Sometimes, it feels like you just have to sweep everything off the table and start over. Perhaps you’ve been through a personal crisis that has rocked you to your core – the loss of a loved one, an expected upheaval in your career, the erosion of your self esteem through an abusive relationship. Maybe it’s not quite that dramatic, and has instead been a gradual process as you realize with growing certainty that you are not where you want to be in your life and that the path you’re on is not likely to get you there any time soon. You may even feel that there’s nothing overtly wrong with your life or the way you’re living it, yet you still feel inexplicably unfulfilled, and perhaps you question what is wrong with you, being as you are so ungrateful for the comforts in your life that are denied to so many.
We all reinvent ourselves from time to time as we age. It’s the inevitable result of maturity and experience. What you aspired to be at 20 is likely not what will fire your soul at 50, simply because you’ve been there and done that, growing in the process. Regardless of the age you are, a conscious decision to reinvent yourself is not the same as coming to the retrospective realization that you have been changed through life experience.
Deliberate, conscious change starts with you and an evaluation of what you want and who you want to be. This requires some soul searching. We all lead busy lives and it’s easy to push aside the inner voice that keeps reminding us to invest some time in an honest look at who we are and where we are headed. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? What brings you joy? What diminishes you? What do you want that you do not have? What do you carry that you no longer need? What stands in your way? Change can only come from a clear and honest vision of who you are right now and what you have to work with and work on.
The answers to those questions may come easily to you. For many, understanding who and what you want to be is the easy part. It’s the journey that’s hard. How do you go about redefining the parameters of your life when you’re busy living it?
Establishing a goal, a vision, is at the core of the process. You need to see yourself, living the life you want to have, as the person you want to be. It’s a given that your vision needs to be realistic. If you’ve worked honestly through the evaluation process, the vision you hold will be achievable and it will come from the authentic spirit of you. It may be daunting, it may involve overcoming many challenges, it may involve letting things go, but it is not impossible, and it’s crucial that you understand that and hold it close to your heart.
Once you’ve established your end goal, it’s time to assess the steps you need to take to get there. We all have ingrained habits, routines and behaviors. These are acquired patterns, developed from the experiences we’ve had and the environment we live in now, from the people we surround ourselves with and the obligations we have taken on. Some of these elements may have to go or be adapted to a new paradigm. Do you sacrifice your own needs to the desires of others? Are you unable to say ‘yes’ to yourself? Are you unable to say ‘no’? Do you escape through instant gratification or compensatory rewards that harm you in the long run? Does your job stifle you or feel like a dead end? Are your relationships crushing your self esteem? Do your friends share your misery in pity parties rather than inspire you to grow? Are you physically and geographically where you want to be?
Addressing patterns and behaviors is difficult. It’s not practical to quit a job you don’t like when you have a family to feed and mortgage payments to make. Could a change of attitude, better communication or a more confident approach help the situation? Is it possible that opportunities would open if you were to improve your skills or understanding through extracurricular education?
Closing doors to the people in your life who hold you back can be even more difficult. Again, there’s a middle ground here. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition to make significant changes in your outlook. Unless your partner is abusive or your friends destructive, it may not be necessary to leave them behind at all. Maybe you just need to broaden your circle. Make some new friends. Reach out to the women you admire. Join groups or classes that will enhance your sense of self through shared passions or personal growth, whether it be needlepoint, yoga or environmental causes. Communicate with your significant other. Seek counselling as a couple if you need it, or independently if you naturally gravitate to a role that no longer works for you. Find your community. It’s out there.
Some people find that vision boards, mantras and meditation help them to clarify their goals and the road they need to travel to reach their destination. Others may gain more power and insight from their connections with other women who support mutual empowerment. The female has a deep inherent need to commune with other females. This is a biological imperative from early tribal societies in which women were considered equal but different. The subjugation of women over many centuries is a regrettable part of history, but that’s not at all how the history of humanity began.
Gender roles are changing in society and this is a great time for women. Although we may still have some distance to travel in terms of pay equity and sexual equality, we’ve already come a long way. This is, sadly, not true in many parts of the world, but females in western society have made great strides, largely due to the courageous efforts of our trailblazing sisters who followed their dreams despite societal disapproval, those who fought for the vote and the early feminists who truly changed the world.
We’re equal in the eyes of the law, we have a say in government, we’re breaking through the glass ceiling and holding positions of influence in unprecedented numbers. Our partners are taking a more active role in parenting and sharing household duties. We’re actively fanning the flames of change through initiatives like #me too, body positivity and age acceptance. As a community, we have more power than we’ve ever had before, and there are many ways to find women of like mind through consciousness groups, empowerment programs, retreats, lifestyle coaches and social media. Today’s girls don’t start school with the belief that they will grow up to be housewives or secretaries. All career options are now on the table and we are rocking them.
The thing is, it’s never too late to hop on the train to self empowerment and fulfillment. Life is too short to live it out with mediocrity. Go for it, sister. You can do this.