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It’s Time to Stop Chasing Perfection

And start accepting it

You are already perfect.

Yet, you don’t feel it. Far from it. All you can see are imperfections. When you look in the mirror. When you hear the voices inside your head. When you look at everyone else’s life.

And yet, you are perfect.

Your life might not be picture perfect. It might be a tangled mess of conflicting emotions, contradictions, and inconsistencies. But your life is perfect.

You are perfect.

Chasing false perfection

Modern society is obsessed with perfection. And geared towards chasing it. Yet, the ‘perfect’ defined by modern society, doesn’t exist. The perfect 36–24–36 female body. The perfect six-pack abs. The perfect bright-white-straight-teeth smile. The perfect design-magazine home. The perfect dutiful daughter/son/husband/wife/employee. The perfect for-life job. The perfect two-child family. The perfect happy-every-moment life.

That’s fantasy, not perfection.

Worse still, it’s fantasy born from judgement. If there’s a ‘perfect life’, then there must also be an ‘imperfect life’.
Think about the voices in your head that you beat yourself up with. Aren’t they all about how you’re failing at being perfect? How you’re not thin enough, or attractive enough. How your home isn’t big enough, and your car not new enough. How your kids don’t go to the right school. How you’re not attentive enough to your elderly parents. How you don’t do enough for your family.
Who decided what was enough, and what wasn’t?

It certainly wasn’t you. You inherited that way of thinking, from your family and from society.

Reframing perfection

My ‘perfect’ is very different. It’s kind, non-judgemental and accepting.

This kind of perfect allows you to be yourself. As you are. It allows you to see what’s right there before you. And be OK with it, instead of judging it. It doesn’t seek to find fault. It seeks the clarity that can only come from seeing everything as it is.

Seeing everything as it is ISN’T about seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. It’s about seeing, with clarity, everything before you, and being OK with it ALL. Even those parts of yourself and others you’re less than thrilled with.

Looking at the world like this is hard, because you’re not used to it. Those voices in your head won’t have anything to beat you up about if you start being like this.

And yet, this is what you must do if you want to be happier and less stressed out by life.

Seeing yourself as perfect doesn’t mean that there’s no room for self-improvement. Far from it. It gives you greater room for self-improvement, because it gives you clarity. Clarity that comes from seeing everything and accepting it all. This makes sense if you think about it. If you don’t accept what you see, then what you see isn’t there. And how can you work on something that isn’t there?

I know this one well. A lot of behaviours used to press my buttons. Other people’s behaviours. In response, I complained. I got irritated, angry even. I had to have the last word. I felt I was in the right. All I could see was THEIR behaviours. And I felt MY response was justified.

This way of living was exhausting, and deeply unsatisfying. When it became unsustainable, I was forced to look more closely at behaviours. Starting with mine.

In doing this, I discovered that I behaved like this for a very good reason. I couldn’t bear to see my part in it, let alone accept it. I couldn’t own my behaviour, because it was too painful. You see, back then, I still had the wrong perspective on perfection. So my being perfect required that I have no flaws. This meant that all the flaws HAD to belong to others. That’s why this way of living was unsustainable.

When I was able to see and accept why I behaved as I did, I could start working on myself and my life. I could start down the path of self-improvement that has enabled me to live with much greater ease.

What happens to your life when you see yourself as perfect

Your life gets better, that’s what happens.

When you see yourself as perfect, you STOP:

  • Beating yourself up
  • Being constantly stressed-out
  • Seeing the negative in everything
  • Feeling less happy than you think you should

And you START:

  • Feeling more in control
  • Being more grateful
  • Being more loving
  • Feeling happier
  • Seeing the positive in everything
  • Having better relationships
  • Feeling more alive
  • Living more fully

How to start seeing yourself as perfect

The first thing you need to do is to acknowledge that you spend a lot of time focussing on the negative in your life. On what’s missing from your life, and not on what you have. On wishing things were different than they actually are: “If only I/she was more…”; “When I have …, then I’ll be …”.

When you can acknowledge that you’re wishing your life away, then you can start to change.

There’s an easy way to start shifting your perspective from a negative to a positive one. Begin a daily gratitude practice. At the end of every day, write down three new things from that day for which you’re grateful. You can be grateful for anything! From a chat with a loved one, to finishing a project, to some kind words when you needed them, to a new music download. You can share these at your dinner table, or keep them to yourself. By the end of the week, you‘ll have 21 new things to be grateful for; 91 after four weeks, and 1,092 by the end of the year. After practicing gratitude for a while, you’ll notice some important things. That you have A LOT to be grateful for. And that most of what you’re grateful for comes from OTHERS.

Alongside your daily gratitude practice, these practices will also make you more positive:

  • Vigorous exercise three times at week for at least 20 minutes.
  • Performing a daily random act of kindness/generosity. This can be anything. Like writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Or paying something forward. Or helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Or giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  • Reliving a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this — you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  • Practicing forgiveness — of yourself and others — for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges from your past hurts you TODAY. You see, your nervous system stores the memory of past, unforgiven hurts. And when something today reminds it of a past hurt, the memory triggers a stress response. This gives a whole new meaning to your past coming back to haunt you!!
  • Strengthening the quality of your relationships. This has the biggest impact on happiness, according to research.
  • Meditating daily. Meditation helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases the alpha waves in your brain. This gives you more control over your response to stressful situations. Even two minutes a day has an effect, so start small and build up.
  • Being clear on who you are and why you’re here. This gives you a sense of purpose that’s larger than the humdrum of day-to-day life. Humans whose basic needs are met often search for work they find meaningful.

