By Katja Wulfers
Throughout their 20s and even their 30s women expend a lot of energy living up to the ideals and images external forces impose on them. We let these forces mold us because of poor self-image, insecurity, or a misguided notion of what it takes to forge a successful path. So much time is devoted to shaping our bodies and our words so that we can be accepted into this group or that one, that some of us – hand way up here – lose track of who we are.
And then come the big bad 40s. We’ve reached middle ground. Now there’s drooping and greying and plucking. It’s all downhill, right? Not so fast. There’s a light in this tunnel and it isn’t a train on a one-way track to crush us.
By the time we’ve reached this age many of us no longer worry if what we’re thinking is appropriate to say out loud. We don’t tiptoe through relationships in the hopes of avoiding negative fallout should our words offend somebody. We’re past nodding in agreement or not speaking out so that people will like us. This doesn’t give us free reign to be ignorant, it simply means that we’ve recognized something of greater value than impressing someone else: being true to our ideals and thoughts.
If the ideals and thoughts of people around us don’t mesh with ours, if they are in direct contrast to our own, we’ve developed enough strength of character to walk away from those conversations. To not engage, either with silent and implied agreement or with argument. We’ve learnt that our time should be spent with people with whom we have a genuine interest in being with, and who are interested in being with us.
“Doesn’t it matter what other people think of me?” Yes and no. We can care about other people and their thoughts but not let what they think dictate our life, our choices, and our happiness. That comes with being comfortable in our own skin.
So, those are the intellectual benefit of having grown comfortable with ourselves, now what about the physical? We still have all that drooping and greying and plucking to deal with. And this is where I say, do what works for you.
When I exercised and dieted my way through my 20s and most of my 30s I was always conscious of how I looked. Was I thin enough? Fit enough? How did the dress make me look? I ignored the mental and physical benefits and focused on the impression others had of me. Not everyone has the same motivation for working out, but that was mine.
What motivates the individual who feels comfortable in her own skin to work out and eat well? Health, strength, and mental clarity, these are what drive me now. This is what motivates the women in my life who motivate me. When those three – health, strength, and mental clarity – become your drivers, the benefits are potent and long lasting. The goals and rewards are more concrete: running a 5k or a marathon, competing in a martial arts tournament, or playing in the park with our children without having to sit every few minutes.
Exercise for your health, not because you’re afraid of what the coffee shop patron thinks of the fit of your jeans. Pluck and colour the grey out if it pleases you, not because fashion gurus tell you to. The same goes for how you dress. If the shoes fit and you feel unstoppable wearing them, go for it.
Life is short so it’s on us to live it genuinely. And that’s way more fun if we nix trying to fit into a mold. Lets not waste our time shouldering the persona we think we should or we’ll never have time for our own.
Now it’s your turn. How comfortable are you in your own skin? What do you do to feel that way?
Katja Wulfers is a writer, mother, and reasonably well-adjusted 40+ year-old who laughs too loudly, runs because she loves the adrenalin high, and wears mismatched socks underneath her boots. But that’s okay because she’s comfortable in her own skin.
Katja writes at www.jackstrawlane.com