I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about getting older. Wondering how I feel about it. I’m really not that old but I feel it when I compare myself to the lithe high school girls pouring chattily out the school gate as I pick up my own preppy from the school next door. How do I suddenly have 3 children of my own?! One thing I am sure of is that as I get older, I am loving a new sense of being at peace with who I am. I have realised I no longer compare myself to others. I don’t compare myself, my kids and not my husband or our relationship. I just feel content with being our own little unit doing our thing, whether that is the same of different to everyone else’s thing. And it is incredibly freeing.
There is so much self-doubt and insecurity when we are younger. We compare ourselves relentlessly and we never live up to our views of what we should be like. But now, in my thirties, when there is so much freedom in just being okay with who we are. Of course I still have doubts about my life, but they are just not about me any more. I am finally accepting I’ve got good qualities and less good qualities and that’s okay. I have written here before how I have recently accepted two things about myself: that I need to set lower standards for myself in the house and cooking departments to maintain calm, and that I am truly a non-glam mum despite my occasional attempts to brush my hair or even put mascara on. Now, I am quite suddenly accepting my own body. Not because it is improving, (which it most definitely isn’t), but because it’s me, and I may as well learn to get along with it because it is here to stay. (And also because, to be honest, who has the energy to fret over it any more?!!?) Don’t get me wrong, I still care about having a fit and healthy body, but I am blessed that it works and it gives me the energy to do what I want to do. It’s so very ironic that all those beautiful, young, vital 20 year old girls whose bodies we envy, probably can’t enjoy their beauty because so many of them must be crippled with insecurity. Conversely, I finally have confidence in my own body at the very time no one is actually looking any more! The very time that confidence is probably not justified because 3 different kids have each left their mark on me. Oh well. I have always heard of women embracing their confidence at this age but I didn’t know what it would feel like, and I tell you, it feels like liberation!
I have done my time, having my teenage angst and insecurity dominate me for years leaving me so incredibly unsure about my place on this earth. But now, I am on the other side. I don’t know what changed things for me. Part of it I think was that I just got too busy to have the time to worry. Having three kids under five that needed every second of my attention, has had me so inward-looking that I haven’t had the headspace to worry about how others think I am doing. I’ve been in survival mode and it’s taken all my energy just keeping three kids alive and kicking, let alone feeling nurtured and loved. I don’t have the capacity (or desire) to care what other mums who I barely know think of me or my parenting. I know I love my kids and I do the best I can and I accept that if I have a crappy parenting day when I shout and yell, it doesn’t make me a crappy mum. It just means I need some space to re-charge to be able to give more graciously again. And of course I have the people in my life who I hope will pull me up when I need it, those beautiful friends and family who also know my faults but choose to embrace the good bits more.
But more specifically, I wonder if the new acceptance and confidence in my myself and my body first started with that incredibly primal physicality of giving birth which makes you at once, awed at what your body can do and at the same time, shocked that we have that animal nature within. The rawness of birth ripped away any last shred of anxiety I had about my body. This was then followed by several years of being willingly enslaved to newborns when my body existed purely to sustain their life. Children have taken me to the dark side of despair and desperation, but more overwhelmingly, they have made my heart soar will a fullness of love which feels like the only truth you know when you experience it. I don’t think having kids in itself has helped me find my peace, but they have certainly accelerated the process of truly knowing myself. They shine a very bright light into our deep dark places and then hold a mirror up for us to see all that lies within. And in finally accepting myself, I no longer look to others to gauge their opinion on me. For now, I am who I am and I’m alright with that. I have finally, after 33 years, found the beat of the drum that I want to march to and it is the beat I find within these walls that house me and my little family. I am strengthening myself so I won’t be thrown off beat my own insecurities or lack of belief. It is incredibly freeing and refreshing. (I suggest you try it on for size if you haven’t already.)
I am sure others must be going through the same transformation? A shedding of their younger more insecure selves? I know women in their thirties and forties seem to reach a new point of contentment on some levels… have you? Or not? No experience is universal but I am intrigued to know the experiences of other women as they “age”.