This week I’m celebrating my 39th birthday.
I’ve always loved getting older. For a long time, I’ve rounded up my age in the last 6 months before my birthday.
Is that a bit strange?
I think the reason I’m so excited about getting older is that I associate it with wisdom and experience (perhaps partly influenced by my cultural heritage). Plus, I’ve always looked younger than my age and worked in jobs where I’ve had to influence and guide people who were older and more senior than me. Being a young (and even younger looking) female in a corporate world, has not always been an asset.
When I was managing a bank branch at 21 years old, an older man came in to complain about something. I told him I could help him, and he pointed to one of my junior team members (a man who was obviously older than me) and said, ‘No, I want to speak to the manager’. He couldn’t believe that was me!
After many such occurrences, I learned to establish credibility quickly and sometimes that included hinting at my real age.
So much changes as you get older. For example, I no longer care about fake tanning (I keep telling my stepdaughter that day will come for her too eventually) and I refuse to freeze or to hurt my feet for fashion (well at least on regular basis!). And more importantly, I feel more confident, resilient, calm, less controlling and more intuitive than at any other time in my life. There’s still a way to go, but life is learning!
I’m thankful that I became a mum and step-mum in my 30s. There’s nothing wrong with being a mum in your 20s (I know many amazing mums in their 20s), but I know that I personally would have been a much more neurotic and stressed out mum than I am now, with less effective coping skills.
As for being a wife, many of you know this is my second time around. I’m definitely wiser this time, including knowing what I need and what doesn’t work for me in a relationship. I think every bit of growth we experience can also benefit our relationship with our partner, especially if they’re willing to grow with us!
So, as I enter the last year of my 30s, I’m actually even more excited about turning 40 next year! But this year has opportunities and surprises in store and I can’t wait to see what they are.
39 powerful life lessons
In honour of my 39th birthday, I want to share 39 things I’ve learned in life, that have made me a better woman, wife and mum. These are the things I keep coming back to, to keep me grounded, sane and help me make decisions. I hope you find them inspiring, relatable and helpful.
1. I am good enough. I don’t need to apologise for being me. That doesn’t mean that I don’t need to improve at all. I can be good enough and still striving to be the best version of myself.
2. I set my own standards. Only I define who I am and who I want to be. I don’t have to live up to other people’s (parents included) expectations or opinions, if they aren’t aligned with mine. Often others are not affected by my decisions anyway and only I need to be comfortable with the consequences. I also don’t need to compare myself to anyone.
3. No matter how much you hear and read about motherhood, you just don’t totally ‘get’ it until you’ve experienced it. It can still take you by complete surprise and it can be harder and more amazing than you could’ve imagined. At the same time.
4. Life is full of stages and phases – things will pass…eventually.
5. If I don’t look after myself, I’m useless to everyone else.
6. A smile is contagious and happiness is magnetic. Being sparkly improves everyone’s day.
7. Fake it till you make it. If you change your behaviour and physical state, then your emotions will follow. This is not about being inauthentic but allowing your body and actions to lead you to feeling happier, more confident, calmer, etc.
8. I generally find people energising, but as I’m getting older, I sometimes appreciate a little time alone to recharge. It’s important to know what refreshes and restores you.
9. Perfection is unattainable (although still sometimes desirable to me) and I can release myself from that standard. No one else expects as much from me as I do and no one is perfect.
10. Failing is not that bad, in fact, it could even be positive. Mistakes are a fantastic way to learn. Failing has not ever caused me any major lasting damage.
11. If something makes me feel scared, it might just be the right thing to do.
12. I can’t plan everything in life. There are too many variables that are out of my control. There are possibilities I can’t even conceive. Life is about the journey not the destination. Sometimes having no plan is the best plan.
13. I only need to invest my energy and time in relationships that are good for me.
14. Asking someone for help does not necessarily cause them to think I’m inconveniencing or imposing on them. In fact it can be flattering and they are often delighted to accept. I shouldn’t be surprised by this, because I want people I care about to feel like they can ask for my help and I’m usually delighted to do it.
15. If I’m unexpectedly overcome by emotion and tears, then I may have found an unresolved hurt.
16. Self-compassion is not lazy or taking the easy way out. It’s self-love.
17. It’s amazing to help people (I love it) AND it’s also ok to say no sometimes.
18. I can trust my intuition. The more I listen to it, the louder it speaks. I previously thought I just wasn’t an intuitive person but I realise now, that I wasn’t letting my intuition have a voice.
19. If you don’t learn from your mistakes and deal with your hurts, they simply keep presenting themselves over and over, possibly in even more painful ways. What you resist, persists.
20. You can never really understand every detail of what someone else is going through, so don’t judge their responses or actions. It isn’t my place to judge them. When someone hurts you or does something wrong, ask yourself, what might be happening in their life, that has driven them to do that? (It doesn’t justify the act, but it helps me take a compassionate perspective and not get so hung up on things).
21. Not every thought that comes into my head is the truth. My inner critic is scared and I can approach her with compassion and gratitude for trying to keep me safe, while not being directed by her fears.
22. I can’t control what happens around me and to me, but I can control how I react and what baggage I carry with me through my life.
23. Being consistently authentic is the most comfortable, energising and purposeful state for me to be in. It helps people understand and trust who I am and what I stand for. Not everyone will like me and that’s actually totally fine.
24. I am stronger than I think and more courageous than I imagined. Courage is not the absence of fear.
25. We need to work through conflicts, even when they make us uncomfortable and emotional. Keep talking and communicating authentically. Two people can disagree or argue and still feel connected. In fact, good conflict resolution skills deepen connection.
26. True friendships are effortless and also need to be nurtured. True friends never question your motives because they understand you. They stand by you through the storms of life and love you when you make mistakes.
27. Routines, planning and organisation help me keep my stress levels down and creativity feeds my soul.
28. Children trigger our hurts from the past and we need to work out what that hurt is and deal with it, rather than project our hurt onto the child.
29. I can trust others and let go of control.
30. Resilience is one of the most important skills I can have. Nothing grows without rain, so I can embrace the storms in my life.
31. People’s negative comments and actions towards others are often a reflection of their own insecurities or feelings about themselves. Hurt people hurt people. (That can also apply to me).
32. Laugh every day. Laughter is physically, mentally and emotionally healing. Plus it’s great for relationships.
33. If you’re not happy with yourself, then you can’t be truly happy in a relationship.
34. Mindset is everything. You are what you think.
35. There’s a positive in most situations. You just have to look for it. Sometimes it isn’t apparent until later.
36. Gratitude breeds happiness and the more you express your gratitude, the more things you will find to be grateful for.
37. The truth always comes out eventually. Honesty is always the best policy.
38. Physical space creates mental space. I need physical space in my home (which means it needs to be uncluttered) and I need to get out in nature or uncrowded places to stay balanced.
39. Every day, you could be having an important positive impact on someone’s life without even knowing it. Sometimes what seems insignificant to me, is incredibly significant to someone else, for example, a smile, or simple text message.
Gosh, that’s a lot and I feel like I could keep writing that list for a lot longer. There’s so much to learn!
It’s amazing to sit and think about what life has taught you. The lessons can just pass us by if we don’t stop to take notice.
Now it’s over to you.
Is there something in my list that’s helpful for you, lovely mum?
Take a moment to reflect on your own life lessons right now.
What’s 1 thing you’ve learned this year that has made you a better woman, partner and / or mum?
How will this change how you navigate 2018?
I’d love to know what your answer is! Leave me a comment here on the blog, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m cheering you on as you learn and grow!