Older.. and wiser?
Hmm, not always true is it?
I had a good friend tell me many years ago that once she turned 40, she didn't care what people thought of her any more. I found myself surprisingly then looking forward to turning 40.
But my 40th came and went, and my consistent fear of what others thought of me and what I did or didn't do, stayed firmly front of mind. If anything, it got worse, for a while.
- I would worry about what I hadn't achieved in my life.
- About things in my past that I wished I could go back and change.
- Was I a 'good enough' wife and mum?
- What's the point of the work that I do?
- And of course, about whether I should pursue writing, which I'd wanted to do for a long, long time.
I am so uncomfortable with confrontation, that the idea of saying or doing something that might offend someone actually makes me freeze, and do...nothing!
And I so desperately wanted to wake up one day, and find myself, like my wonderful friend, unafraid of what others might think of me.
But it didn't even go away when I turned 50 (oh jeez, that's hard to say out loud - Fifty.....😣🤣👵).
What I did get though, somewhere between 40 and 50, which in some ways was even more to my liking than not giving a 💩, was what Brene Brown calls the 'unravelling' (actually, she calls it the 'unraveling' - no less important from having only the one 'L' - I still struggle living in a country where the written language is often unsure whether it's English or American - so I just do my own thing 🤷♀️). I've been slowly unravelling ever since I started reading and listening to Brene.
Hearing her talk about the difficulty of having been a people-pleaser all her life and suddenly feeling the urge to throw the rule book away, but still not actually wanting to upset everyone or cause anyone any stress.... well, I felt I'd met one of my 'people'!
And I've been incredibly lucky over the past 11 years to meet and become great friends with, others who are either similar to me, or are experiencing their own unravelling - which is not painful in the slightest as you might be imagining.
If you are picturing that lovely multi-coloured woolly jumper that your Mum knitted for you getting caught on a rusty nail on a rickety, old fence as you launch yourself over it on some energetic countryside walk (that you never even wanted to go on, but your extrovert husband insisted on it, as it's 'such a lovely crisp winter day'), and you then frantically trying to remove it, but only making it worse, and watching all the hours of your poor Mum's hard work being unravelled, even all those really complex cable stitches!!!
Yeah, nothing like that.
And we have all been unravelling together. In fact, it is the most eye-opening, heart-warming feeling once you really get into the midst of it. Even when you know you still have so far to go, but you can start to see the picture of the blissful resulting contentment at the other end of the tangled ball of your unravelling life. Little pockets of peace start to reveal themselves, lots of 'aha' moments come up, and you can start to envision this next stage of your life.
That's when I stopped worrying about what others think. Or at least, not as much these days.
- I looked back at all the amazing things I've done, and places I've been lucky enough to visit in my life.
- Had a good laugh (and some tears) at some of the things in my past.
- Reflected on how happy my family are, and what part I've played in making that happen.
- Did some work on my values, made sure my work was not in conflict with them, and got clear on what I was doing to make the world a better place.
- And I realised that the only person stopping me from writing, was me.
So my advice is, rip those stitches out of your mid-life worries, reflect on the good and not-so-good parts of your life so far, and figure out what's important to you for this next stage of life.
Oh, and read and ingest the words and wisdom of Brene Brown.