Do you ever think about how you’ve changed and evolved throughout your life?
As I turn 40 this week, I’ve been reflecting on exactly that.
Whilst my core values haven’t really changed, I’m definitely not the same person I was in my 20s.
Last weekend, I was blessed to celebrate my birthday over 3 days, with friends and family from near and far. On arrival at a casual dinner on Friday night, one of my long time friends asked where he and his wife should sit.
I replied, “anywhere you like!”
He looked at me in disbelief. “You mean you haven’t organised where you want everyone to sit?”
That made me smile. The old Louise (“old” meaning the previous version of myself, as opposed to my age), loved (or needed) to organise and control every detail. The new Louise didn’t need to allocate seats and to be honest, wasn’t bothered at all about where people sat. It’s just a glimpse into the evolution of Louise.
Have you heard the saying “what got you here won’t get you there”?
This saying refers to the fact that we can’t keep on doing the same thing over and over and expect better or different results. We need to change and adapt to create the life we want at each stage.
I’ve made mistakes, fallen short and felt ashamed, just like the next person but I can honestly say that I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and the person I’ve become.
I often talk about the old Louise vs the new Louise and how the differences have changed my life and my experience of life.
Today, I want to share the 4 most significant shifts that I have experienced, that are the foundation of my life now, and have been integral in me finding more happiness, peace and confidence than ever before.
1. I set my own priorities and trust myself
As a child, I was always the good girl. I wanted desperately to do my best and reach the standards others set for me. I chose my university course based on what I thought my parents wanted me to do. I did what I thought I “should” do. As I got older, I continued this to some degree. I researched endlessly to make decisions. I couldn’t shake the opinions of my father. I worried about failing. My life was happy but these things were creating an undercurrent of stress and worry.
Then, suddenly the world as I knew it fell apart, when my first marriage broke down. This was a huge turning point for me. I had to decide whether my fear of failure and shame was bigger than my need to be happy and well. (I want to be clear that I certainly don’t think divorce is shameful when it happens to others but I felt like I had failed.) I had to accept that I couldn’t control everything and that no matter how hard I tried things would not always work out as I wanted. I had to put aside what everyone else thought I should and shouldn’t do, and make a decision that was right for me. I had to trust that I knew what I needed. So much was lost, but so much was also gained through this experience.
I learned how strong I am and that I know myself better than anyone. That I had to look after and back myself. I realised that what others think you “should” do is not always based on what’s best for you, but can be clouded by their own fears or insecurities. No one can understand all the details of your life and therefore they may be unable to understand why you make particular decisions. But that doesn’t matter. I learned that deep down, I knew what I needed but that it could be buried in fear, so I had to look underneath that fear.
These lessons have stuck with me since that time. They’ve helped me navigate my second marriage and motherhood by following my intuition, setting my own priorities and trusting myself. There’s no need to compare, or to worry about what others think.
Because of this, I am enjoying a life that is aligned to who I truly am (even while I am always discovering more about myself).
2. I am confidently imperfect
Perfectionism can seem like such a virtue. Holding yourself to high standards appears to be a positive, motivating force. Why wouldn’t you want to do your best? Why wouldn’t you give your all to things and people that you care about?
But then again, why would you hold yourself to standards that are so much higher than those you hold everyone else to? Why would you want to be stressed, overwhelmed and anxious because of these standards?
For me, perfectionism was based on a fear of failing and of not being good enough. I’d attached my self-worth to how well I did things.
Again, it was the breakdown of my first marriage that blessed me with this lesson. There was no escaping from or hiding the imperfection in my life. Lies, misconceptions and assumptions happened all around me. I was so emotionally and mentally consumed that I dropped the ball on other things because, well, we can only manage so much! It took a long time for me to be able to say I was divorced without internally cringing with shame.
Thankfully, through this process, I realised that perfection is just not necessary. That the right people loved and valued me regardless. That what others thought didn’t really matter. I saw how being authentic in my imperfections, was helpful for others, and led to even deeper connections. Most importantly, I learned that imperfection can lead to even more happiness, peace and confidence than I can imagine. And so, I now longer fear failure or pursue perfection and rest in the peace of being good enough.
3. I only invest in relationships with people who are good for my soul
I’m aware that this might sound harsh. It’s not that I ignore everyone else or only look for what I can get out of relationships. I love connecting with all sorts of people and helping people. But when it comes to deciding who to spend most of my time with and who to connect more deeply with, them I’m extremely picky.
I’ve been in friendships that petered out when it wasn’t so convenient, or when challenges arose. I’ve had friendships that felt one sided and those that felt so effortful. Some relationships cause you to feel stressed, anxious and emotionally exhausted. These are not the sort of relationships that I’m looking for.
My tribe is made up of people who just get me. They have similar values, are authentic, loving, kind, humble, fun and just genuinely good people. The people in my tribe are willing to invest in the relationship as much as I am (over time of course, because things always ebb and flow and life brings challenges to us all at different times). When I spend time with people in my tribe, I feel happier, calmer and valued.
This isn’t like a checklist of things that I tick off when I meet people. It’s based on my intuition. I’ve come to be able to sense very quickly whether I click with someone and whether they are genuinely investing in the relationship. I believe we all have that knowing deep inside, but we may not be practiced at hearing it and listening to it. I certainly didn’t always hear it in the past!
We only have so much time and attention, and as mothers, our families demand so much of it. So, whats left needs to be spent wisely. We all deserve support, love, and to be surrounded by people who see our value. We need authentic people who accept us for who we are and who don’t judge or put us down. It’s helpful to remember that, we actually become more like the people we spend the most time with.
Who do you want to be like?
Relationships are vital for our wellbeing and the quality of our connections impacts our lives in so many ways. I’m also so conscious now, that we are role modelling for our children how to choose friends and how to value themselves in relationship with others. It can be hard to let go of relationships that aren’t good for you and we don’t want to hurt people, but ultimately, we deserve better.
Who’s in your tribe? Are they good for you?
4. I embrace the unknown
As someone who has been described as a control freak more than once, this is an incredibly powerful shift. My husband still sometimes uses that term to describe me, but he never met the old Louise, so he’s comparing me to himself! It’s all relative!
I had what I thought was a great (and detailed) life plan and despite my greatest efforts, my life turned out nothing like it! But, I’m so happy to report that the life that I couldn’t have imagined, is better than the one I had! I would never have imagined that I would be living where I am, divorced and remarried, a step mum of 3 or that I’d be soon to have a little granddaughter at 40 years old! (one of my beautiful stepdaughters is pregnant). I hadn’t considered that I would work for myself, have so much flexibility and freedom, and be following my passions. I’d never imagined that I would love motherhood (including step-motherhood) so much, or find it so challenging, or that it would change my priorities so quickly.
And most of all, I would never have imagined that I would be genuinely enthusiastic about seeing where life takes me without having a detailed plan.
I often tell people that I’m so excited by the idea that the future could be better than anything I could imagine. Oh, the possibilities! We can’t control everything, and being overly concerned with forcing the outcomes we want can make us stressed and frustrated. We could also miss fantastic opportunities that we hadn’t previously considered.
For me, embracing the unknown is a much less stressful and more enjoyable way to live. Even for this recovering perfectionist and former control freak (ok, maybe recovering control freak, if you listen to my husband!).
So, there you have it, lovely; the 4 most significant shifts I’ve experienced that have brought me more happiness, peace and confidence. These principles are so important in my life now, and I’m so grateful that I’ve experienced what I have, to bring me to this point.
Can you relate to any of these shifts?
What shifts have you made over your life that have helped you most?
What shifts do you think you might need to make?
What got you here won’t get you there.