When we think of loss, we usually associate it with the death of a loved one. And, yes, the loss of a loved one is a life-shattering experience.
However, we humans reckon with losses with some regularity, don’t you think? Loss is universal, unavoidable, permanent, necessary and it sucks.

The loss of a job, especially when we identify closely with our work, can leave us feeling upset, angry and off kilter. There is an upside: It may force us to take personal inventory and embark on a new and better road.

When the last child leaves home, many parents experience loss. In reality, parents should become progressively obsolete. Heed the words of Kahlil Gibran: “Your children are not your children. Though they are with you they do not belong to you.” Yup, it’s a bitter pill.

Loss of good health and robustness is up there with the myriad of losses. The depth of the loss depends on the severity of the illness and the limitations it impacts.

Among the innumerable losses we experience, the loss of one’s self is the most devastating loss.

Let’s discuss.

Did you ever look into the mirror of truth and search for your authentic self? Perhaps, your lost self may be paying too steep a price by giving credence to what everyone else has to say.

One of the culprits is living a life based on the approval of others. “People pleasers “are stuck in the prison of approval—and what a precarious way to live. People pleasers may go to great lengths to “suck up” to others while casting their own wants and needs aside.

Some folks do not trust themselves, consequently, they seek advice from others. At times, another pair of eyes looking at a situation may be a good thing—in the short term. However, if we constantly seek validation from others, we sell ourselves short. Why should another’s opinion be more valuable than our own?

Some folks find themselves trapped in an abusive relationship. The need to please the other is based on fear of abandonment or low self-esteem.

When I was a young woman, I was within striking distance of staying in such a relationship. He was the popular-good looking-captain of the football team—everybody’s darling. During the year we dated, I found out he was no darling.

Instead, he was controlling, jealous, and became verbally abusive. I was having second thoughts when Dad questioned me. I still remember our life-changing conversation.

Dad cautioned: “ Celia, you seem a shadow of your former self. You were fun-loving and spirited, nowadays it seems that your spirit has died. Mia fighia (my daughter) always be true to yourself.” That did it! I broke it off.

Some folks are stuck in another place and time. They base their lives on belief systems that were handed down to them by parents, teachers and family members. And because they are unwilling to look at these belief systems in the light of truth, they continue to be disappointed and full of angst when things shift.

Italian families are famous for this — and I am of first-generation Italian American on my Dad’s side. Sunday dinners with the grandparents were a must. Walking into my grandmother’s kitchen was a delight to the senses. “The Sunday dinner” has gone the way of the dinosaur. Funny, the lamenting is ever present, yet no one is willing to pick up the mantle.

Having a distorted sense of self hinders us from appreciating ourselves. The simple truth: “ We are enough” bypasses our consciousness. We feel less than, always looking for what I refer to as “begging balls.” Remember: Comparison to others is the killer of joy.

Sometimes we fall prey to ingrained fears and negative biases based on old distorted programing. (That old programing, again!) Wrapping our fears around us like a cozy blanket, we have a hard time stretching beyond our comfort zone. Believing that danger lurks in every corner, we huddle safely within our blanket in our little cardboard box. The realization that a little push on either side of the box could herald freedom is too scary to contemplate.

Because of these unfounded fears, relationships may be less than fulfilling. Afraid of what is out there (and there is reason to be cautious) they suffer sickening boredom. They may feel entrapped in their jobs because they chose safety over moving on. Their hands are calloused from the ruts they have dug for themselves.

Folks, we may experience losses that are unavoidable—and they hurt like hell. But to feel disconnected with the needs and desires of our hearts is to commit a grave sin against ones- self.

William Shakespeare writes: “ To thine own self be true. And it must follow, as the night the day.”

Shakespeare said it; Dad said it.

And I say: Don’t let anyone dull your sparkle. The brilliance is there, you know. If you polish regularly with self-love, one day you will look into the mirror of truth and see your dazzling authentic self.

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Celia Marszal-Iannelli
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.