I picked up a prayer book by Marianne Williamson called Illuminata. It is a collection of poetry, inspiration and invocations with many sections, from morning prayers to evening ones and prayers for the body, family and friends, work and creativity, depression, anger, emptiness and anxiety, the world and leaders…I know that the word prayer can be sensitive and trigger some of us who can associate it with a strict religious upbringing. And yet, I feel Marianne Williamson’s invitation is about tapping into our unique relationship with the Divine and inner knowing.
So, the music, the dance, and the book helped me find stillness in movement, some creative flow, and to sit to be here with you.
There is a section in Illuminata where Marianne speaks about a simple midlife rite of passage. She invites the person to reveal their story as a way to celebrate themselves and their initiatory process. She also reminds us that rites of passages ‘provide structures of energy by which we alchemise our experiences of the most important transitions of our lives.’
I got very inspired by it. So I decided to share below a few simple words by midlife women talking about their journey, which I gathered in the last few years through interviews and conversations. This is a collection of snapshots, stories, real-life struggles, practical tips, down-to-earth wisdom and hope. All mixed with some good humour and a bit of colourful language! I edited the text a bit, changed people’s names, and they remain anonymous.
These women speak with raw honesty, poignancy, and integrity about creativity, inner criticism, procrastination, spirituality, self-help techniques, body image, money, family and career. There is too much hype nowadays in buying the new cream, looking younger, raising our vibration as the negative emotions are too low, or focusing only on bliss (I welcome more of it, though!…) So I feel that their honesty is genuinely refreshing!
You are not alone if you are struggling or navigating a problematic transition. Many women are suffering, and their mental health is at stake.
If you are reading this, I genuinely hope you have your basics covered, some food on your table, a home and the possibility to reach out for support if you need it and take care of yourself.
This is a long love letter. Make yourself comfortable if you wish, grab a cuppa, put some music on and tune in with these words and see what speaks to your heart.
And even if these words are by women, I know many men are in this virtual space. You are welcome here, and I am sure all that it follows will also matter to you.
‘We’re wired for story. In a culture of scarcity and perfectionism, there’s a surprisingly simple reason we want to own, integrate, and share our stories of struggle. We do this because we feel the most alive when we’re connecting with others and being brave with our stories—it’s in our biology. Owning our story is the bravest thing we will ever do.’
Amber’s story about self-criticism.
‘Self-criticism shows up throughout my day, and I am becoming more aware of observing, engaging, and moving beyond this limitation.
I have seen much growth in my life in many areas: friendships, family, body image, and spiritual growth. However, I am a mess regarding my work, creating my own business, and using my skills, knowledge and expertise to put myself out into the world.
Perfectionism shows up as a constant critic who attacks every effort. I write and write, but I feel like I go in circles trying to figure out how to express who I am and what I do in this world.
All the second-guessing and self-critique has been exhausting!! I am constantly assuming no one will understand or want my help. If I don’t find the “perfect” words, I won’t ever move into my passion and calling but remain stuck and frustrated.
I feel creative at home, as a wife and a parent, and in my free time. But it’s the moving outside of where I feel safest that scares me. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 22 years after training as a medical doctor. So I think I lost a lot of confidence in being “out in the world”.
Doubting myself less would certainly help, and feeling more my self-worth! But that are hard things to change. And maybe I could remove the expectation of making something good and replace it with actually making something.
Hearing someone’s story and what has helped them always inspires me. But not ‘in a suddenly it was gone way’ because if I could make it go away in a blink, I would have done it already. I love to hear more practical steps.
It is painful to look back at my life and see how much I lost or limited myself and others because of my fear of making mistakes or not being “good enough”. Returning to reconcile with the source of this loss and then doing the work to heal and grow is hard but worth it.
Being seen can feel scary and overwhelming, even though that is what I long for.’
Star’s story about finding her voice.
‘In the last few years, I have been reconnecting with my body after abandoning it for most of my life.
I had no idea how to love or accept her, but now I do more daily.
Finding my voice has been a challenging journey for me. And speaking my truth has been a place of great pain and recourse. I was raised to believe that what I felt or thought was less than my parents. I carried this with me into an abusive marriage where I tried to find my voice to say ‘stop’, but it took a long time. Leaving that marriage was one of the bravest things I did up to that point. But then I encountered God and thought I needed to attend a Christian church. For the next 17 years, I was taught worse things about using my voice than I already had believed.
And then I had enough and found my truth and left the church. I also chose to separate from my family of origin because I was beginning to share my truth, and I was punished for it. So leaving was the only option.
