I’m so tired of people telling me directly or indirectly that I CAN’T do this, or I SHOULDN’T do that. It is a constant buzzing in our collective ears.
“You have a great job – you’ve been doing this for 25 years! Why change now?”
“Why not just take it easy and retire comfortably – you’re almost there!”
“Are you qualified enough for that? Won’t it be really hard to do an entirely new thing?”
About 3 years ago, I began to feel this little twinge every morning when I started to get ready for work. I was a National Award-Winning Sales Professional in the Pharmaceutical Industry – a career I entered in my 20s. From the outside looking in, I had it all. I was the top saleswomen in the company, had an amazing family and set of friends, was healthy and seemed completely put-together. All those things were true from the outside, but from the inside, those twinges kept getting louder and louder, until one morning the twinge got so loud that I woke up and realized, “I can’t do this anymore!”. I could not get myself to get dressed, get in the car, see the same customers I’d been seeing for 7 years, selling the same products (or similar versions of them). I was petrified. Was I crazy? At that time, I blamed it on menopause, and likely many of my feelings became amplified because of my hormonal changes. But that was not the real reason I was feeling this way.
I was feeling this way because I had something within me that wasn’t being fulfilled by this current situation. Where I was at the time was not serving me well anymore, and I had to face the fact that either I change things, or I would be in this unsettled and unsatisfied state forever. I began to look around me and spoke to more and more women around the ages of 45-65 and realized that for many this is a common and constant problem. What happens at this stage of our life that makes us more aware of our inner callings? Why does this happen and what should we do about this?
If we analyze the trajectory of our lives we can get the answer. In our 20’s, when we enter college, we are expected to know what it is we are supposed to be doing for the rest of our lives. Don’t get me wrong. Many women DO know exactly what they are meant to do, and I applaud those people. But for many of us, myself including, we fall upon careers (or marriages, or friendships or social/health circumstances) because it is convenient or because we are not sure what else to do. The typical “go to school, get a job, get married and have kids” cycle is what we were surrounded with and what our parents drilled into our heads at a very young age. We may have had dreams or callings which were completely opposite to what we ended up doing, but we buried them because they were “not appropriate” or “not feasible” or looked upon negatively by society. We also have different priorities. In our 20s and 30s we (generally) are busy building our careers, raising our children and settling into a routine of life. We don’t have time or in many cases the financial means to think of ourselves.
However, there comes a time, around our mid 40’s to 50’s, that those parts of our lives either move away (in the case of our children) or do not suit us anymore because we have matured, we have new perspectives and new experiences. Why then, do we hold on to something that doesn’t serve us well anymore? Often we think that we are stuck because we believe that moving into something new will be impossible, will not pay the bills, or will not work. But truthfully, if we really heeded our inner callings and reinvented ourselves in even small ways, we could be more “successful” than we ever dreamed.
Why do women over 50 feel like they can’t change things, or that they are stuck in their current circumstances? Many reasons:
- They feel it is too late. They feel like their ship has sailed and that they should have pursued their dreams in their 20’s or 30’s.
- They feel like they are not qualified. “Who am I to be a … (writer, artist, baker, singer, actor, comedian, lawyer, doctor, entrepreneur, etc. etc.)?”
- They feel that it is just easier to remain in the status quo and not to ruffle any feathers. Why not just retire in the same company after 25 years? Why not just see it through? The other option just seems too difficult, even though it will give them so much more joy.
How, then, do we get rid of these limiting beliefs that keep us stuck in our current circumstances? How do we get rid or ignore that inner critic who tells us that we “can’t”?
Try these exercises:
- Ask yourself these 3 fundamental questions: a) what do I love to do; b) what am I good at, and c) what does the world need? If you really reflect on what you love to do and what would make you leap out of bed every morning, and connect that with your talents and with what the world is looking for or lacking, you have your answer!
- Become present in each moment and be grateful for every moment. Try meditating, reflection, writing, journaling and reflect on these questions and write down and analyze the answers you receive.
- Visualize who you want to be in 20 years and paint a mental picture of where you would be, who you would be surrounded by and how you would feel. Call upon your Inner Mentor to guide you to this woman 20 years from now. Visualizing her will lead you to the answers about your present moment actions and what you should do now to make these visualizations a reality.
- Start to acknowledge and name your inner critic and ignore her, and to get rid of your limiting beliefs which told you that you are not good enough. (lessons I learned from Tara Mohr in her book, “Playing Big”)
- Take action. If something is not serving you well right now, take action to change it. You can take small steps right now. If you are working full time in a job which you hate, for example, take a few hours a day or a week to work on your side hustle or passion project Even small actions can lead to big results and will give you a compass to follow.
We, as mature women, have unique traits that few others do, which make us qualified to reinvent ourselves! We have the knowledge that life has given us, from past careers, from raising children, from dealing with in-laws and parents and terrible bosses. As women we have the experience and know-how to deal with any of life’s challenges. We are able to manage multiple tasks/projects with ease because we have DONE IT! We also have the tenacity and resilience to work on things we really love, and the ability to see those things through. We are empathetic and know who we want to be around and where we want to spend our time. We have the courage to pursue new things because we have been through so much, and we are strong and determined to face any new challenges. And, we can approach life with a sense of humor, critical thinking, and an ease which few others on the planet can.
By reinventing ourselves it does not mean that we all must leave our jobs and do an “eat, pray, love” journey to Italy and beyond! It means we should REALLY look at ourselves and ask, “How can I improve myself everyday?” It doesn’t have to be a seismic shift in career or relationships or life. It can be small steps which help us realize who we truly are, and what we were meant to contribute in this world. Think about it. Whatever age you are, if every one of us acted upon even one of our little dreams and made them a reality – how different would this world be? Think of it as a responsibility you have to bring your talents into the world. The world needs you.
People will doubt you and you will doubt yourself. You will have that inner critic telling you that it’s not possible, you’re too old or not qualified or not confident. Push that inner critic aside and give yourself permission to take action. It doesn’t have to be a monumental action. It can be small steps everyday- but give yourself permission to do it. Even if it’s messy. What’s the worst thing that could happen? You may think that your ship has sailed, my friend, but it’s just getting out of the dock. It’s your turn now to take the journey of your lifetime. And do it now.