Accepting your inherent perfection

With a positive mindset, it’s easier to accept yourself as the perfect being you are. To see — and love — everything about yourself. To work on the parts you want to change. And, through accepting your own perfection, you can see others, and life in general, in the same light.

When you accept that you’re perfect, you can become the person you want to be. Your best self, living the life you know is possible. This is why it’s time to stop chasing society’s false perfection. And start accepting that you are already perfect.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

say-n.o.-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Learning how to say N.O.

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

When you’re a kid, saying N.O. comes easy. So easy, that there are times when all kids seem to say is N.O.. Kids do this to test their boundaries. To see what they can – and can’t – get away with.

As you get older, boundary testing loses some of its lustre. Not because of the testing per se, which can still be a lot of fun. But because of the response you get to it, which isn’t much fun at all.

You see, by the time you’re an adult, you’re expected to know the rules. The rules of what you can and can’t do, of the behaviour expected of you. The boundaries are set. So when you’re asked to do something – even something you might not want to do – saying N.O. becomes harder. That’s the start of the slippery slope towards saying Y.E.S. to everything.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything seems pretty awesome. It makes you appear very accommodating, very obliging. Kind even. But appearances can be deceptive.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything is anything but awesome. It’s disrespectful. To you. To others.

Why saying Y.E.S. to everything is disrespectful

The boundaries that are set in stone by the time you’re an adult are the problem. Because they’re not your boundaries. They’re society’s boundaries, an attempt at one-size-fits-all rules for behaviour. But the notion of one-size-fits-all is fallacious. It fails to take into account that you’re unique. As am I. 

How can one size fit a collection of unique beings?

Before we touch on the complex world of personalities, let’s look at a simpler example. How one-size-fits-all works in the fashion world. One-size-fits-all is typically a medium size. There’s the rub. Medium isn’t the average size of all women. The average size is larger than a medium. So one size fits few. I’ve always known this. As a 6ft tall, slender woman, I’ve long been a vital statistics outlier.

So, if one-size-fits-all fails to work for clothing, you can imagine how big a fail it is for boundaries.

When you say Y.E.S. to everything, you’re saying Y.E.S. to things that aren’t yours to do. Just because someone asks you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

Your own behaviour rules should be your guide. Not society’s or someone else’s. That’s where the disrespect comes in. By not following your own rules, you’re disrespecting them. In favour of someone else’s rules.

What does this look like in practice?

Imagine you’re at home on the weekend, working through your never-ending To Do list. A friend calls. She needs some help with something on her To Do list. Do you say Y.E.S. or N.O.?

If you say N.O., you’ll feel guilty for letting her down. But are you letting her down? No! If you backed out after she’d booked your time days ahead, that’s one thing. But when she asks last minute, and you have things of your own planned? No!

But if you say Y.E.S., you’ll be letting yourself down. You’re saying that your To Do list is less important than your friend’s. That you are less important than she is.

That’s how you’re being disrespectful to yourself.

Then there’s being disrespectful to others by saying Y.E.S.. If you say Y.E.S. to helping someone with something very specific, and that’s all you do, no problem. But if you go beyond that, doing extra things that are easy for you to do at the same time, then that’s not OK. It’s not OK, because your actions are implying: “I can do this better/faster than you.”

And that’s how you’re being disrespectful to others.

Learning how to say N.O.

Unlearning long-practiced behaviour – habits – can be hard. Especially if you try to go cold turkey.

It’s much easier if you replace one habit with another. Replace saying Y.E.S. with saying N.O. But, before you can do that, you need to get clear on what your own boundaries are.

Your boundaries are the lines that define you. What you will, and won’t do. What’s for you to do, and what’s for others to do. They’re your personal rules for living.

You determine your boundaries from the keystones of your life. So, if you don’t know what your keystones are, you’ll have to start there. My keystones are those things in my life that are non-negotiable. Like not doing anything that goes against my values. Like spending my time in pursuit of my own goals, ones that come from my life vision. Like not eating anything I know is harmful to my health. Like getting enough sleep. Like not helping others to fill a need in myself. Like using love to guide my interactions with others. Like daily physical activity. Like living in the moment. Like learning new things every day. Things like that.

Knowing what my boundaries are has made it much easier to say N.O. Anything that sits outside my boundaries gets a N.O. Deciding whether to say Y.E.S. or N.O. has become a no-brainer.

The other thing I had to learn about saying N.O. was to do with its delivery. How to make sure my N.O. didn’t sound like a F*** You. This, too, was helped by my having boundaries. Boundaries mean the N.O. never comes with baggage attached to it. Today’s N.O.s come from a place of peace – of knowing what’s for me, and not. Before I got clear on my boundaries, my N.O.s were always triggered by something. That could be stress, an old memory, unfairness – there were a lot of potential triggers. And that made N.O.s tumble out of my mouth like F*** Yous.

Know thyself, and life gets much easier

Learning how to say N.O. is all about knowing yourself. Who you are. What you stand for. When you’re clear on this, everything else falls into place. Decisions get easier to make. Life feels more comfortable. Because you’re living it on your terms, not someone else’s.

