I read something recently that really resonated with me.
20 things women should stop wearing after 40.
1 – 20: The weight of other people’s expectations or judgments.
I remember the days and weeks leading up to announcing that we were planning to move abroad and turning in my resignation. While I knew in my heart this was the best thing for our family, I couldn’t help but feel the weight of what that decision would mean for those around me – friends, family, coworkers. The idea that I was supposed to live up to someone else’s expectation of what my life was supposed to look like was staring me right in the face and looking back on it now, it took a bit of time for me to get over that.
I have always been someone who would speak my mind and didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about what anyone else thought, but for some reason that particular decision brought up some of that worry.
I am certain it was my own fear of the unknown that was more debilitating than the weight of judgment, but it took a lot of time and acceptance for me to find myself comfortable and at peace with our decision. Even when we do the right thing, it can present challenges. Often, the right thing and the hard thing are the same.
I was recently talking with a friend of mine about this very thing. She is struggling to know when to let go. Her head is ready but her heart is still holding on. And much like we discussed making difficult decisions, we also talked about not letting the fear of what others might think be a deciding factor.
She was getting stuck in the idea of what her life was supposed to look like. A struggle I know all too well. The crossroad of any major life decision – staring down a path that leads in two directions, knowing the outcome from each path is substantially different. We have all been faced with those decisions in our lives.
The hardest step to take in either direction is always the first.
Sometimes I look at my daughter and think back to when I was her age – fearless. No concern for the opinions of others, the weight of difficult decisions, or the fear of being judged. And it is a good reminder to intentionally practice those things in my life now as an adult.
But how many of us need to be reminded of that? If you are living your life and you are happy, the opinions of others shouldn’t matter.
Sometimes it is easy during moments of uncertainty, not wanting to crumble at the weight of our own fear, to mask the truth. We put on a happy face among coworkers and friends. We showcase the highlight reel on social media. We entertain conversations of pleasantries as opposed to the truth. We find comfort in the masks we wear, protecting ourselves from potential judgment.
Think about how genuine life would be and how authentic our relationships would be if we all just threw down those masks and owned the truth, not caring about the opinions of others and remembering that we are all doing the best we can.
There is strength in vulnerability. There is connection in authenticity.
I have never been someone to run away from the truth and when asked the simple question, “how are you” often find myself oversharing.
In fact, as we were preparing for our most recent move, I was brutally honest about my feelings on having to do so whenever anyone asked.
When we first arrived, we were told it would take 2 years to adjust – one to settle in and the second to find our footing. We were just getting to a place of feeling settled and having to move again really threw things off balance.
But rather than crumble, we pushed forward. And the thing that helped us in doing so was to be honest. No masks.
We asked for help when we needed it and we came together as a family to support one another. Granted, my husband’s idea of packing and my idea of packing are on completely opposite sides of the spectrum which made for some interesting moments – but for the most part, we worked together.
All of us go through times in our life where things get messy. Work is a struggle. Raising kids has left us feeling depleted. Relationships come and go. A move. A health emergency. Whatever it may be, the reality is that none of us are immune to struggle. Behind every “brave face” is a battle being fought that we know nothing about. And in those struggles, the last thing anyone should feel is the weight of other people’s expectations or judgments.
Sometimes you simply need to remember that this is your life and you choose how you intend to live it. What someone else thinks doesn’t matter.
There will always be someone ready to insert their opinion into your decisions. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with you. And there will always be someone who thinks they know what is best for your life. Whether you choose to listen to that or not is up to you.
This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to let down the mask and simply live life – without limiting beliefs or thoughts about who we are supposed to be or how we are supposed to live our life. Take that first step towards the rest of your life and do so without fear or worry of what anyone else might think.
Cheers to a new week!!