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How many of us have ignored our gut instinct over the years? Letting our head convince us that we were supposed to make a certain choice, although our gut was telling us something different? Analysing a situation to our own demise and crippling ourselves into decision paralysis? Or simply not saying what we needed to in a situation? Be it a relationship, a friendship or your career, I am certain each of us has been there.

Over the weekend, as I was at dinner with a girlfriend, we started talking about life and lessons we have learned along the way that changed our perception and helped us grow into the people we are today. We talked about the value of friendships, particularly as we get older – relationships weighted on connection as opposed to simple proximity. I told her about the time another girlfriend called from the pool as she sat there with her son, mortified at the thought of having to do “small talk” with the other moms. With no interest in doing so she simply put on her sunglasses and called me instead. We laughed and wondered at this stage in life, “who has time for surface-level conversation?”

The beauty of aging. We all evolve and handle ourselves and situations differently.

As women, we find our voice and accept ourselves. We own our choices – careers, friendships, relationships, our sexuality – with pride and confidence as opposed to the bend and shift we sometimes did in our 20’s trying to appease a person or situation. Our capacity to navigate through bullshit becomes smaller and smaller and we eventually reach a point where you simply have no tolerance for it whatsoever – and this is a good thing! It allows for your relationships and friendships, your entire life to be more authentic.

Years ago, after the birth of my son, I was struggling in a new city, trying to figure out the balance between motherhood and climbing the professional ladder. Women who chose to focus solely on motherhood questioned why I would work. Women without children, able to focus solely on their careers, didn’t understand the balancing act that came with trying to do both. It was through no fault of anyone, it was simply their own experience. Mine was that I wanted to be a mother and a career woman, navigating my way through both. The constant juggling act left very little room to pursue a social life. It was simply the season I was in at that stage in life, but it was a tough one.

I remember crying to myself one night. I needed an outlet that allowed me to feel like me.

The next day, I marched into the office of one of my co-workers – someone I respected and adored – who was also navigating her way through both motherhood and her career. We sat there talking and cut through the facade. We put down our superhero capes and were honest about the struggles of trying to balance it all.

In that moment, a lifelong friendship was birthed. And not because either of us were trying to be something we weren’t but because we were real.

There was something in that conversation that reminded me of my best friend from college. The two of us could get to the heart of any issue within moments of talking with one another, never sugar-coating anything or worrying about choosing the right words. We were just honest, sometimes brutally.

The common thread between both friendships was understanding and acceptance, a realness that not everyone appreciates.

When you experience that shift, you are no longer worried about what others think or living up to some unrealistic expectation. You own every piece of who you are. You realize that your life and the mistakes you have made along the way were all part of your journey. You realize that being real is much more important than being perfect. You become free and open.

I was recently talking with another friend about life and the sacrifices you make once you have children. Your choices are no longer only about yourself. You have to consider the well-being and best-interest of the small humans you have been entrusted to care for. The conversation led me to contemplate, “is self-sacrifice inevitable in the parent/child relationship? And at what point do you cross the threshold from being a loving parent to sacrificing at the cost of your own happiness?

It was a conversation that sat with me, allowing for deep contemplation and reflection as I navigated through trying to find the answer. And what I realized in doing so is that with anything in life, it comes down to choices. The choice to look at your circumstances and become a victim or to become empowered. The choice to allow yourself to hold back in situations or to hold your own.

The take away was that just because your life doesn’t look the way you thought it might, it doesn’t make it wrong.

Your circumstances don’t define you. And how you navigate through a situation needs to be what is best for you. If your decisions are weighted in strength and self-awareness, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Own those choices, right or wrong, and allow yourself to grow and evolve because of them.

A few years ago, as life handed me some low points, both personally and professionally, I found myself turning to my friends. Some encouraged me to make certain choices in my life and others simply listened. While I appreciated the opinions and different perspectives, at the end of the day, only I could make those decisions for myself.

I can say with 100% certainty that I would not be where I am today had it not been for the love, support and encouragement of my friends. And sometimes that love comes in the form of honesty and cutting through, straight to the heart of an issue. A loving jolt to wake you up when perhaps you have allowed yourself to become dormant in a situation.

The value of true friendship.

In a world often driven by surface-level ideals, it seems even more important to find people who love and support you unconditionally and who challenge you to dig a little deeper and push you towards growth.

This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to cut through the crap in our own lives. Have you been hesitating to make a decision or come to a resolution in a situation because you are scared? Have you allowed yourself to become stuck because you thought it was the right thing to do? Or perhaps you simply aren’t using your voice?

Sometimes we all need to step back and take a look at our decisions and choices – examine if we are allowing those things to drive us towards happiness or if we have unintentionally held ourselves back. And if you find yourself holding back, cut through that and allow yourself the freedom to be authentic in your relationships, your life and everything you do.

Cheers to a new week and learning to live life without limitations!

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