Remember, you are unique… wonderfully so. And that’s why it’s OK to say N.O. 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

happiness-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to create more happiness in your life

And why it’s an inside job

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

When I hear comments like this, it makes me sad. You see, it’s a sign that someone has given away his power. And that he doesn’t understand what life is about.

Giving away your power is something you do all too readily these days. It’s not your fault. You’re encouraged to. No, it’s worse than that. You’re rewarded for giving away your power.

Rewards come from meeting criteria

Whenever you’re rewarded for doing something, it’s because you’ve met certain criteria. Other people’s criteria, not yours. The rewards can come in many forms. A pay increase, or a promotion. A kiss, or a date. An invitation, or a gift.

You’re human, so you like rewards. They feel good.

But that good feeling they generate is fleeting. And is all too quickly replaced by a request to meet more criteria.

Hamster wheel, anyone?

The power game

No one means to give her power away. It just happens. That’s because there’s a power game in play. All the time. It’s the nature of modern society – and not-so-modern ones, too.

Those in power demand obedience. How? Via those rewards you like so much. Rewards come from meeting their criteria; agreeing to meet them is a sign of obedience.

See what I mean?

The meaning of life

Living like this is not living.

It’s more like existing. Existing to please others.

When you believe things like:

“He makes me so happy!”

“I can’t be happy without her!”

“When I get my next promotion, I’ll be happy!”

it’s a sure sign that you’re spending more time pleasing others than living fully. It’s a sure sign that you’re settling in some way. Dancing to the beat of someone else’s drum. And that’s not where happiness lives.

The truth about happiness

Happiness lives within each of us. Yes, even you.

You don’t get happiness from other people or things. You find happiness in yourself. And if you can’t find it, you need to create it.

There’s a wealth of research available proving that you can create happiness yourself. “Create” is an important word, because your brain isn’t designed to make you happy. It’s designed to make you survive. So you have to do the job yourself. You have to take control of your thoughts – and your life – and create your own happiness.

That’s why happiness is an inside job.

How to create more happiness in your life

Here are eight practices to re-wire your brain to be happier. They’re even scientifically-proven*. Stick with them until they become habits – that makes them much easier to maintain.

  1. Exercise three times at week – 20 minutes of cardio training.
  2. Express your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones – each person sharing their three things.
  3. Perform a daily random act of kindness/generosity. There are so many ways to do this. Writing emails to colleagues praising something they did. Paying something forward. Helping pick up things someone’s dropped. Giving a bigger-than-expected tip after a meal.
  4. Re-live a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this – you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
  5. Practice forgiveness – of yourself and others – for past wrong-doings. Holding onto grudges is bad for your happiness and health. Your nervous system gets triggered into stress mode every time it recognizes something in the present that hurt you in the past.
  6. Strengthen your social connections. In all research, meaningful relationships are the single most important contributor to happiness. Warning: you may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one. Being stressed out doesn’t make you a lot of fun to be around.
  7. Practice mindfulness daily. I recommend meditation – even two minutes morning and night makes a difference. A daily meditation practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. It also gives you more control over your response to everything, including stressful situations.
  8. Find the meaning in your life and live it. Have a life vision that reflects who you are and what you’re here to do, and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.

Start working on your happiness today. Trust me, it’s the best job ever.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

* Sources: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor; Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert; Dave Asprey’s “Science of Happiness” video.

service-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Service or self-sacrifice?

And why you need to know the difference.

You see pain and hardship all around you, and you want to help. People you know, people you don’t know. Your big heart is guiding you to do this.

Or is it?

There’s another part of you that could also be guiding you. Your ego. Your desire to be seen in a certain way, as a certain kind of person.

That’s how it was for me. I felt a strong desire to be of service to people in need. Part of that came from a true desire to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others. And part of it came from my own neediness.

I couldn’t see the neediness part for years. Even though I was sometimes aware of doing things to showcase the ‘good’ work I was doing. I wanted people to know that I, who had the skills and expertise to be earning a lot more money, had chosen not to. So I could ‘do good’.

Working on and off for non profits scratched that itch. But my real coup de grâce came when I left a happy, carefree life to look after my ageing mother who had Parkinson’s.

I can say in all honesty that my decision to become my mum’s caregiver didn’t come from my ego. It came from my heart. But my subsequent behaviour came from my ego a lot of the time. Too much of the time.

I found my new life as my mum’s caregiver overwhelming. I was devastated to see someone I loved so much crumbling away. I was flying solo and had no respite from my caregiving role for months at a time. I was stressed out trying to manage everything. I had to work full-time to support the two of us, and hire minders to keep my mum safe during the day. I was up a lot at night helping her. I spent my evenings and weekends minding my mum and doing household chores. It was a lot to deal with.

The more stressed out I got, the more my ego reared its ugly head. My ego wanted the world to see the ‘dutiful daughter’. And ‘superwoman’. And the ‘good person’. And a whole bunch of other personas.

All I could see was that my behaviour towards my mum was inconsistent. One moment I was snappish; the next, kind.

But I didn’t understand why.

Many years later, I understand my behaviour.

Snappish Sarah was ego-driven behaviour, whereas kind Sarah was heart-driven. These two co-existed — uncomfortably — for the seven years I was her caregiver.

