I stared at my face in the mirror. I wasn’t sure if the beauty of midlife was a myth or a joke. As I stared, I put my hands on my cheeks – almost as if I was touching them for the first time. I stretched my cheeks back, like I’d had a facelift. I giggled – definitely not my jam. But still, I’m smack in the middle of life now, and I feel something really big coming…And I’m sure it’s not a facelift.
I watched my silly faces in the mirror. In contrast to the absurdity of my pretend eye lifts and nose jobs, I thought about how rigidly I’ve learned to script my thoughts and know how to push away the thoughts that don’t “serve” me.
I’m a southern girl from the 70’s. That means I was raised to be a people pleaser, to be demure and lady-like, and to “not make waves.” I was taught to “grow up and marry a doctor or lawyer.” So any thoughts that don’t serve me the people pleaser, I’ve learned to push away.
The problem for me was that lady-like, demure, and agreeable are just not my thing. Instead of marrying a lawyer, I became one. So as I grew up, I created this emotionally protective warrior mask. I battled forward, lucky to find success, love, and an amazing family of my own. But still I was never enough for some people. I kept trying.
Today I turn forty-nine and I’m done not being enough for other people.
Join me. Say it with me. “I’m done pretending that I’m not enough.” I’m done nurturing this mask that strives desperately to prove that I am enough.
I’m going to remove this mask now. And no matter what’s under there, I am enough. The truth of the matter is, Lord only knows what sort of hot mess is under there. But I’m going to find out. And whatever is there, I am enough and I am worthy.
I’ve been nurturing this mask to make some people happy; nurturing this mask in the never-ending hope that some people will finally treat me as if I’m enough. This mask is not the authentic me. And I am enough. And I want to be authenticly me now.
And once I peeked behind the mask, this is who I found. I am fierce and filled with bad-assery. I am brash, outspoken, and witty. I am loving and loyal. I am strong physically, mentally, and spiritually. And I’ve always been horrible at the “smile and nod” method of conversation. I’m genuine and you will rarely question where you stand with me.
But I also love some quiet time. My family is what I value above all else. I’m broken and damaged. I never allowed myself or others to recognize it, but my armour’s been pierced and I’ve sustained war wounds. I must remember that these wounds do not equal weakness. They do, admittedly, create vulnerability.
“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage are not always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” – Dr. Brene Brown.
Only now, at age forty-nine have I found the courage to drop the mask and to be vulnerable enough to let people see behind the mask. I will struggle to never view vulnerability as a weakness again. I want to explode into this life and fearlessly discover and share my gifts with others!
Finding the courage to be vulnerable is, for me, one of the many gifts that midlife places before us. We can choose to accept the gift or decline it. Midlife is most definitely not a crisis! It is an empowering time. We simply need to drop our mask, step out of our cocoon, and spread our authentic butterfly wings and soar!
So no matter what has brought you to this place, I encourage you to peek behind your mask of protection and give some thought to what kind of astonishing bad-assery you can unleash on the world! And then go for it!