I called a close friend soon after my daughters left for college. Parts of me felt hallow as I was alone in the house for the first time in 20-plus years.

Tearfully, I told her, “I miss my babies.”

“Then,” she said, “it\’s time for you to grow.”

I was taken aback by her response. Time for me to grow? I was an adult; wasn\’t my growing completed?

In the mid-80s, there weren\’t many resources to help me on my journey. Talk shows like “Oprah” and self-help books weren\’t as prevalent as they are today. I was able to find “Pulling Your Own Strings” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer and “Psycho-Cybernetics” by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, which helped me to realize that I needed to rediscover my authentic self in order to grow.

Discovering how to start this journey created an overwhelming of fear of the unknown. Yet, I was desperate to fill an empty void inside me, yearning to feel whole and complete, so I drew on the love and encouragement from a selected few for strength, and thus created a support team that I called my Personal Board of Directors (PBOD).

My PBOD was comprised of people who played a significant role in helping me rediscover my dormant talents and gifts. PBOD members offered advice, knowledge and support on my journey, and were close friends, family members and professionals who genuinely wanted the best for me. My PBOD members were people I trusted and who weren\’t judgmental when I made my requests for their support.

The first step on my journey was to find a wonderful therapist, compassionate but firm. One of my first tasks in therapy was to buy flowers for myself. In the roles of a mother and wife, I was distracted from taking the time to love me, and buying the flowers was a conscious and deliberate act to take my turn to love me. I walked around the flower shop nervously, reflecting on words spoken by Dolly Parton. “The way I see it,” she said, “if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain. Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”

There were so many types and colors that selecting flowers felt like a chore instead of pleasure. The sales person kept asking me if I needed any assistance, but I insisted I was fine. I almost gave up, until I realized what was really overwhelming me; I was trying to make a “perfect” decision.

I cleared my head and found the most beautiful bouquet of roses. They were bright yellow with strong green stems. I inhaled their wonderful fragrance, and said to myself, “I deserve to have these flowers in my life.”

Through this task and many others, my therapist helped me move through the fear of self-love. She helped me realize that it was worth digging deeper to find the true me, and she therefore became the first professional member of my PBOD.

During my self-rediscovery, I was completing the final stages of my doctorate degree and writing my dissertation. Writing every day for months seemed like a lonely process as I am an extrovert and I get my energy from people. I needed some external stimulation to get the job done.

I talked to one of my closest friends and biggest supporters, Eugena, and asked her to help me be held accountable for writing eight pages a day for 30 days to ensure I completed my writing goal. It was my responsibility to do the work, but I knew at the end of a long day that Eugena\’s motivation would help me stay focused.

On a challenging day, when I completed only 6 pages, Eugena would assure me, “You will do better tomorrow.” But, then she would add, “No break for you tomorrow; no more ‘All My Children.\’” As a close friend, she knew watching soap operas was a lunchtime treat, and her commands kept me on track. With my second PBOD member\’s assistance, I completed the first three chapters of my dissertation.

During this time, I also reawakened the need to move my body and recapture a healthy lifestyle, something I neglected for years. I drew on the support of another friend, a physical fitness guru. Darlene convinced me that fulfilling a three-month commitment would create the benefits of feeling good, and agreed to help me get back on track.
I would meet her at the gym in the city at 6:30 a.m. Before this, I was accustomed to leaving my house at 8 a.m., so getting up at 5:45 a.m. was a major challenge. After three weeks I began to get into a rhythm, getting out of the house before I could change my mind and get back into bed.

After committing to my three-month goal, I realized that Darlene was right. I liked how my body felt. I had more energy during the day and, most importantly, I loved me for rediscovering the joy of a healthy body.

My third PBOD member played a critical role in getting me started. Taking care of my body was an opportunity to begin feeling good about who I am. Darlene was there as a supporter and a friend to help me stay focused. Today, I continue to exercise on my own, but Darlene is still around to give me a boost to get going.

Surround yourself with people who provide what you need to get through your rediscovery. Many women believe the superwoman syndrome means you need to do it alone. Or they question, “Why should someone want to help me?” That\’s rubbish, ladies. Ask someone who cares about you and listen to her response.

Today, my PBOD has increased to include attorneys, a business coach, an accountant and special doctors. My PBOD helps me realize that I do not have to create my authentic life alone. I do the work, but people with expertise provide me with what I need to fill in the gaps to my growth.

I keep in mind that I don\’t have all the answers. Rediscovering one\’s authentic self can seem daunting, fearful or overwhelming. My rediscovery began with a small act, buying myself flowers, but it was key to getting through my fear. Creating a PBOD can help you in your journey to find the true you.

Start small, reaching out to a friend or a therapist, or by picking up a book at a bookstore or local library. Get whatever you need to start to find the true you. You don\’t have to go it alone.

Dr. Barbara Collins, is a professional speaker, organizational development consultant and author, specializing in helping organizations develop and implement strategic initiatives to enhance work productivity and achieve organizational goals. Her book It\’s Your Turn: Find Your Authentic Self and Go Fetch It! helps women create authentic second and third careers. Barbara has twenty-plus years of experience in education, management development, professional speaking, and training to help organizations create productive work environments. Barbara helps her clients maximize people\’s differences to accomplish business goals, manage change in a changing environment, and learn effective team group process strategies. Her area of expertise is Strategic Planning, Managing Change, Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, Large and Small Group Facilitation and Executive Coaching. She is a member of National Speakers Association. Barbara currently teaches The Arts and Science of Leadership at Cabrini College. Visit Barbara at www.drbarbaracollins.com.