Of greater consequence was this. That what started as service quickly became self-sacrifice.

Service and self-sacrifice may look the same from the outside, but, from the inside, they’re not. There’s a big difference between them. Service is enriching, and self-sacrifice is depleting. For everyone concerned.

Service feels loving to all. Self-sacrifice feels destructive to all. Service makes everyone feel grateful. Self-sacrifice makes everyone feel guilty.

 

I also understand what lay behind my behaviour.

What caused me to go from service to self-sacrifice was that I’d stopped putting myself first.

I’d stopped caring for myself — for my own needs. I’d stopped nourishing myself, other than in the most basic of ways. I’d become so depleted that I went into survival mode — a mode where fear is in charge. And when fear is in charge, there’s no place for love.

You see, if you want to give of yourself — to serve — you must have something to give. What you’re told every time you’re on a plane is true. You have to help yourself — put on your own oxygen mask — before you help others with theirs.

Self-care is the starting place for service, because if you want to give your best, you have to be your best. And being your best means your whole self must be nourished. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

So start putting yourself first today. With that big heart of yours, you’re hot-wired to serve. After all, service is what gives your life meaning.

Just make sure you don’t self-sacrifice instead. For everyone’s sake.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

trust-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What happens when you trust with your whole heart?

The unimaginable does

I always tried to control everything. Life got so messy if I didn’t. Love. Work. Play. Everything.

I learned very young about control. I had to, it was an essential survival tactic. If I controlled what I thought, how I behaved, and how I felt, I got along just fine. On the rare occasion when my emotions got the better of me, they were smacked back down into their place.

That’s how things were.

In time, control became part of my persona. In truth, it became my protective shell. If I didn’t feel in control, things started to unravel inside me in ways that I couldn’t deal with. I can’t explain it, but not being in control opened a door to an awful mess that I wasn’t equipped to deal with at the time.

I became very task oriented, because tasks were something I could control. People, less so! I did my best not to hurt people… unless they stood between me and getting a task done. Then I would bulldoze their feelings off to the side and keeping moving forward. I wasn’t proud of my behaviour. That’s how it was.

Although I didn’t know it at the time, fear held me in its grip. I was afraid of the world – it had always felt such an unsafe place to me. And, because of that, I didn’t feel I could trust. Anyone. Anything. Myself included. So I had to control, to try to force things to happen.

And that was a total disaster.

I got more and more controlling, and more and more unhappy and stressed out. Until one day, when I imploded. I was so utterly exhausted from all the effort I was putting into controlling. I was so utterly empty inside from living without trust.

When you hit rock bottom, you have a choice. You can either numb the pain, hoping it will go away. Or you can make sure it goes away by making some changes in your life. I chose the latter, despite knowing that my changes had to be radical. And I knew exactly where to start.

With trust. I had to start trusting. Myself. Others. The universe.

My journey to trust

I started with my friends, by asking them for help when I needed it. This was me trusting that they wouldn’t drop me as a friend, thinking I was weak for needing help. Yeah, I know. Baby steps.

When this felt safe, I moved on to people in general. First, I stopped apologizing all the time. For saying things I believed. For being in someone’s way. For being unwilling to do things I didn’t want to do.

Next, I stopped being defensive. I had a right to hold an opinion, and it didn’t have to be the same as someone else’s. Other people also had a right to hold an opinion I didn’t share.

Then I started accepting compliments. Saying “Thank you”, and meaning it. That meant no more detracting from compliments by saying something to devalue them. Such as “In this old rag? I’ve had it for years!” or “Oh, this wasn’t really my work, X helped me with it.”

And then, I reached the point where I was OK with people I trusted being untrustworthy. By being OK with it, I mean it didn’t send me scurrying back into my protective control shell. I learned my lesson from each incident, but remained in trust mode. The overarching lesson I learned was that I wasn’t protecting myself well. By asking lots more questions before making decisions, I fixed that.

The final frontier was trusting myself. Trusting my instincts. Trusting my wisdom. Trusting my skills. Trusting that I am enough. Trusting that I am worthy… of happiness, of help, of trust, of love.

As I worked through this, I discovered something about trusting myself. That it’s entwined with trusting the universe. I couldn’t trust that the universe had my back unless I trusted that I deserved it.

You see it all goes back to love. Self-love.

You cannot trust with your whole heart unless you love with your whole heart.

And when you finally do trust – and love – with your whole heart, magic happens. Magic that you could never conjure up yourself.

The unimaginable happens.

The unimaginable

  Doors open that you didn’t even know were there.
  ‘Coincidences’ happen that confirm the direction you should take.
  Your tribe starts to form around you, united by the positive, not the negative.
  You feel energized by life, even when challenges come your way… which they always will.
  You feel compassion for people who aren’t like you – feelings of fear and judgement subside.
  You wake up excited about the day ahead.
  You go to sleep grateful for the day you had.
  Your heart sings.

Jump into the unknown and trust. Trust as if your whole life depended on it.

Because it does.

 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

older-women-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

In Praise of Older Women

Why it’s time to stop concealing your age and start embracing it.

I’m 55. My hair is grey. My skin shows my hard-earned miles on the clock.

And I love it.

I didn’t always feel like this. I’m a reformed age concealer.

