I hear it from clients, friends or strangers there’s a near constant frustration in the lives of strong, middle aged women, “I just don’t understand why I’m so miserable. I look around and see that I pretty much have everything any woman could ask for but I still don’t feel happy.”
If you’ve built a solid career or raised healthy children (for many women it’s both) and you look at the fruits of your labor with pride but still feel empty inside you can relate to the “is this really all there is for me?” sentiment. You may have even lamented your lack of fulfillment over the “me time” manicure you thought would help and terms like “spoiled brat,” or “ungrateful” spring to mind because how could you possibly want more when you lack for nothing.
Like most women in this position the missing purpose from you life does require more self care, just not the self care you can buy with a gift card. It’s time for Self care (with a capital S) at the fundamental level. Get ready for a paradigm shift that supports the next phase of fulfillment and purpose in your life. Your Self has been asking for a deeper, more meaningful life experience for awhile. Massages and Girl’s Nights are band-aid fixes that are, quite simply, not enough to bring you back to a sense of delight with your life.
Use the following inventory to find (and change) what’s missing from your beautifully depressing life.
one Helpful Influences
There’s a lot of truth to the theory that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with (your children, as a collective, count as one).
Take a minute to reflect on what that means because it will tell you a lot about yourself and where you have room to evolve.
~ Do the people around you only call when they need something?
~ Are they guilty of the bitching habit where the only way they know to interact with you is to complain?
~ Or, when they face obstacles do they consider where they are growing as a result or at least look for a silver lining?
~ Do they gossip or support one another?
~ Are they honest or do they play games?
Do they live life with a sense of purpose or are they settled into a default that was kind of hoisted onto them because it made life convenient for others?
Try to just notice their (and ultimately your) behavior and see how each option makes you feel. If you feel buoyed by your influences then stretching toward a life of deeper purpose feels possible. If you feel weighted down, however, you’ll also notice “I can’t/won’t/shouldn’t” kinds of feelings. Can you guess which one is Self care and which one isn’t?
two Healthy Boundaries (Set and Maintained)
If you’re determined to find your path toward vitality you want a major focus on the support that helps you expand your horizons.
This means, it’s time to change what you’re willing to accept in the relationships that are made comfortable by your stagnancy (or uncomfortable by your growth).
Healthy boundaries aren’t just drawing a line in the sand about what you want and forcing others to comply. We simply cannot ever make anyone else do anything and the effort to try is thoroughly exhausting.
Healthy boundaries are a basic set of standards you set for yourself and how you want to be YOUR best, proceeded by a standard of communication and behavior that expects and rewards the same level of respect from others that you’re now giving to yourself.
Keeping healthy boundaries in place is the process by which you teach others how you’re willing to be treated; maintain your healthy boundaries by rewarding relationships that respect your new standards and ignoring those that don’t.
Your relationships are basically a habit based on precedent. When you notice unhealthy dynamics in your relationships you get to consciously change the pattern that created them and make a commitment to practicing the new paradigm.
Viewed this way, “healthy boundaries” are simply creating new patterns and “keeping healthy boundaries” is just the repetition necessary until the new framework sticks.
three Ability to Let Go
Not everyone is going to be thrilled by the new, more explorative version of the friend that they’ve known and loved all this time.
If someone in your life gets so uncomfortable with the emergent, more powerful you that they leave…let them. If they don’t go on their own then leave them yourself. Love them for everything they’ve ever meant to you and leave them anyway.
The friendship you had was based on a “stuck and unhappy” you. Now that you’re getting unstuck and pushing the envelope the friendships that can’t stretch with you no longer serve either of you.
Make room in your life for people who see the benefit it reaching higher or digging deeper. They’ll show up once you’ve really made space for them to arrive.
Those people who are fulfilled in their life won’t need your validation. They’ll be happy to see you choose growth over staying miserable because they’re doing that same work in their own lives.
Unaddressed grief hovers like smog. While you’re in it everything just seems normal. Gain some distance, though, and you’re sure to see how much it colored everything you did. For instance, saying goodbye to someone who was once an everyday part of your life is bound to leave a sense emptiness and longing, no matter how unhealthy the relationship was.
Address the space where someone once stood head-on and you get to redefine it, shape it and ultimately use it to your advantage. Bury your head in the sand, however, and that beast will rear it’s ugly head. Most likely when you least expect it to and when it can do the most damage.
From the father who abandoned you to the meltdown from last week’s hang nail, you must first accept that you’re hurt and second ask how the experience helps you. BOTH things are true; the hurt and the helpfulness exist in the same experience. Make friends with your human experiences (all of them) and you’ll find the pain naturally abates.
five Accountability to a Higher Standard
Growth minded friends and mentors show up. Don’t worry. When they do, nothing will ever be the same again.
