I find it astounding that on a planet of 7.8 billion people, we’re all expected to fit neatly into a pretty narrow set of standard societal norms. Although attitudes to difference are hopefully changing for the better overall, we’re still conditioned to be and feel a certain way that isn’t always aligned to our true selves. It can take a long time to feel brave enough to put your own sense of rightness before the opinions of others. Here are some the things I learned to love about myself when I finally relaxed enough to do just that.
I can be sensitive and strong
I’ve spent my whole life thinking that I need to change because I'm so led by my feelings, am really emotional and can overthink things. Reading that back, I sound like a nightmare, but I also love to laugh - mainly at myself - and have come to realise that I’m actually a pretty strong person. Last year, I stumbled across an article on HSPs and realised I possess a lot of the traits. I didn’t even know that being a HSP (highly sensitive person) was an actual ‘thing’, and there are millions of us out there. For many years, if something hurt me, my initial reaction was to scold myself for being too sensitive. Now, I validate myself and my response and I’ve come to realise that because of my sensitivity, reacting without thinking is a bad idea. Much of what people do to hurt others is either unintentional or about them – not me – so I don’t always share when something has upset me, or assume it’s my fault like I would have historically. But I do value myself enough to respect how I feel rather than minimising it.
Sometimes someone can seem effervescent and lovely on the surface but their energy feels ‘off’. There’s usually a reason for that.
I need to be careful about my use of social media
Curating my social media activity around what makes me feel good should be the norm, yet for years I felt compelled to follow the crowd. Surely the first checkpoint if we're easily knocked off balance should be going within ourselves rather than riding what can feel like a carousel of perfection, so when we get a spare ten minutes to rest, it’s intriguing that scrolling is the first thing we find ourselves doing. Young people learn all too early the soul-destroying art of measuring the validity of their happiness against tiny snapshots of others’.
I need to choose my people carefully
It seems so simple now, but it took me years to join the dots between who I spent time with and the subsequent impact on my vitality and wellbeing. I’m now more conscious, and therefore discerning about who I share my space with. The more sensitive we are, the more we tend to ‘soak up’ the energy of others. Sometimes someone can seem effervescent and lovely on the surface but their energy feels ‘off’. There’s usually a reason for that, and experience has taught me that I have to trust that feeling, even if it seems illogical at first.
As I’ve got older, I’ve found that I’ve started to attract different types of people. I’m finding myself spending more time with those who make me feel good, and less with those who drain me, because I’m able to tell the difference. After all, what more precious resources are there than my time and my energy? If there are people in your life who are ‘drainers’ not ‘radiators’, simply identifying that fact means you can understand how better to protect yourself from fatigue or toxicity, rather than wondering why you feel like you’ve had your life force sucked out of you!
It's up to me to make me happy
I think that at some point, I became too reliant on looking outside of myself for happiness rather than 'just being' happy. In a recent blog I spoke about the internal ‘well’ I learned I need to fill so there’s less need for external validation and gratification. For me, that means doing things that bring fulfilment in my work and my personal life. It's about a state of being which allows me to focus on nothing other than the present moment and unwittingly zone out. It can be as simple as writing and sharing my blogs, spending time with my son or walking my dog. Discover your 'things' and build them into your life in whatever way you can. You’ll know when you find them, and they can be simpler than you think.
Does anyone else ‘postpone’ their happiness? I can be far too quick to say “I’ll be happy when…” as though when one element of my life isn’t perfect, it invalidates the rest. But I wouldn’t throw a bunch of roses away if only one had wilted. It’s something I’m really trying to work on, and I’m growing to accept that life is never perfect, and that happiness is more plentiful – and less grandiose - than I’ve ever realised.
If the journey towards becoming who we truly are is lifelong - and I believe it is - why is there so much pressure to figure ourselves out so early on? I'd LOVE to hear what you’ve discovered about yourself since you hit 40. Comment below!