From Disappearing Woman to Woman of Substance

Christel Van Gelder Stories Leave a Comment

In 2007 I wrote this in my diary: “I was a Disappearing Woman. But I hope I will be able to become a Woman of Substance again.”

The term Disappearing woman comes from the book Loving Him without Losing You: How to Stop Disappearing and Start Being Yourself by Beverly Engel.

It’s about women who love too much and then they stop being who they are, knowing what they want. They become extensions of their partners and lose all sense of self.

I was once such a woman. Even though I was a feisty one when I was in my twenties and thirties. Yet already then I gave up most of the things I loved and put my partner first. I believed that what he wanted was what I wanted.

I was wrong. I felt “wrong”.

This wrongness expressed itself in not being content. Not feeling good enough. Always feeling blue, tired, depressed. And then there was this hint of things feeling “off”. but I wasn’t able to express what that “off” was.

In 2007 I had an a-ha. A huge one. I realised that this was not who I was. This was not how I wanted to live my life. This was making me sick. I was slowly disappearing.

I started a journal. I had never journaled before, but I needed to clear my thoughts. Get a perspective on what was happening. After that first sentence, I continued: “I will become my own person. Not someone who I think I ought to be. Not someone who others think I ought to be.”

At that time I had never heard of Martha Beck. I never knew of the existence of life coaches. I didn’t know that I had what Martha calls an “essential self” —my soul, my essence— and a “social self”. The “conditioned” part of me.

Hell, I didn’t know anything really. Not even who I was and what I wanted in my life.

Of course, now it’s crystal clear I was living my life by the rules of others. I was pleasing everyone. And in the process, I left my essence to wither.

The biggest obstacle was me. My thoughts. My emotions. Those kept me prisoner in my old life.

My beliefs told me that you stuck it out because marriage was forever. And that kids needed both of their parents, together. Even though we were not exactly role models with all that went on between us.

So in 2007, I realised I was telling myself lies. Because I so badly wanted to believe what I believed.

But here’s what I suddenly understood:

  • No, marriage doesn’t have to be forever. When you’re not loved but controlled, there’s no need to stick it out. Hell, if that’s the case, it’s time to get out. Pronto.
  • No, you don’t have to stay together because of the kids. Because when you’re in a dysfunctional relationship, you’re not exactly the best example to your kids. You’re not teaching or showing them what true love and true values are.
  • No, I wasn’t too old to get out and start over. To find myself and what I wanted.
  • No, I didn’t have to give up who I was for love.
  • No, I didn’t have to be an extension of my partner.
  • No, I wasn’t selfish when I craved the right to be me. To do what I wanted.
  • And no, no one had the right to control me in the name of love. Because that’s not love. At all!

Wanna know something? I followed my gut. I followed my heart. My values. Not someone else’s. I gained substance. Step by little step.

And I came to know this:

  • You can and should be who you are
.
  • You can go after what you crave.
  • You can have your own beliefs, values.
  • It’s not selfish to want something for yourself. On the contrary, I call it self-care.
  • It’s possible to start over, no matter how old you are, no matter how much money you have or don’t have. No matter what other people tell you.
  • Trust your gut, follow your heart. Even though you’re scared like you’ve never been scared before.
  • After each end comes a new beginning no matter how long the tunnel may feel.

If you feel like something is off;
if you feel you no longer know who you are and what you want;
if you feel like you are only an extension of your partner; 
if you feel like you have no substance;
then maybe it’s time for us to have a chat. 

You can reach me here. We can have a short chat, no strings attached!

Or you can have me by your side and work with me through my Little Whispers Sessions. Find out more about those right here

Share this Post

More on the Blog:

Find more here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.