On Your Own: Rediscover Your True Self

By Gwenn Voelckers

Living alone after a divorce or the death of a spouse can be a challenging yet transformative experience.

I know it was for me.

My own path to contentment took some time, some growing pains — setbacks as well as successes — and some aching losses before I could find my way back to my true self.   

For many, the transition from married life to being single marks a period of rediscovery and a time to redefine their identity.

After focusing on the needs of a spouse and family, it’s common to feel as if you’ve lost touch with who you are as an individual. However, I’ve come to realize that the key to living alone successfully lies in embracing this opportunity to explore who you really are and who you aspire to be.

My journey began with a set of soul-searching questions to identify and clarify my beliefs, values, likes and dislikes. I was careful to focus on what mattered to me and to steer clear of “shoulds” and other people’s agendas.

This exercise in introspection enabled me to create a life that is authentic, fulfilling and uniquely mine. Contentment followed.

To begin your own journey of self-discovery, you might start by asking yourself some fundamental questions:

1. When have you felt the most fulfilled and alive in your life? What were the circumstances surrounding those moments?

2. What dreams and aspirations did you have when you were younger? Are there any steps you can take now to work toward those dreams?

3. Who are the people in your life that bring out the best in you? What is it about those relationships that are so meaningful to you?

4. What are you curious about? What subjects or topics do you find yourself constantly wanting to learn more about?

5. When do you feel most like your ol’ self again? What are you doing in those moments? (I took up gardening again.)

6. What values are most important to you? Helping the less fortunate? Working toward equal rights? How can you incorporate those values into your daily life?

7. What kind of books, movies or music do you enjoy? Could those subjects hint at a hidden passion or interest?

8. How do you spend your time when no one is watching, when you are just being you? (I like to sing to my cat!)

9. What activities or hobbies did you pursue as a young adult that gave you joy? Are there any ways you can incorporate those activities back into your life now?

10 What are some small, simple pleasures in life that bring you joy? How can you incorporate more of those into your daily routine?

These questions can help you gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your desires. They can also serve as a guide as you navigate this new chapter in your life.

Teresa, a good friend of mine, had spent most of her adult life caring for her family. She wouldn’t have traded that for the world, but after her divorce, she realized that somewhere along the way she had disappeared around the edges. She had lost her own sense of self.

Determined to reconnect with herself, she started exploring her family history through Ancestry.com. As she delved into her roots, she uncovered fascinating stories about her ancestors and their lives. Teresa began to see herself as part of a larger whole, which brought her a deep sense of fulfillment and belonging.

Similarly, Steve, my middle-aged neighbor, found himself at a crossroads after the death of his wife. He had been so aligned with her that he struggled to find his own identity after her passing.

Through therapy and self-reflection, Steve recalled his love of travel. On his first solo trip, he discovered a sense of freedom and adventure that he had been missing. It led to many more trips and a newfound appreciation for life’s possibilities.

Teresa and Steve’s stories highlight the transformative power of reconnecting with your true self. By taking the time to understand who you are and what you want out of life, you can create a new and fulfilling existence for yourself.

Remember, this journey is yours and your alone. Embrace it with an open heart and a curious mind, and you will be amazed at what you discover along the way.              

Gwenn Voelckers is the author of “Alone and Content: Inspiring, empowering essays to help divorced and widowed women feel whole and complete on their own.” She welcomes your thoughts on this column as well as topic suggestion for future essays at gvoelckers@rochester.rr.com.