Debbie Whitely

In April 2014 I walked 800kms across Northern Spain with a friend and it took us 40 days. It was arduous and harsh. The walk is called The Way of St James; a Pilgrims walk. I didn’t do it for religious reasons, I did it because I was running away.

Conundrum… running from what, you may well ask?

Running from responsibility. I was tired of feeling burdened because I felt sandwiched between an ever increasingly dependent parent and an ever increasingly dependent adult child. I was running to save my sanity, to reconnect with me and to find a better way of being. I was just running… I had been responsible for as long as I could remember; always trying to do the right thing and trying to please. I was so TIRED and weary.

As a young child, I understood the need to be forever vigilant. It was smart to keep out of the way of an overbearing, alcoholic, bully of a father. I learnt to worry about the people I loved; especially my mother, who was kind and gentle and my sister, who worried about everything. They both suffered from anxiety.

I made a plan to fly the coop; I married young. For the first time in my life I felt safe, secure and with time, strong. The marriage lasted 8 good years and when I left, it was with a heavy heart and two little boys in tow. I gave myself permission to find purpose and passion in my life. I just knew there had to be more. Eventually, I met and married a man who was a natural at life. Over 30 years later, we are still together. He is my love, my friend, my confidante, my soulmate. Another son was born; oh joy, another little person to love.

But, as we all know, little people grow up. As a parent it is heartbreaking to see our children struggle, be bullied or have self-doubt. This is usually accompanied by frustration and anger towards the people who love them most. School children can be so cruel and if you don’t fit in, it can be hell. For a loving parent it is very hard to see our children suffer.

Social media, puts so much pressure on our young today, and it’s NOT going away. Our children are so image conscious. Yes, we were self- conscious, but it was more subtle, private and therefore not as intense. We all crave to belong but teenagers today, know more than ever, when they’re not fitting in because their desire to fit in is paramount to their happiness.

As parents, we are challenged beyond our experience… drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, anxiety, depression, sexual identity, self- image, body- image and self-loathing.  Not to mention SEX! The early sexualization of girls is one for serious concern. What our children do because they want to, and what they do because, they want to fit in, is often at the detriment of their emotional and mental well-being.

Social Media makes everything seem okay, but okay for who? Maybe not you. Who says it’s okay? We need to help them build resilience, self-respect and self-worth, so they have enough confidence and self-belief to be able to stay true to their values and principles. And so they can be independent and self-assured enough, not to worry about the opinions of others. For them to also know their true worth and be able to put their mental well-being and health first and ALWAYS.

As parents and step parents we need to draw boundaries and be consistent because having two sets of rules causes confusion and encourages game playing. We need to know when enough is enough. Our emotional well-being is important too, if we want equality and respect in relationships and life. We are not our children’s friend, we are their parent and our primary responsibility is to PARENT first.

I have known the loss of unborn children, friends, a marriage, grandparents, parents… We learn to deal with it, but it stays with us, because we loved. In the process, our relationships with friends and partners are put under huge strain when we allow others’ to drain our emotional energy. Yes, when we allow them. It’s not them, but us allowing them. The strain is palpable and destructive; I was diagnosed with breast cancer… trauma, stress, fear, anxiety, comes with an insidious risk to our health.

It took me a very long time to realise that I couldn’t fix the problems of the people I loved. That only they could bring about the change they needed. I would always be there to support, love and encourage. My EP7 personal development has allowed me to reclaim my true identity. I have stopped blaming others; I no longer believe I was burdened. I have come to know that I chose to stay stuck in a version of me that felt obligated to do the right thing regardless of how harmful it was to my wellbeing. I came to realise that it was not right and it is so empowering that I know the difference.

I am now an EP7 Life Coach and I’m committed to guiding you to rediscover your true identity so from your authentic foundation you can live a life on Purpose… HEART FIRST.

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