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Finding the “M.E.” in “We”

Self-Care and Identity leads to Better Mental Health

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Miami to serve as a presenter at the “Set an Example Conference – Women of the NFL.” The attendees included wives, girlfriends, mothers, businesswomen, and significant others of NFL players. It was a humbling experience to be able to network with these phenomenal women. It was my mission to present information about how they find their authentic selves inside of a lifestyle often cloaked in fame, scrutiny and pressure — finding the “M.E.” in “WE.”

For this topic, M.E. stands for Mastering Empowerment, and is a challenge that many of us face absent of having a relationship with a professional athlete. We can lose ourselves by placing greater emphasis on all things non-self such as our spouse, children, career, school, extra-curricular activities, bills, home improvement projects and the list goes on. As I shared with the conference attendees, we must consistently practice self-care while connecting with our individual identity.

Self identity is how we define ourselves, which ultimately forms our self-esteem. Conversely, social identity is constructed by others and may differ from how we view ourselves. Developing positive self-esteem and strong self identity are critical to good mental health. Relying on the opinions and views of others may lead to self-doubt and low self-esteem.

Here are a few tips to maintain or regain your sense of self:

  1. Embrace M.E.! Think about what makes you who you are. Love it or change it!
  2. Commit to your passions, and invest in yourself. Reflect on what your true interests are. Are you pouring into yourself and your dreams?
  3. Date M.E.! Schedule regular times to spend time alone without devices.
  4. Identify your tribe. Who’s truly on your team and has your best interest at heart. This is the circle that elevates your esteem which leads to a stronger self-identity.
  5. Connect with family. Are you in touch with your immediate family? Good, bad, crazy, whatever, it is incredibly important to stay connected to family. It’s where you come from.
  6. Set boundaries. Recognize your limits and make others aware of them. Only you know your boundaries. It’s up to you to speak up when you need to pause, stop, say no or whatever that boundary is.
  7. Change is allowed. Just because you are comfortable with who you are doesn’t mean you can’t change. Be open to it but within your own time and level of comfort.

All of the above practices are a part of self-care. Whether it’s taking a walk, starting a journal or even creating a new playlist, it’s time to put you first. If you haven’t already, start mastering empowerment today! Your mental health depends on it!

Natalie Graves is a licensed clinical social worker and an expert in the area of mental health and wellness for athletes. Graves owns a private practice (Natalie Graves Athletic Counseling) specializing in this discipline. To book Graves for media interviews or speaking engagements, call 773-294-3903 or send an email to [email protected]. For more information, visit

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