I often joke about the misfortunes of “getting old,” but honestly… it’s much more good than bad for me. One of the markers of aging for me has been the realization my personal worldview… sucked.
For much of my life, the world was simply competition. Maybe it should be shameful to admit, but for a long time, others—women, in particular—were not for me… because they were against me.
I fell prey to the societal trap of pitting myself against my gender. If a girl (or woman) was more/better than me in any way, I was, thus, inferior. God forbid a female “has it all”—looks, smarts, athleticism/grace, strength—physical and otherwise, money, friends, influence, sex appeal… These rare unicorns were enemy numero uno in my young life.
Ironic, I know, since there are friends who will say I just described my young self. Yet, I never saw it that way. Which is exactly what the beauty, diet, clothing, fitness, lingerie, etc. etc. etc. industries aim to achieve. And they got me hook, line and sinker.
I spent the better part of two decades living in that dark head space. Perhaps I pretended to be living somewhere else, but if I’m truthful, my residence was firmly planted on Self-Conscious Street. Right next door to Comparison Avenue. If a better house was planned to go up across the street, I did what I could to rationalize why it wasn’t, in fact, any better than my own. Sure, it’s beautiful, but it has cheap windows. It’s got ample square footage, but the wiring is a mess…
I had it all wrong, of course. As any real estate investor will tell you, property values increase with greater valued neighbors. The other, more important fact I’ve learned is a house is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. After all, if it’s the right house for me, it’s less about what the market values it at, and all about what I decide it’s worth.
Aging and becoming a mother have both done much to remove the media/marketing scales from my eyes. This isn’t to say I have it all figured out, or that I don’t have days when I revert to old ways of thinking. There are thoughts of the “not enough” variety that still sneak into my mind. Blindness strikes on occasion, and I’m fooled into believing I need to be more (or less) of something.
The best medicine to remedy this affliction for me is just that… those two words; for me.
When I look out into the world with my “for me” glasses on, suddenly I hold the power.
The messages tell me…
“You must build a body that looks like this, and you must do it in this way.” I reply, “That body is beautiful, and that way of achieving it is admirable, but it isn’t for me.”
“You must be a wife and a mother like this, and you must do it in this way.” I reply, “That way of being wife and mother is one of many. I appreciate it, but it isn’t for me.”
“You must be a woman like this, in this way to be of value to the world.” I reply, “I am the woman I am meant to be, in the way in which I choose—in the way that works for me.”
In doing things for me, in a way that works for me, I have built a home inside my head where I can comfortably look out and see the beauty of all my neighbors around me— without the need to find fault in their homes. In fact, I can compliment them, learn from them, and even encourage them in their endeavors to build the home of their own dreams.
Should I decide to remodel, re-landscape, put on an addition, keep things the same, or pick up and move all together, it won’t be because I can’t compete with the neighbors. It will be because that’s what is right for me.