So, I think I am committed to slowly finding my voice. But sharing and talking about it/myself still feels challenging. It is as if I have not yet learned I’m allowed to have a voice. The thought no one is interested in me is (still) too strong.
But I am recovering and healing and learning to trust my truth in this world. This isn’t easy for me, but necessary.
My spiritual practice is to get up early when no one else is awake. I sit in silence and read, enjoy my coffee, and journal. Then I meditate and do yoga.
Taking walks and being outside in Nature soothes me.’
Alma’s story about reclaiming innocence.
‘I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. I have been battling with my body image from very early in life. As I am very tall and large, I feel I am very physically conspicuous. As well as being of an androgynous build, I don’t feel very feminine. Although my husband and children heart-fully tell me I’m beautiful and loved, it is hard to receive compliments or sit and look at myself in the mirror at the hairdresser.
I haven’t fully overcome my inner critical voice, but I’m working on it.
I watch, read and listen to motivational/mindset/confidence stuff (books, videos, blogs). I have written a document with my vision, dreams and goals; I always remember my self-worth, strengths and skills. I read affirmations (I want to make this a habit and do it every day). It’s working, but it is a slow process. But it is definitely making me feel better.
It’s normal to make mistakes, but overcoming anxiety is difficult. I’m a perfectionist, and that leads me to procrastinate. Sometimes I don’t do what I must (and want) – just because I don’t want to make mistakes and fear failure.
The fear of being judged is a great struggle.
I have not fully unleashed my creativity yet. And for me, things tend to get worse when surrounded by others; I feel ‘seen’, and the pressure to perform or prove something gets heavier. Also, I tend to start comparing. It’s easier to be creative when nobody is watching. But still, I have to conquer my own thoughts first.
I feel like I am very self-aware but where I get stuck is forward movement when I stay isolated and alone. Getting help is vital because my perfectionism has kept me hiding so others won’t see my struggle.
Being outdoors in Nature is essential for me, as are yoga, meditation and acupuncture. These activities make me feel at ease and peaceful.
I am also being purposeful lately in focusing on reconnecting to pleasure, delight, and play. I lost that long ago in my pursuit to control and keep it all “together”. I went through a long season of painful experiences that depleted my child-like spirit. Now I desire to reconnect to my innocence; for me, that is a place where I feel safe to create.
I am still longing for deeper intimacy with myself. Sometimes I think I’m not good enough (in general, as a person). I fear abandonment, feeling my feelings and inability to handle them, or that they don’t go away anymore.
When I am with trusted people, I can feel comfortable speaking my own truth without fear of ridicule, as I have lovely friends who understand me.
I haven’t gotten to physically move and dance more, but I would love to explore that.’
‘In general, I need to stop worrying that previous employers, colleagues, friends and family won’t take my new business venture seriously…I need to let the thought of disapproval or blankness from anyone go!
I am connecting to the Universe much more regularly and finding ways to do that. Those ways are generally creative, such as dancing and moving, singing my lungs out, etc. Mindful sitting meditation bores me stiff!
Sometimes I fear my thoughts, ideas & plans won’t be as good as I imagine them. That I will dive in emotionally & financially and have no results.
I have a lot of experience in personal development (being a teacher, a coach, and a lifelong learner). I’m at the start of my spiritual path (I feel), as I only started 6 months ago, but I love my journey on it.
I always had a good relationship with my body, but it’s deteriorating one to two years ago. I’ve gained some weight (not much, just about 3kg), and my confidence has decreased. Then I managed to lose weight; without noticing it, I’d lost too much compared to what I wanted (like 5 or 6kg). I’m not talking about great numbers because I always have been slim, but it massively affected me. I noticed I’ve gained muscle but lost some “butt” and legs simultaneously. Now I’m recovering, I’ve gained some muscle and (a little) fat again, and I’m feeling better.
The closest I get to Nature at present is hanging out the washing in bare feet and starting a herb garden. And it feels great.’
Oak’s story about being good enough.
‘I still fear what others will think of me. Sometimes, I fear that I’m not good enough, or I will fail, or people won’t like me if I truly say what I think.
I have a lot of ideas, but overanalysing and self-doubt often lead to procrastination and paralysis.
I would love to tap into my creativity more and not worry about the outcome or old negative messages my family has programmed in my brain!
I’ve tried using things like adult colouring books to get used to being creative again. I’ve tried getting back into novel writing. I’ve tried taking up watercolour painting and acrylic painting again. None of them has stuck in the past!
I am also visiting a psychologist regularly and following different kinds of therapy. For me, it’s still an ongoing process.