You’ll know strong, healthy relationships by the way they make you feel and by the way they change your focus.
…bitching about others or circumstances
…looking at your own reactions to outside influences
…focusing on anyone’s weaknesses
…focusing on everyone’s strengths
…feeling worn out by your influences
…feeling hopeful and revved up by your influences
…thinking you have all the answers
…feeling curious about life and what’s next
…worrying about what bad things might happen
…concentrating on the good things you make happen
…wishing everything would comply to your wishes
…using life’s hiccups and missteps to your advantage
Be courageous. Ask the people you admire to coffee. Hire that loving and objective life coach. Request time with an expert at work. The path to your destiny is paved by intentional relationships.
six Deep Purpose
Simon Sinek talks about the importance of understanding your Why. Well, how you express your “Why” changes over time. It’s not that your accomplishments to this point haven’t been purpose-driven it’s that their purpose has been served and the one inside of you needs a new assignment.
When your renewed vim and vigor makes you want to create something new or contribute to something someone else is doing, dive into it without hesitation.
What did you always want to do as a kid? Identify the problems you’ve seen around you that made you say, “all it would take to fix that is _________.” You’ve had inklings. Your friends have said, “you know what you should do. _________!!” Make a list. See what excites you.
Then take a step, any step toward implementing your ideas. You’ll have excuses and fears crop up. Real life will feel like it gets in the way sometimes. All of that is a normal part of making progress. That’s when you lean on your friends to show you how else you can think about it or maybe just baby sit the kids after school so you can work on the outline of your new project.
You’re never truly alone on this journey called life and the path toward success always reveals itself.
seven Money Management
Money management is a monolithic element of Self care. If you don’t have the means to provide basic survival elements for yourself there’s no way in hell you’ll be able to think or dream about purpose and passion.
Don’t assume because you have a roof over your head and the kids’ braces are being paid off that you’re financially secure. In fact, some of your malaise may be an intuition about an unstable financial situation.
Get in there …
- How much money are you bringing in?
- How much is going out?
- Do you have money left over after all the bills are paid?
- What do you need to do to fix that?
- If you do have some money left over where can you put it help mitigate future emergencies or secure a stronger financial future?
Money is security … if you’re sitting on shaky ground here, you’ll always have a sense of “things could fall apart at any moment” and that does NOT serve the level of Self care you need to achieve to be happy again.
eight Spiritual Balance
The number one reason people get stuck in life (I don’t care who they are or what their background is) is the dissonance between who they are on the inside (Inner Life) and who they are on the outside (Outer Life).
In reality the two aren’t mutually exclusive yet you often behave as if who you are and what you do are two separate things. When the little girl inside is crying out for a nature walk and instead you drive the kids to practice, fast food, guitar lessons and back home for homework, you feel relief that you got everything done. The problem is you forgot you need connection, breath, a quiet mind and inner solace that your inner child asked for and that hike would’ve provided.
It’s easy to mistake achievement for happiness. That is, until we remember that we’re miserable in spite of so many accomplishments.
Journal, meditate, play (REALLY play), connect with nature, write, read (for fun), exercise (with an excitement for what your body can do), look at the world through an artist’s eye through a paintbrush or a camera or whatever it is that fuels you from the inside. If you don’t know what that is, experiment or ask friends for ideas. Let your Inner Life captain the ship that drives your Outer Life and you’ll find that peace and happiness are SUSTAINABLE driving forces toward success.
Change the underpinnings of your life’s foundation and the life you build on top of it is all the more secure.
Imagine having a martini with the girls for no other reason than because you love the experience as one piece of your life, not because you need to escape from it. Imagine leaving that happy hour feeling full and excited to return to the rest of the life that you’ve built instead of feeling like you’re just going back to the grind.
Your kids won’t get less whiney, your boss won’t become more compassionate and your spouse may still leave dirty dishes in the sink. Because you’ve fashioned the your life on purpose, however, you’ll feel hopeful and enthusiastic about what’s next; you’ll see beyond the drudge and the possibility of it all will move you toward what’s next with verve. THIS time you’ll know exactly where to look and what to tweak when you plateau at your new, more magnificent level…your Self and how you care for it.
Go get ‘em, girl!!
It’s amazing how a few steps in a list can actually feel like a lot. Download The Squeeze right now to help you manage any anxiety that crops up. It’s my favorite go-to practice when I start spinning and my first recommendation for people who can’t shut their brains off at night. Lemme know what you think!
Triffany is a certified professional life coach who helps strong women tame their inner hot mess. Start with the book F.A.I.L.* to Win: 4 Simple Principles to Get You Out of Your Own Way and follow up with a class. Everything you touch will get easier as you go.