5 Things I Know Now That I'm 34, Part 4: Hold On

5Things_HoldOn Most 30-somethings are nostalgic about the 90s because that was the decade of our childhood. When the 90s started, we were preteens. We were old enough to understand a lot of things, but young enough to be naïve about a lot more than we understood. We wanted to rush through childhood and adolescence to adulthood because we thought being an adult meant staying up late, eating whatever we wanted, and watching movies and TV shows that our parents forbid us to watch as kids. We thought adulthood was the Promised Land, and much of our play was us imagining what adulthood would be like.

I remember staying up one night with a friend playing dress up in some of my mom’s old dresses while watching En Vogue videos. We were supposed to be dressed as rich women. We spread margarine on saltine crackers and pretended that it was caviar. As we played, we imagined ourselves as the ages we are now driving (real) Barbie cars, excelling in our careers as veterinarian/supermodels or astronaut/singers. We were free to be what we wanted to be, free to wear what reflected our whim of the day, free to be our authentic selves. Unbeknownst to us, we already had the freedom we thought adulthood would bring us.

As I now know, adulthood has its perks, but one major con is the amount of censoring and re-imaging we must do to ourselves as adults to survive in the “real” world our parents always warned us not to rush into.

I miss the sense of self and unique spirit I had as a kid. There was a time (high school) when I would walk out of the house in a laminated denim skirt, terry cloth tomato red fitted polo, and bright red Chinese damask platform sandals and not think anything about it. I didn’t worry about what people would think. I didn’t worry about how my outfit would affect my job. I just thought all of these things would be cute together, so…outfit.

My style has definitely evolved since then, but if I could get back at least some of the carefree-ness and originality I had back then, I’d definitely trade a few adult “privileges” for that.

As I have gotten older and started “adulting”, that free spirit has dwindled so that I can conform to meet the expectations of various adult arenas: the workplace, adult relationships, and changing roles in the family. We can’t say what we really think on social media if we have certain jobs. Professional and personal relationships can hamper our self-expression when we fear what these people will think, and what they can do to our opportunities because of what they think. Sometimes family can actually make our path to our dreams and purpose longer and harder even though they love us and want to protect us.

We lose ourselves in various ways over our lives, but there are remedies for each pitfall:

Chasing appropriateness

I’ve written about this before, but trying to fit into other people’s idea of what is appropriate will definitely start to divide you from who you really are over time.

Remedy: Decide on what appropriate means for you, and stand on it. It’s ok for people to not agree with you.

Dealing with disagreement is a much better price to pay than losing your authenticity.

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There are a few things that I wish I had done earlier in my life, but fear is what kept me from taking those steps. Fear can freeze you into non-action, but it can also have you settling for things that aren’t really for you just so you can avoid the scariness of what you really want to do. It’s easy to slip into a habit of avoidance that erodes your sense of true self.

Remedy: Do it anyway. If something is really your passion, do what’s necessary to realize it even if it scares you. Break it down into smaller tasks or steps if you need to.

Forfeiting To A Dominant Personality

There are times when we run into people who always seem to have extra-large personalities. These people may be super bubbly or they may read humor into everything. They may have very distinct interests that they expect everyone around them to share with them. None of these traits are necessarily bad, but being around these types of people can drown out your own personality over time. If you are an introvert, you may have dealt with this very often.

Remedy: Be firm about your right to define your own personality. Explain to these people that while you respect them and their interests, you’ve got your own. Either they will respect you in return, or they won’t. Regardless, you’ve set boundaries, which are key to holding on to your authentic self.

Setting boundaries is key to holding on to your authentic self.

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Chasing “Got It Togetherness”

“Got It Togetherness” is my term for that quality that some women have when it seems like they have perfect lives. They’ve got the career, the man, the money, the beauty, and it all seems to exist in a harmonious balance that many of us never achieve. Chasing this illusion is a big culprit behind why a lot of us lose ourselves. We feel that certain parts of ourselves that are the most comfortable and natural no longer fit the perfect image we want to project to others. It isn’t until after we’ve gone through so many years sanitizing ourselves that we realize that these women who we think have it together are actually more in tune with and confident about their true selves, which is the energy we feel from them that we mistake as “perfection”.

Remedy: Accept that it’s ok not to have everything together all the time. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do self work on areas where you know you can improve, but make the process of learning new things about yourself a priority and learn to love and develop those things.

Stop comparing yourself to other people. Your “Got It Togetherness” won’t look like the next woman’s, but if you devote yourself to self-work and striving for your best life, you will reach a balance, a sense of satisfaction and peace.

Leaning Too Far Into Inspiration from others/Forgetting Our Uniqueness

It feels good to find people who seem to embody exactly the vibe that you’re trying to create through your own style, brand, or projects. However, sometimes we become too inspired by a person. You know you are leaning too far into your inspiration from someone else when you ask yourself the question “Would (insert name here) do this?” every time you have to make a decision about your own affairs.

Remedy: Identifying “muses” and role models is very helpful when you don’t have context about a particular topic, but strive to use inspiration only as a starting point. Fill in the blanks with your own authentic aura and essence.

Strive to use inspiration only as a starting point. Fill in the blanks with your own aura and essence.

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Hold on to yourself. It’s hard to get you back once you lose you. What are some ways that you stay in tune with your authentic self?

If you want to catch up on the earlier posts in this series, check them out here:

5 Things I Know Now That I'm 34, Part 1: Push

5 Things I Know Now That I'm 34, Part 2: Time

5 Things I Know Now That I'm 34, Part 3: Living

Only one more post in this series to go!


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