings.

“Returning to self for self-discovery is not a novel concept,” Lovelace said. “The ancient Greek aphorism ‘know thyself’ was written on the temple walls of the Oracle of Delphi because it was believed that understanding oneself was the key to wisdom and living a fulfilling life.

“Many who have embarked on the journey to self-discovery would agree, but they would also state it is not an easy journey. To get to the top of any mountain, you have to climb it. And, most assuredly, the journey will have its highs and lows.”

We cannot see the mountain peak because self-discovery is a continuous process across our lifespan, Lovelace said.

“It is an ever-expanding, upward spiraling to the greatest heights of personal and psyche(soul)-logical evolution wrought with setbacks and successes, hope and despair, pain and joy,” she said.

Also, for this ultimate personal trek, Lovelace said you will essentially do the work alone.

“Yes, there will be support along the way, but ultimately self-discovery is a solo journey,” she said. “Part of the itinerary includes faithful inner reflection and examining core beliefs and personal values, healing your wounded parts, accepting and forgiving yourself and others.”

Stops along the way will allow time for integration, rediscovering your passions, and reconnecting to and anchoring into your authentic self, she said.

To succeed, Lovelace stressed you must fully understand this:

“A ‘return to self’ refers to a process of reconnecting with one’s authentic essence, resurrecting our true self, honoring our values, and living from our inner truth. The ultimate goal of deep self-discovery is integration and growth synthesizing the different aspects of yourself — the conscious and unconscious, the strengths and vulnerabilities.”

The process may just be the point.

“Along the way, keep in mind that it is progress, not perfection,” Lovelace said. “Step on the path and embrace the ride.”

Steps toward your true self

Shari Biery says at the core of self-discovery is worthiness. If you don’t feel like you are valued by others in your life, it’s hard to value yourself. We are less likely to act on anything that supports us living our true selves. She also stresses the importance of being in a community that celebrates you for your gifts and who you really are. The phrase “You become the five people you hang out with the most” is more and more evident today. 

Shari Biery of Gulf Breeze is the creator of Alive with Purpose Health & Life Coaching and a national board-certified health and wellness coach. She has tips for women who want to rediscover and prioritize their true selves.

“The first step is for women to start taking better care of themselves,” Biery said. “Women are carrying a tremendous invisible load of tasks and expectations, and it’s essential to see that our health directly correlates to how we live.”

She offers encouragement to anyone wanting to begin the process.

“It’s possible to change. Once we care for ourselves first, we become better versions of ourselves. Then, the goodness flows out to our family, friends and world. It’s a ripple effect.”

Biery’s advice for self-discovery:

1. Clarity comes in the pause. Take a few minutes, step back from the noise around you, and ask yourself, “Who do I want to be today?” This is a practice that I adopted early on in my rediscovery of my purpose. It’s now a practice that is a daily question for me and the women I support. 

2. Then, ask yourself, “What will it take for me to be that person today?” Does it mean having 15 minutes in the morning to sit and drink your coffee, having 10 minutes to meditate or pray in bed before your feet hit the floor, or walking in nature before you jump on your phone for the day? Whatever it is for you, find the one thing that fuels you first thing and do that! 

3. We have lots of things that we let slow us down. What do you get to let go of to be the person you want to be? Or what do you need to give yourself permission for? We create a list of reasons or excuses based on our past experiences or beliefs. This keeps us from being our true selves and sharing our gifts. We all have self-limiting beliefs. The secret to being who you want to be is breaking down what stops you from being your true self. That’s where the real work is.

4. Your answers are inside you. I see it every day when I ask these powerful questions. Women are experiencing life on our terms using our gifts and talents when we create from our hearts. But when we let fear or lack of belief in ourselves or our abilities keep us from taking action, we don’t get to be that unique person. 

5. Community and support are critical. This was a game changer for me. I had to surround myself with women who wanted to stretch themselves, too. So many women tell me they feel like they are alone or the only one struggling. You are not alone. Find a community or support where you can be your authentic self, sharing what you need and working through the things that stop you from being you. You have unbelievable gifts that the world needs right now. Be a lighthouse!