Grey hairs made their first appearance in my late 20s. I didn’t think anything of them at first. But when there were so many that removing them by hand would have left a bald patch, I decided to do something about it.

My first foray into the world of hair dyeing involved henna. I mixed up what looked and smelled like a cow pat, and spooned it all over my head. Some time later, when the henna had worked its magic, I surveyed my handiwork and was happy with what I saw. A mop of shiny hair with no grey ones jumping out at me. Result!

It’s fair to say that henna was a gateway product for me. I used it until I stopped getting what I wanted from it. I then turned to the hard stuff. Chemical hair dye. Every four weeks for the next 15 years.

Once you start dyeing your hair — especially if it’s dark — it’s hard to stop. You become a grey-root-a-phobe. All you notice about yourself when your hair needs dyeing are your roots. And everyone else is staring at them, too… you believe. You get used to seeing yourself with hair the same colour as it was when you were in your early 20s. You get used to other people seeing you that way, too.

You get used to looking younger than you are.

You also get used to shelling out a lot of money to keep your habit going. And you get used to chemical warfare being waged on your scalp every month.

One day, after allowing the fountain of eternal youth to seduce me for 23 years, I stopped. I stopped concealing the truth — that I was grey-haired and older than I looked.

It had been brewing for a while. Not on its own, but as part of a much larger issue I’d been encountering.

Ageism.

Ageism entered my life when I was about 45. And has never left. Ageism has many faces. Medical conditions being attributed to age instead of being investigated. Not getting interviews for jobs you’re 100% qualified for. (And finding out later they hired someone with half your experience.) Being given no voice in workplaces espousing equality.

A couple of incidents stand out for me.

When I was in my late 40s, a recruitment consultant told me to “dumb down” my résumé to take 10 years off my age. “Marketing is a young person’s game. Besides, you look much younger than you are so it’ll work”, he told me.

A few years later, I read an article by a millennial career and workplace expert. An advocate for authenticity at work, he discusses how important it is for his generation. Yet, when asked to provide advice for people in their 40s/50s looking for work, he said something like this. Older workers need to cut jobs and accomplishments from their résumés so they appear younger. And must never put their photos on anything! So, authenticity is important for millennials, but not for 50-somethings?

Then there was the sexism that accompanied this. From other women.

When I stopped dyeing my hair, the only negative feedback I got was from women. “Oh my god, why are you doing that! You look so young for your age right now!” “You won’t be hired looking like that!” This ageism/sexism mix shocked me. Let’s be honest, no man would ever get comments like this. Especially not from his own gender.

Even worse was the sense I got from other women that I was ‘letting the side down’. As in letting other women down. It’s so hard to put my finger on why I sensed this, but I did. As did a friend of mine when she stopped dyeing her hair after 30 years. Women would stare at my hair, talk amongst themselves, then stare again.

How dare I do this? How dare I suggest, via my grey hair, that other women my age might also be… my age?

I was gobsmacked, to say the least.

Today, my grey hair is still an issue. I continue to get feedback that more employment doors would open for me if I went back to being a brunette. But I also get comments from young women about how much they love my hair colour. It’s the colour many of them are dyeing their hair to be ‘on trend’. So what’s fashionable for younger women isn’t acceptable for older women?

The lack of acceptance of natural grey hair speaks to a much deeper, more significant issue.

That older people have little value in modern society.

Only women can change this. Not because we’re better than men. But because we’re contributing to this perception more than men. We’re doing so by agreeing to do what society demands of us. By dyeing our hair to conceal the grey. By spending a fortune on anti-aging products. By having cosmetic surgery to tighten up our skin. By not supporting women who stop playing this damaging game.

We have to change this. Fast. Because ever-increasing numbers of older women and men feel like they don’t matter. They worry about their future — their social and financial future. They feel like they’re on the scrap-heap — with nothing of value to contribute.

And they’re wrong.

The wisdom that comes with age is of immense value. The younger generations need this wisdom to help them recalibrate society’s values. They need this life experience to help them navigate the hard times that lie ahead. They need to learn from this expertise gained over decades.

Fellow older women: It’s time to accept your age. It’s time to let go of society’s false notions of age. It’s time to stop devaluing yourself by pretending to be someone you’re not.

It’s time to embrace yourself. As you are.

You are perfect, as you are. Your grey hair is perfect. Your loosening skin is perfect. Your wrinkles are perfect. How you look today is a reflection of everything you’ve accomplished in your life.

You’ve accomplished so much already. And have so much more left to offer.

Be bold. Be an older woman.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

self-worth-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

What I Learned from My Long Journey to Self-Worth

How the journey of a lifetime had an unknown destination.

I was 25 and unhappy. And I had no right to be. After all, I had everything anyone could want — a great job, a great education, somewhere to live, amazing friends. Yet, I was unhappy. Which also made me feel guilty and ungrateful.

As soon as I realised that I was unhappy, I promised myself I’d get to the bottom of it. That I would set out on a journey of discovery, which wouldn’t end until I understood why I, someone with everything, wasn’t deliriously happy.

My journey started with a bang. I imposed a ‘do not contact me’ order on a few people in my life who I instinctively recognised were toxic. Two were close family members. From this point on, I knew my journey wasn’t going to make me popular or meet with approval. But that didn’t matter — my promise to myself took precedence over all else.

