Discovering Your True Self

Inspiration for this month’s illustration came from a recent dream.

Turtle Falls From Eagle's Nest - True SelfIn the dream a voice explains:

Occasionally, sea turtle eggs find their way into eagles nests. When they hatch . . .

The voice trails off as a baby sea turtle falls from the nest.

The dream illustrates the ludicrousness of trying to live like an eagle when you are a sea turtle. The sea turtle doesn’t even try.

The dream got me thinking about human passion and purpose. It can be such a challenge to discover why we are here and what we are meant to be doing. How many of us spend our lives trying to live up to our parents’ dreams and expectations when they are not a fit? It is all too easy to work ourselves in exhaustion and frustration trying to be something we are not. We get a lot of social encouragement for it.

Even if one manages to fly with the eagles, if this is not one’s true passion, the soul will ache and happiness will prove elusive.

The problem is in early childhood programming — all the lessons we’ve absorbed about how we must behave in order to be loved, nurtured and cared for. It is essential to our survival. However, this programming leaves us focused on satisfying (or thwarting) the expectations of others and leads us away from our true self. No blame here. It’s what our parents were taught too.

Unfortunately, when childhood dependency ceases the programming often continues, below the radar.

Significant loss can wake us up. It can provide both the opportunity and necessity to change. This is one of the areas I work on with my clients. When life is in shambles, the slate is cleared to make way for something completely different to emerge.

Like the sea turtle plunging into the sea, the focus of survival shifts from parent to present.

Grief teaches us to be selfish and self-aware — an essential key to discovering who we are. Once we get that down, purpose will follow.

You need not wait for someone to die, however, in order to pursue your dreams.

Here are some tips to challenge the early programming and decipher what to change and what to keep.

  1. Try Something Different. The only way to find out what you love and what you don’t is by exploration, experimentation and action. You can’t analyze your way to an answer. You have to test it out.
  2. Notice How It Feels. Learn the signals of your body. The body never lies. If you feel great, have plenty of energy, wake up each morning with enthusiasm and can look at yourself in the mirror with love and acceptance, you are definitely on the right track. However. . .
  3. Give It Time. You may feel really scared and awful at first, maybe even for a while before you get a clear indication that you are on the right track. Plunging into the sea of unknowing takes courage.
  4. Get Guidance and Support. It’s hard to change behavior patterns that others expect from us and we expect from ourselves. There could be resistance and rejection. Having a guide, someone to support and encourage you through the difficult times will keep you on track. Don’t depend on your own mind or it will take you back to your old programming.
  5. Have Compassion. This process of self discovery is a matter of trial and error. Remember, FAIL means “First Attempt In Learning.
  6. Look for Signs of Land. When early sailors crossed the vast ocean, they became adept at spotting signs of land sometimes days before they actually reached it. When you are headed in the right direction, the universe will send you signs of land. Pay attention.
  7. Celebrate. Acknowledge yourself when things go well, when you see those signs of land. Do something special to mark it. Also express gratitude. This will help reprogram the brain and signal the universe for more of the same.

Please share your stories of self discovery and some of the challenges of early programming.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Grief, Loss and Death Expert Michelle Peticolas, Ph.D. helps professional women struggling with grief and loss to have peace-of-mind, closure and a life worth living. If you’re ready to shift into a whole new way of being with death and loss, a new way of living your life, get Michelle’s complimentary guide, Essentials for Grieving Well at


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