I remember being in my 20s and struggling with the fact that people didn’t take me seriously. I was eager to further my career in radio but often faced being ignored, overlooked, and talked down to despite my skillset and experience. Also, I noticed a general lack of respect from the community in situations like being seated at a restaurant or attempting to remedy customer service issues in clothing stores. The more mature, grown-up world seemed so hard on the youth that we had to work to earn respect and validation. I thought when I’m in my 30s, I’ll surely find the respect that matters so much to me; people will finally take me seriously.
As women, we seem to endure drastic changes in each decade of our lives. Beginning in our teens, we welcome a world of womanhood that can be frightening, painful, and continuously challenging. Then in our childbearing years, we can easily lose a sense of self as we pour everything we have into our children. As our family grows, we often put our own pursuits on hold while the landscape of our lives changes drastically. If you’re like me, I would soothe myself with the reminder that when my kids grew up just a bit more, I could return to my own goal-setting. Then, almost before I realized it, I was 40-something.
How easily the decades slip through our hands. I was a young mom; then, in what seemed like a few short breaths, I was well into my 40s, getting unwelcome mail from the AARP. I’ve even questioned whether I ever garnered that “respect” I so coveted in my 20s. While, as women, we should be well rehearsed in categorical life changes, there’s something quite different about facing a completely different stage of life as we age. I’ve learned that it has been necessary to contemplate my youth, celebrate the life I’ve had so far, and grieve the loss of the person I was.
When you compare yourself to others, you may easily find that you’re confused by the women in their 50s and 60s who claim to be loving life and thriving. They say age is a privilege, they’ve earned it, and they wouldn’t trade the wisdom and maturity that comes with it. So, if you’re struggling to find that same attitude and energy, allow yourself time to grieve the loss of the person you have been.
I’ve realized this recently in my own life as I’ve spent the last decade sharing the story of my resolution to a healthier life, including my weight loss and fitness journey after having kids. Between the ages of 35 and 45, I was in a sweet spot of relating to women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, but as time has marched on and I find myself closing out my 40s, I was experiencing loss in that I felt I no longer related to young women. I’m facing new challenges, and personal disappointments as my struggles have changed from what they were ten years ago. I was comparing myself to the person I was even just a few years ago, but it was time to take a look in the mirror and accept the loss of that previous version of myself.
I have experienced the loss that comes from the death of those close to me, and some of these feelings of contemplating my own midlife were strikingly similar. That’s when I realized that the feelings surrounding the loss of my youth, my mission, and a lost sense of self were authentic. I needed to allow myself the time necessary to grieve that loss.
As humans, we don’t like change. You might think, oh, I love adventure, trying new activities, and meeting new people! However, we most often return to the things in our lives that feel “normal” and make us at home. So, when physical changes jolt us into a new reality, it’s common to spend more time attempting to reclaim what feels normal rather than giving credence to navigating through the inevitable aging process in the healthiest way possible.
When you think about your track record of having worked through each decade of your life successfully, you can take comfort in the fact that you have always been in the process of becoming someone different from you have been. This is nothing new; you are capable and equipped to handle both the woman you are now and the woman you are continuing to become. Life is never stagnant, and realizing this will allow you to alter your focus from the inevitable challenges that happen with aging. Your new effort is toward the beauty of the woman that you are always becoming.
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