The bang continued in the form of constant change, much of it, major. I changed jobs a couple of times, then moved 3,500 miles away from my hometown — I really felt I needed the space. For the next 18 years, I carried on changing jobs and moving endlessly. After each change, I’d get another piece of the puzzle and feel happier as a result, but, pretty soon, the unhappiness would return. Sometimes less intensely than before; sometimes more intensely.

I still had no real idea why I was unhappy, but was peeling back the layers of ignorance, one by one. Every now and then, I’d think I’d found the answer. This would manifest as my feeling lighter and happier for a longer period of time than usual. But then something would happen to knock me back down to earth.

After 18 years of being away, I returned to my hometown to look after an ailing parent. The minute I arrived, I knew that my journey was far from over. Every unhappiness button of mine was being pushed by what I was experiencing. This continued for seven long years, fuelled by intense stress and loss.

During that time, I flailed about, not knowing how to make my life feel any better. Until one cold winter’s day when I completely fell apart. I started crying and couldn’t stop. For hours. I had no control over it. When I finally did stop crying, I knew how to make my life feel better. I needed help.

I hated having to ask for help. After all, wasn’t I always the one who did the helping? Someone asked me why I found it so hard to ask for help when I clearly needed it. I, who is never lost for words, was lost for words. That intrigued me.

When I probed this further with people close to me, the question of ‘worth’ came up. “Maybe you don’t ask for help, because you don’t think you deserve to be helped,” observed a friend. “Of course I deserve help! Look at what I’m having to deal with on my own!” was my quick-fire reply. “Of course you deserve help! But do you think you’re deserving of help? Do you believe that you’re worthy of help?” was my friend’s considered response.

Stunned silence was my response this time.

This notion of worthiness sent me down a whole new path on my journey. “What is worthiness?” I pondered. “Is it confidence?”

I didn’t think so. Confidence seemed less deep — it was something you could fake ‘till you made it’. Yet, it was important — it seemed to hold your life together. I noticed — in myself and others — that when you had self-confidence, you were productive. You were both effective and efficient. I also noticed that productivity fed your self-confidence — like begat like. And that self-confidence was fragile.

Relentless stress or a sudden increase in stress levels seemed to be responsible for self-confidence’s fragility. It was as if stress tipped you over an edge into free fall. In free fall, you felt overwhelmed — you were no longer productive — and stuck. You didn’t know how to move forward — how to take yourself back to a place of self-confidence.

I noticed something bigger, too. That when your self-confidence took a hit for any length of time, a deeper part of you also took a hit.

My instinct told me that experiencing this feeling in the deeper place was more serious. It seemed as though poor self-confidence undermined your external self — whereas damage to this deeper place undermined your core self.

Damage to your self-confidence affected your productivity. Damage to your deeper self affected what you thought about yourself.

I could see that this deeper place clearly held the key to what had pushed me on my journey all those years ago. And, over time, I came to understand what it was — and why it was so important.

That deep place was my self-worth.

Your sense of self-worth is at the root of all of your belief systems. And your belief systems drive your behaviour and feelings.

So if you have great self-worth, then you’ll be a largely happy, “I can do anything I set my mind to” kind of person. If you have poor self-worth, you’ll be a largely unhappy, “I have no control over my life” kind of person.

The self-worth spectrum contains endless points, from ‘zero’ at one end to ‘true’ at the other. Building your self-worth takes a strong desire and relentless effort — no matter where you lie on its spectrum. Even if you start out with strong self-worth, it can be eroded by life’s challenges and your response to them.

But once you reach the ‘true self-worth’ end of the spectrum, you stay there. You stay there, because every cell in your body believes you are worthy. That you are worthy of love.

My journey led me to the discovery that love holds the key to everything. Because love is at the root of self-worth. If you believe you are loveable — worthy of receiving love — then you are worthy of receiving everything else. Of receiving help, of receiving remuneration in keeping with the value you add, of receiving kindness. And of truly giving love. Everything flows from love.

With love at its core, true self-worth is humble — it has nothing to prove. True self-worth is limitless — nothing holds it back. True self-worth is full of gratitude and joy. True self-worth is resilient to all of life’s challenges.

I promised myself over 30 years ago to find out why I was unhappy. And I kept my promise.

Because I am worth it.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

resilience-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to Spend Less Time on Autopilot and More Time Living

The art and science of conscious living.

When times get tough, I have a habit of going into autopilot mode. I learned to do this long ago – it was a way of making sure I got things done, even if all hell was breaking loose around me. So I guess you could say it works for me. Except when it doesn’t.

The trouble with autopilot mode is that it has no heart. You do everything by rote, without putting any of yourself into it. This is because you care more about getting things done than about how you do them. Or why you’re doing them. And when you do things without heart, your heart shuts off… a bit, at first, and a lot if your autopilot state persists.

Once you start to shut off your heart to get tasks done, you also start to shut it off for everything else. You see, you can’t selectively shut your heart off – hearts don’t work like that. They’re either open, or they’re not. So while you may be efficient on autopilot, you’re not effective. Effectiveness has a level of complexity that requires heart. Chances are, when you’re on autopilot, you’re not being as compassionate, either. Compassion comes from the heart.

When your heart shuts off, your groove is another casualty. I describe my ‘groove’ as a combination of my particular rhythm – my essence and how it manifests – and my routine.