I also have dome much spiritual work on my own, including books, yoga, conferences, and acupuncture.
Journalling is big for me right now – I do meditation daily to see what my block of the day is and work on that in the morning before I clean my house.
Right now, one of the best things has been to be transparent with close friends so they can tell me how they see me isn’t how I see myself!
And I am learning to accept that sometimes the good is enough, don’t need to be perfect.
At the moment, content creation for my business is very challenging!
I find it difficult to promote myself and my new business venture, getting it off the ground!
I want to overcome my fear of failure and my perfectionism. To know I can make mistakes, and it’s OK. I need to trust my intuition more and follow it, not feel conscious of my creative things! That is part of the process.
I want to make space for it in my daily schedule, seek inspiration, and be surrounded by a creative environment. Sometimes I find it very difficult now that things are weighing down on me in my adult life, like bills, money, appointments and housework.
I long to learn how to reconnect with myself, my inner child, and my internal process and not be swayed by others!
I want to go with my gut and not overanalyse and find more fully who I am and what I am doing here.
I fear somewhat stepping up and sometimes still preoccupy that people would pull their love away from me if I showed more fully who I am.’
Silver’s story about overcoming hell years.
‘I became very unsettled in my early 40’s, divorced my ex after 20+ years, and started my own businesses. It was a tough road with many years of court battles with the ex and other stunts he was pulling, and I thought I would lose my life at one stage as things became so out of control with the ex. The business part was easy. But staying focused and on track with my next chapter of life was the hard part, with so much garbage constantly going on in my personal life.
But I constantly researched and tried everything I could find or think of during the hell years so I wouldn’t be dragged down to total disconnection.
I had to change my mindset and work on my emotions no matter what chaos was happening around me and let go of my false beliefs so I could flourish. And finally made it through. I discovered various techniques and tools during the hell years to keep reconnecting back to my inner power. It’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
Survival and despair helped make effective changes. I am not sugarcoating it.
Today, I try to support others who struggle, as I have been there, and I know and understand how horrible it is. I love witnessing people’s ‘aha’ moments, and I am very blessed to be a part of it.
I made it through hell. But I could not have done it alone.
I needed mentors, friends, music and good stories.’
‘I retrained as a teacher when I was 34. The first two years were great, but I wanted to push myself further. I applied for several jobs abroad and would always come in 2nd place. So this knocked my confidence. Then I split from my boyfriend, got weighed down at work, put on weight, etc. Slowly these things chipped away at my self-trust, and I doubted my worth. Roll on 7 years, and I was a shell of my former self. I was bullied at work and close to breaking point. I blamed how I was feeling on others.
It wasn’t until I took ownership of my feelings that things started to turn around.
I took advice from people who genuinely loved me, decluttered several areas of my life, quit my job and found another school. It was better, but I still felt it wasn’t right. I spoke to a good friend who was also feeling lost and mentioned that she was retraining as a Health coach. Everything she said resonated with me. I paid to retrain, and now I’m qualified. I want to help women get their sparkle back because I know what it’s like to feel lost and uncomfortable in your own skin. This feels right. I listen to my daily affirmations, exercise regularly, and eat well. I feel good about myself and my future. I still have my yucky days, but nothing compared to before. I’ve just developed a new mindset and good heabits.’
Bluebell’s story about giving herself permission to be loud.
‘In my mid-forties, I started to take control of my life and say “no” to things that didn’t resonate well with me. Took me until 50 to quit the shit and follow my passions. I was a business consultant working long hours, which meant for 20 years, my life and relationships were hugely compromised. I then retrained as a nutrition coach. Had no idea how I would make any money. Then got a few clients and, about 12 months ago, started defining what my business would be. My passions are marathon running and food. So I’m a nutrition coach and work with new runners looking to train for their first marathon. I’m bringing my passion and knowledge to my business.
Now I am trying to make some money from it; lucky I had 20+ years of excellent salary, savings & investments to fall back on. I’ve had to overcome significant imposter syndrome. Still, I think I’m beginning to know what my zone of genius is to focus on that. I know this will work. I know I will make a great success of it. I quit a consulting job and have now built my business around my personality. I am… a bit loud … no very loud! I have decided my zone of genius is to use my LOUDNESS to connect with people to help them realise their dream of running their marathons.’
Lilly’s insights about feeling the fear and doing it anyway.
