On Thursday I went into Brighton and wandered through the North Lanes. I bought a coffee and sat outside at a café. Later I bought a falafel wrap from “I Love Falafel, an old favourite of mine.
As I sat at the café watching people go past, I felt part of myself returning. In the past, I would cycle into Brighton along the seafront daily to work. My bike currently sits rusting in my garden….
I would go to the office, chat with my colleagues in between clients and wander the Lanes. I may sit in the Pavilion Gardens for lunch, observe the buskers and the street goings-on. I may take in a film at the Duke of York Cinema after work, or meet friends for a few drinks in a pub.
What I realised is how much of myself I have lost this past year. I have predominantly become an Online Therapist and a Mum. Many are talking of losing their ability to make conversation, how our memories are foggy and it seems we need to relearn how to do those everyday tasks we took for granted. Our brains over this past year have processed those regular occurrences as past experiences and stored them as memories. We need to learn our way of being again.
How do we bring back those parts of our identity we have lost?
Our Self-concept is our personal knowledge of who we are, encompassing all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves physically, personally, and socially. Self-concept also includes our knowledge of how we behave, our capabilities, and our individual characteristics.
Our self-concept develops most rapidly during early childhood and adolescence. As a baby we develop our sense of self by having it reflected back to us by our caregiver. If we receive love from our mother, we grow up believing we are loveable. The holder of the mirror then switches to our peers at school, hence that time of life for so many who have difficult experiences at school can be so crushing for developing a positive self-concept.
However, our self-concept continues to form and change over time as we have new experiences, and it changes as we develop new friendships and relationships with others. Our self-concept is dependent on the social situations in which we find ourselves and the feedback we receive from that environment.
Our isolation this past year has meant that many of our interactions with others has been very restricted. We have lost our sense of self.
This week I returned to CrossFit, an important community that I have been part of for the past 5 years. A place outside my four walls that I have a sense of belonging. There, I am not “Mum” or “Therapist” but someone who does some crazy exercise routines, laughs and connects with others on all sorts of levels. I have missed that person. She needs to emerge again.
There used to be this person who would jump on a train to London Victoria and take herself off spontaneously to explore the delights of London. She would take that free spirit further afield and find herself on a solo trip to Goa, looking for new environments and connections with people from different backgrounds and cultures. That part of myself has laid dormant for this past year, rarely making it past the end of my road at times. I want her back.
So, as we start to emerge out of lockdown, is it safe for us to start to give fuel to these lost parts of ourselves? Can we allow ourselves the space to grieve their absence? For many of us, they may not return. Certain relationships and parts of our Selves are lost, and we feel irrevocably changed by this past year.
But just maybe…..as Spring is here….a new Self can now emerge and our Lockdown Self can take a backseat.
I’m off to get my bike fixed….