It took me years to find my groove. I was subjected to such a dominant nurture environment as a child that my groove was silenced. What I thought was my groove wasn’t mine at all – it belonged to my nurturers. Being groove-less for all those years had a huge impact on me. I became very task-orientated – it was my way of feeling more in control of my life. I had little resilience. I wasn’t very happy. I tended to overreact to challenging situations. I was a stress-head. I got sick with an autoimmune disease. I hid behind my autopilot efficiency. Yet, my innate personality often came to my rescue, enabling me to build an amazing network of friends, and a successful career.

Once I found my groove, life got much easier. And happier. I became more productive and my creativity started to come to the fore. I became much more resilient to whatever life threw at me. I got the autoimmune disease I’d developed into remission, without medication. All was good.

Except when my groove disappeared. It did this when I became overwhelmed by or disinterested in what I was doing. Then I’d default to my old autopilot behaviour pattern. And stay there for a while, because I wouldn’t notice that I was in autopilot mode. Autopilot is, after all, a subconscious behaviour. Some time later, I’d notice that my joie de vivre was missing. The minute that happened, I could switch out of it – action follows awareness.

Nowadays, my autopilot moments are few and far between, and not as long-lasting. I am, for the most part, in my groove – and here’s what that looks like:

  • I have a clear life vision.

  • I have a comprehensive list of all the components that will bring me to this vision. Knowing your life’s purpose is the starting place.

  • I set 90-day/monthly/weekly goals for all these components and take action on them, every day.

  • I act consciously on a daily basis, doing only those things that bring me towards my vision.

  • I create healthy habits out of as many of my desired behaviours as possible. That way, they move into my subconscious mind and free up space in my conscious mind for things that arise. Many of my healthy habits are daily ones – these have become as automatic to me as brushing my teeth.

My younger self would laugh at my planning, process and routines. “How stifling this all must be!”, she’d say.

But she’d be wrong.

Being in my groove keeps me anchored. Instead of limiting my life with goals and plans, being in my groove has liberated me. It has allowed me to live with limitless wholeness.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

fear-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to move past fear & into action in 8 steps

You wake up in the middle of the night in a flat panic. Fear is coursing through your veins, making everything seem threatening. “What ifs” are flying around your mind, vying for space with the “I’m f*ckeds”.

You’ve really done it this time – you’ve bitten off way more than you can chew. What were you thinking? What’s going to happen when you fail? Who’s going to bail you out from this one? Your heart is beating the way it does after climbing five floors of stairs. You toss and turn some more, hoping this calms you down. It doesn’t.

You turn on the light – maybe this will chase away your fear. You pick up your book and start to read. You find yourself re-reading sentences endlessly, but you’re managing to distract yourself from your thoughts. Eventually, you fall asleep again for the few hours remaining before your alarm goes off. You wake up with a fear hangover that stays with you all day.

You just want the fear to go away. Is it too late to reverse that decision you made – the one that triggered the fear?

Even if it’s not too late to reverse that decision, it may not be the right thing to do. If you made your decision in a thoughtful way, based on some sound reasoning, then it was a good decision. If, however, you made it in a reactive way, with little thought behind it, then it was a bad decision – and it’s so easy to make decisions like this when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. So, if your decision was a bad one, reverse it; if it was a good one, stick with it!

The thing is, most of the best decisions you make are scary, terrifying even. That’s because they push you beyond your comfort zone to the next level – the place where growth happens. The bigger the potential for growth, the scarier the decision. I decided, in my 50s, to uproot myself completely THREE TIMES – moving first across the country, then half way across the world, and finally back. On my own. Over the course of four years. These moves were well thought through and the right thing to do – and helped me grow enormously. They were neither easy decisions to make OR take action on – and I was terrified by each one. I often felt fear coursing through my veins. But, with these and all other big decisions I’d made in my life, I didn’t let my fear stall me.

Instead, I stepped into my fear and used its energy to propel me forward.

How do you move into your fear and use its energy to move forward? Here are 8 steps you can take to help you do this.

  1. Acknowledge the fear. When you feel fear, allow yourself to sit with it. Feel it fully – feel its strength.
  2. Accept that you’re scared. Whilst feeling its strength, accept that you’re scared. I say to myself something like: “Well, Sarah, this IS a big one. I’m feeling scared by this decision. And that’s perfectly understandable and OK.”
  3. Commit to change. Fear dissipates when you accept it, leaving behind its energy. Now’s the time to commit to yourself that you’ll make the change – decide that you’re worth the effort required.
  4. Plan. Using this energy, start planning the detail of what you’ll need to do to make the change happen. Make sure you plan in enough steps – a lot of people fail to make changes, because each step is too big and overwhelming. Instead, make each step small enough to be achievable, yet big enough to have challenges that will sustain your interest.
  5. Take action. Do something EVERY DAY to take you closer to your desired change. Daily action gives you momentum and is totally doable if you’ve planned your steps well. If you find yourself unable to take daily action, go back and re-plan your change, breaking it down into even smaller pieces. Momentum is everything and is MUCH easier to keep going once it’s started, than to build it back up repeatedly.
  6. Celebrate your success along the way. Don’t wait until the end to celebrate, do it every time you complete a step. This will keep your spirits up and also contribute to your momentum.
  7. Review. At the end of each of the larger steps, have a look back at what you’ve done. Note what worked well, and what didn’t work so well. With this in mind, review your remaining steps and alter them, if required. You should also alter your plan if anything relevant about your situation changes. Nothing remains fixed, so it’s important to incorporate new information into your plan as it arises.
  8. Complete. Unless you have a VERY good reason not to (e.g. a substantial change in your situation), see your decision through to the end. After all, if it wasn’t worth seeing it through, you’d never have started it, would you? It’s amazing how good this will make you feel – because you’ve shown that you were worthy of ALL the effort.

