Have you ever taken the CliftonStrengths Strength Finder test?
If so, when you read through your results, did you – um – cry? Or, like, struggle to hold back tears??
Oh, ok. So it’s just me, then? Awesome.
For those who are unfamiliar, the test is supposed to identify your personal talents, the areas where you have the biggest potential for building strength. I took the test late yesterday afternoon because it’s a thing my work has new employees do, I didn’t have time to walk through my results afterward, so I took them home. After the boys went to bed, I pulled them out and sat down next to Seth on the couch. And while he intently watched a football game, I quietly read through the 10-page rundown of my top-five strengths. On about page four, I started to feel a lump in my throat.
It was a blurb on positivity, one of my identified strengths, that triggered me.
You are generous with praise, quick to smile, and always on the lookout for the positive in the situation. Some call you lighthearted. Others just wish that their glass were as full as yours seems to be. But either way, people want to be around you. Their world looks better around you because your enthusiasm is contagious. Lacking your energy and optimism, some find their world drab with repetition or, worse, heavy with pressure. You seem to find a way to lighten their spirit. You inject drama into every project. You celebrate every achievement. You find ways to make everything more exciting and more vital. Some cynics may reject your energy, but you are rarely dragged down. Your Positivity won’t allow it. Somehow you can’t quite escape your conviction that it is good to be alive, that work can be fun, and that no matter what the setbacks, one must never lose one’s sense of humor.
Completely surprised, I laughed and made a joke about how ridiculous I was to Seth.
“I think I’ve officially lost it.”
“Are you crying?”
“Well, I’m trying not to!”
“What? Babe, why?”
“I don’t really know…”
I read it aloud to Seth as I held back tears. My bottom lip quivered and the lump in my throat ached. And then it clicked, I was overwhelmed with relief. These words detailed a woman I thought was long gone, a part of me I thought parenthood and adulthood had stripped away.
By the end of the paragraph, I was full on crying (like the complete basketcase that I am).
Becoming a parent does a lot to a person, it’s had a lot of great effects on me and I’ve learned a lot of great lessons but there were compromises along the way, too. Those, though, aren’t the things I’m supposed to talk about. I’m not supposed to wish I could give as much of myself to others and to myself as I give my kids – my kids are supposed to be the undying source of my attention and devotion. I’m not supposed to ask, “but what about me?” I’m not supposed to wish life could go back to how it was before kids, even if it is just for a split second. I’m supposed to share how completely full my heart is now that I have my boys and my husband and our odd-defying beta fish named Puppy – AKA all that I’m supposed to need.
But I guess the truth is, despite what I’m supposed to divulge, I often wish I could be as happy and free as I used to be, that everything could feel as light as it used to and that the possibilities still actually felt endless. I wish I could have it both ways. And I worry more than I should probably admit that those closest to me might not love me as much because I’ve dulled a little, because I’m not at their disposal or because I have so much less time and patience to share with them.
I worried so much that I must have started to believed that I’d become someone so opposite of who I was, before this rush of parenthood and adulthood hit, that I was unrecognizable and undesirable. And I was so far removed from my worry and vision of myself that it took a fucking StrengthsFinder test to shake me up and make me realize I am still me. My circumstances have changed and I might be a slightly different version of myself (and mostly for the better) but it’s still just annoyingly-optimistic and unmistakingly-opinionated little old me.
So to all the tired and confused and zombie-resembling parents, please, don’t wait until you take a strength finder test and you’re crying like a weirdo in the corner of the couch to see yourself for who you are. Parenting is one thing you do. It’s the most important thing you do but even as the most important thing, it’s still just one thing. It’s not who you are. You are still you. And it’s completely okay to ask “but what about me?” every once in a while.