Part of the Women Over 50 — What Really Works? Series
When I talk with my friends about this series of articles, sometimes they give me great ideas of what to talk about next. This one came from a conversation about New Year’s Resolutions. My friend Toni suggested we debunk the idea. We thought of titling this article “Breaking the Myth of New Year’s Resolutions… For Whom Are You Changing?” But, as I sit down to write, I realize it is a bigger topic than just stopping making up a list of things we think we can commit to (then don’t usually follow up on). It’s really about how much we look around us, compare our lives to others’ and then try to readjust ourselves to better fit in, or be part of the group.
The Burden of Belonging
I wish I had seen the light on this subject many years ago. Most people see me as very adventurous and a non-conformist. But I, like the majority of humans in the world, really wanted to feel like I had a place I belonged in the world. I tried to be enough like those around me so I didn’t always feel like an alien!
Belonging is such an inherent drive that we often turn ourselves into pretzels to feel like we fit in. I’m happy to say that the older I get, the more I want to belong to myself and am able to let go of the belief that I need to change in order to belong.
That doesn’t mean I’m not still committed to my own process of personal development. And no, I’m not going to turn into a critical, demanding, overbearing matriarch who expects the world to revolve around her. Actually, I am simply no longer available for revolving around others in a way that doesn’t work for me. Which means I don’t have to do things because other people do them.
When Was The Last Time You Evaluated Your Priorities?
Consider taking your life more, or less, seriously, depending on your past experiences. One friend recently had a big health scare. She realized that she hadn’t reevaluated her values and priorities in far too long. And then she worried that by doing so, taking the time to think about “what next,” she might not be doing enough out in the world. I encouraged her to let herself go through the process to decide how she wanted to be from here on out. This was something new for her, as she owns her own business, and usually spends more time taking care of clients than herself!
How to Live for Yourself, Without Hurting Relationships
When you look at family obligations and responsibilities, ask yourself how much of what you are doing is because you truly love it. And how much is following a long-established behavior pattern? Is it true that adult children still need your guidance and care? Or, is it true that you have an obligation to care for your parents even when their demands are unreasonable? Is it true that if you have managed to earn more money than some of your family members you should share what you have because they need it more than you do? Or are you being guilted into sharing?
Try looking at all your relationships and entanglements and think about what works for you — then consider just stopping what you’ve been doing for a while and see what happens. Do people get along just as well without your input or involvement? Do you feel a sense of relief? Have you secretly become attached to the identity of “helper” or “savior of situations?” Do you suddenly feel lonely and out of sorts because you don’t have enough to do? Maybe you spent more time focused on other people’s needs instead of your own.
Ask Yourself What You Really Want
In order to stop trying so hard you need to do some reflection. Decide what matters to you. And decide what it is you really want. Then the hard part. Say no to those things that are not compelling — even if friends you really care about invite you to join them! Before you do anything ask yourself my favorite 4 questions:
- How do I feel about that?
- Is that what I really want to do?
- How attached to the outcome am I?
- Is it fun?
Concrete Ways to Stop Trying so Hard
- After you reach a certain age, be careful to pay more attention to what you feel comfortable wearing than what is supposedly “in style” or the latest thing. Realize you can do both: look good and feel comfortable!
- When you start second-guessing yourself and think you need to change something about yourself, ask yourself if there is a “should” behind it. If there is, then figure out whose values you are trying to accommodate. It is very likely they aren’t yours! Then reevaluate the change. If you aren’t changing for yourself, why do it?
- When you decide to do something new, like change your diet or start a new exercise program, it is great to get information about choices from others. But it is vital that whatever you choose is truly a fit for you! Ask yourself, are you doing it for the right reasons?
After some deep soul searching over the last 6 months, I find that I am enjoying taking life less seriously. I am just living each day without too much expectation of myself or others. I am enjoying the flow of it much more than I ever imagined I would! Hence, I’m not trying so hard, I’m just being here. And I’m having a lot of fun! How much fun do you want to have this year? It is up to you!
>READ: STOP LETTING FEAR RULE YOUR LIFE