Last week, someone in my FB feed who is a woman of a certain age, yes our age, posted that she wondered at what age would she finally get “thick skin”. She had 70 comments to that post, most of them saying they didn’t know, but hoped it was soon. They were tired of caring what other people think.
This thread has been weighing on me and I figured there were probably plenty of you out there that had the same question. I have two thoughts to share with you.
First, you see a lot of memes that suggest we do get to an age where we don’t care what others think. I know that to be true but there’s an entire side of the story that’s missing from that sentiment. It’s not that you finally just come to a perpetual state of fuck you. I wish it were that easy. The secret ingredient that’s missing is that you don’t just flip a switch and no longer consider or wonder or obsess about what other people are thinking about you or saying about you. It’s that you think so much of yourself, that you are so secure in who you are, what you stand for and how you are living your life that the opinion of others actually becomes totally irrelevant to you.
I know you’re conditioned to be constantly measuring and evaluating yourself. The problem is the scales you use are completely skewed, including other’s people’s opinions of you.
Also, the measuring and evaluating is only at a moment in time, the present here and now. Other people’s opinions don’t know what improvements you’ve made or what your goals and dreams are and how you are progressing towards them.
That may also be part of the problem though, right? That you too are stuck in the here and now with no change of your present state on the horizon. And so you sit in the fire of self pity and angst and anger and resentment and you allow the opinions of others to stoke the flames.
That inertia let’s those opinions easily filter in and have you second guessing yourself. And while I wish you would use that as fuel to burn your fires of ambition and change, I think it just burns you out until you’re a pile of ashes willing to conform to your present state and accept the status quo as normal. Other people’s opinions are the evil stepsister to your cinderella. Don’t let them keep you from the ball.
Will they stop talking? Absolutely not. But in the words of Bonnie Raitt. Let’s give them something to talk about. Feel your feels. Then decide outside forces don’t determine your destiny. No thick skin required. Just resilience.
Midlife is your time for rebranding. It’s time to appreciate all you have learned and accomplished to this point and to build on all those strengths. Look I know it’s scary but anything worthwhile always is. Now notice I’m not telling you to make sweeping changes to the recipe. I want you to improve on what’s already there. I want you to be less New Coke and more Apple after Steve Jobs returned.
Set yourself on a course of learning, enjoyment, health and most importantly fun and you’ll find the volume of other people’s opinions fall from deafening and paralyzing booms to barely intelligible whispers.
The second thought I want to share with you on the subject of the facebook post is that you really don’t want to toughen up. Truly, that is not the goal. If anything, I think this is the time for you to soften and bloom. It’s time to be open and welcoming and ready for great possibility. Don’t harden. Feel your feels and care more about things, good and bad. Be motivated to create more good. Be steadfast is finding work arounds to combat the bad.
It’s time to raise your expectations about how people treat you. I’m all for forgiveness and meeting people where they are but I also believe you deserve a certain baseline standard of care and concern from the people around you. Maybe the process shouldn’t be about toughening your shell up but really of toughening up the requirements that others need to meet in order to earn access to you.
How about taking this opportunity to consider how you treat other people; how you talk about them? A little self reflection to ask yourself if you are ever the reason someone else thinks they need to toughen up, if you may be creating a situation that makes another woman feel “less than”. I can tell you that if you just got a little tightness in your stomach, some part of you knows my words hit a nerve. Use that as a wake up call to pay attention to what you are putting out in the world and how you’re putting it out there.
And while we’re out at it, care more about how you see people treat others. Stick up for the little guy or more importantly to us right now, the little gal. Stop women from bashing each other. I hope it gives you comfort to know that all of us are having a bit of struggle in Midlife, resetting our rules for the next chapter. So use that empathy muscle I know you have and recognize that while you’re not the only one having this universal reorganization, you’re not the only one having this universal reorganization.
Send good into the world. Trust that it will come back.
Be open. Look for the good. Be the source of light and assistance.
I would like to share something with you that happened to me last week. I got a call from someone I’ve been friends with for over 30 years. Funny how that can happen now that we’re this old. He called to tell me he sold his company. We talk a few times a year. We talked all about the transaction, what led up to it, what he wanted to do now. After about an hour, he paid me the best compliment ever. He said I always believed in him. Even when he was just starting out. And that I went out of my way to introduce him to people I thought would help him. He told me that one of the people I introduced him to ended up being his largest referral source. And he thanked me.
I share this with you to say drop your armor. Be the example to those around you of how to treat people, how to love people, how to support people. I know it’s hard. I know you feel like you get beat up for it sometimes. I still believe, in the end, you’ll win.
As for what that final tally on your scorecard says, that my friend, is up to you. Now is the time for you to decide what game you’re playing and by what rules.
If you need some help in that regard, you can join my waitlist for Midlife Re•Imagined, Design Your Next Best Chapter. There’s a link in the shown otes if you want to be notified when enrollment for the September cohort opens up next week. Imagine having a plan for your next best chapter by Thanksgiving.
Before I sign off today, I do want to tell you that if things are feeling heavy right now, you are not alone. I mean the hits just keep comin’, don’t they? Generally I advocate that you keep your head down and just mind yourself and your own peeps but I don’t mind sharing that I’m having a hard time following my own advice. There’s a lot of death and destruction and misogyny and uncertainty. I mean there’s always shit going on but also, I’d like to suggest a global time out. Who do I address that to?
I am also reminded though right now how fortunate we are and I want to encourage you to be spending a lot of time in that space of gratitude. With that energy, it becomes a lot easier to see your future more clearly and the choices that you can make that will have real impact.
I don’t mean to belittle the issues we talk about here. They are real and they can suck. I just also want to point out that they are totally solvable. Lucky for us, having a fun, fulfilling and meaningful life is achievable. If you’re tired of trying to figure it out alone, I’m here.
Wife of one. Mother of three. Writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, adviser. Don’t make me choose. Co-founder, The Midlife.