‘I’m about to hit 44 and have felt unsettled for at least the last 5 years. The future feels uncertain. I’m an introvert, so I don’t outwardly discuss or seek support from anyone except my life coach. Eventually, I’ll look like the person who always lands on her feet. Still, people won’t see the 10 years of dealing with limiting beliefs and overwhelming ridiculous fears. The unsettling is probably realising I’m not where I want to be. Not so much ambition-wise as realising I was going with the flow too much and not choosing a direction. As for the fear…..not sure I’ve dealt with that – hence this being a long journey. But I’m trying to feel the fear and do it anyway!’
Frankie’s advice to women.
‘Dear women: don’t wait for confidence or for things to be perfect until you’ve got another certificate. Life is like a funnel, so do something while the opening is wide. Sometimes I’m not confident or still have fear, but I do it anyway. A couple of things I’ve learned along the way through. I have had many opportunities that haven’t reached their full potential for various reasons: imposter syndrome, fear of failure, fear of success, I had to buy another notebook first or make another list, blah blah.
You think you have time in your thirties, but you get to your fifties and realise it’s now or never. We have a state pension here, and if you don’t do something for yourself, there is only a tiny amount you get to live on when you retire. Something that most of us don’t think about until too late.’
‘I’m 44 and have been in a sort of “hermit mode” for the past 2+ years while working on what I can only describe as “excavating my soul”. Friends who see me repeatedly saying how I look more relaxed. But it’s been a messy experience working through limiting beliefs, etc. That said, I am hopeful about the future and can feel myself emerging into a more confident and focused version of myself. Those pesky limiting beliefs have a lot to answer for! It’s one of those things where I wouldn’t change a thing, but I’m glad to be through the worst of it! I am about to go through all the muck.’
‘Well, I’m in my 50s now, but my 40s were when I started to grow into myself. I stopped trying to fit into a mould. This is me, take it or leave it. I’m taking what I’ve learned and still learning over the past decade and hope to pass it on to others. This year my word was boundaries. Such a simple word, but it has made a big difference.’
‘I’ve just turned 45. Definitely feel more like saying, “fu*k this” if I’m not happy, it doesn’t serve me. Think less of what anyone thinks of me. Glad to start more self-care and actually put myself first at times. I know this can bring challenges in relationships, so that is something to watch out for.’
‘Just turned 49, Laura! Some people grow some people want to stay the same. I think it’s a choice, but the older I get, the more committed to myself. I want to ensure I’m getting the most out of my life. A life of no regrets is what I’m interested in!’
‘I am 51, and I still don’t feel like a grownup. I’m less likely to care about conforming to others’ expectations, so that’s freeing. Plus, I don’t have to fit in as much because I’m not in an office anymore. I used to feel like I had a persona to maintain (I had a pretty public-facing position). But then again, I’m still not sure what I want to be when I ‘grow up and when I think about my mom at 50, I think of her as such a grownup, and I don’t feel like that.’
‘I have an OK-ish relationship with my body. I have the same with my voice. I love to sing but don’t often in front of others. Sometimes I raise my voice to be heard or more assertive, but I will refrain from speaking up if I feel I’ll be humiliated.’
‘The relationship with my body could be better. I try to avoid feelings in general.
When it comes to speaking up gives me anxiety; honestly, being visible in general scares me.’
‘My body is a bit run down at the moment, but I make sure I take time to listen to what my body wants at the beginning of the day – right now, it needs to detox things out of me.’
‘I need to spend more time with my body and focus on my needs. I am longing to get a massage and dance!
I want to express my voice more.’
‘My relationship with my body is currently a big dip. Last night I fell on all my food and overate.
I want to accept it’s OK not to be perfect and forgive myself.’
‘My body has been getting more exercise. Sleep and water.
I am starting to have a voice when I feel supported and in a safe environment.’
Thank you for taking the time to read this long letter. It means a lot to me.
I would love to invite you, today or in the next few days, to take some time and write, without censorship, about your story. Celebrate yourself, successes, losses, victories, strength and vulnerability. Include the sadness, grief, rage, the beautiful, bad and the ugly. The hope, disappointment, and despair.
I suggest you do it as a stream of consciousness without censoring yourself. Share it with a trusted friend. Read it loud if you can, or sing it! Put a note on the mirror.
Your story matters.
Your story is medicine.
Words are potent.
Words are a balm for the soul.
Self-love and acceptance grow out of attention.
Include all of you.
Let me know how this lands. I would love to hear more from you!
‘As a generation, we are growing into our wisdom. We are hungry for our wise women, our wise men. We are hungry to know them and to become them. The wise has seen the light at the center of things, and the light at the center of things is who we are. Until we see that, the mission of our lives remains unfulfilled.’ Marianne Williamson