Fear is a very powerful emotion. You can be stalled or even stopped by it. Or you can be fuelled by it.

The choice is yours.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

get-real-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

How to get real and deal with your denial

“I know I feel tired all the time, but my life really is good.”

“I know my life is super busy, but so is everyone’s.”

“I know this little voice in me keeps on wondering if there’s more to life than I’m experiencing, but I have everything, I really do.”

“I know s/he did that, but s/he’s really a good person inside.”

“I know I don’t have the time for myself that I need, but who does these days?”

“I know the hours are long and the work is boring, but it’s a good job.”

“I know I get overwhelmed from time to time, but it’s expected – I have a lot on my plate.”

“I know I shouldn’t have eaten that tub of ice cream, but it did make me feel less stressed for a bit.”

“I know I’m just going through the motions and not putting anything of myself into what I do, but it’s an efficient way of getting things done.”

There are many, many ways in which denial can play out in your life – the list above represents a handful of them. Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking any of these?

A sure sign that you’re in denial about something is that use of the word “but”. It says that you feel you have to justify something you’re doing. You should NEVER feel as though you have to justify anything in your life – either it’s right for you, or it’s not. End.Of.Story.

So, why do you deny what’s going on in your life? You deny it, because you’re not ready to face the reality of it.

I get it. Denial seems like the path of least resistance. Denial allows you to carry on living your life as is – all you have to do is push those feelings and voices aside. But, here’s the thing. The truth is actually quite different.

Denial is a path of MAXIMUM resistance – it just takes a while for that to become clear. It’s a path of maximum resistance, because the feelings you have that niggle way at you and the little voice inside your head that questions what you’re doing don’t disappear when you push them aside. They go deeper inside you, intensify and then erupt some time later when you’re not expecting it. The MORE you push them aside, the STRONGER and more disruptive they get – all they’re trying to do is get your attention so you deal with whatever reality you’re denying. And you know what? Your feelings and little voice telling you something is WRONG won’t give up – they’re your intuition trying to protect you from yourself. Their last resort to get your attention is to do some serious damage to you, usually in the form of an illness or disease. Your health gets hit, because, although you mightn’t realise it, maintaining your state of denial causes you a lot of stress – and stress causes your immune system to shut down.

I learned how destructive denial can be the hard way – a lifetime of it eventually caught up with me and left me with a debilitating disease*.

Getting ill is how denial affects your physical health. It also affects your emotional, mental and spiritual health. When you’re stressed, even at a low level, your relationships suffer. In order to keep up your denial, you suppress the feelings you don’t like, but you also suppress the rest of your feelings – you cannot selectively suppress feelings. So you become emotionally distant – you feel and express less joy, and you’re less aware of nuances in the emotions of those around you. The stress of maintaining denial makes you less smart, less creative and less able to problem solve – in addition to shutting down your immune system, stress reduces the flow of blood to your brain, sending it to your limbs instead (in readiness for fight or flight). And you’re less able to access your alpha waves when stressed, making it hard for you to meditate, pray or be mindful.

So, instead of being the path of least resistance, denial is actually the path of much destruction.

How do you get out of denial and ready to deal with your reality? Here are 8 steps to take.

  1. Acknowledge and accept that you’ve been denying something. This step is essential to get you to FLIP THAT SWITCH in your mind that makes you stop denying that reality.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself to deal with the reality you’ve been denying. Without commitment, nothing will change, because change isn’t easy – it requires you to STICK AT IT, through thick and thin.
  3. Review the reality you’ve been denying. What is the DETAIL of this reality? When did it start? How does it make you feel? How does it affect your life? What will happen to your life when you deal with it?
  4. Dream up different ways to deal with this reality. Let’s say your reality is a boring job, you can: find a new job in a new company; create a new job in the same company; change the way you look at the job; start your own business on the side. And then choose the ONE that feels right to you.
  5. Prepare for what you want to do. Do you need any new skills to deal with this reality? Do you need any new habits? Do you need any other TOOLS?
  6. Make an action plan. You need a plan so you know how to achieve the result you want. Make sure each step along the way is ACHIEVABLE – big enough to be interesting and motivating, but small enough to guarantee success.
  7. Take action daily. NOTHING will change in your life if you don’t take action every day. Ask yourself at the end of every day what you did today to take you closer to your goal.
  8. Celebrate your small wins along the way to the big win. Regular celebration gives you the momentum you need to keep going, even when things are tough. Find a way that works for you – I high five myself!

Keeping your head in the sand is sabotaging your health and well-being. Start dealing with your reality today and feel more alive and self-fulfilled ! Your relationships will thank you.

 

* This disease is no longer debilitating for me as I transformed my lifestyle and am once again healthy and active.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).