Calling on ‘midlife’ women to lead the way!

Gen-Xers grew up during a time of rising divorce rates, a faltering economy and were often ‘latch key’ kids, this tended to produce resourceful, resilient and independently minded women. Phrases such as “Authenticity is a Currency” are popping up everywhere; yet it seems we often pay lip service to this concept and struggle to really embody it – WHY?

Is it because with so many ‘masks’ aka labels to wear we have no idea who our most authentic self is? If I ask WHO you are do you give me a label “entrepreneur, wife, mother.” No I asked WHO you are not WHAT you are; describe the part of you that has no label. Difficult one!

Is it because looking under the carpet, addressing the elephant in the room, or saying what needs to be said (respectfully so, I’m not talking about brutal honesty at the cost of others in front of others, I’m referring to what I term ethical authenticity) to improve the status quo for the greater good, as opposed to a personal agenda, is too uncomfortable for our cultural sensibilities or makes us feel too vulnerable if we go out on that limb?

I can understand that looking the other way or pretending we didn’t see it is easier than addressing tricky or ‘unpopular’ issues, even though there is an underlying dis-ease that comes from ignoring something we ‘know’ we should give voice to. Let’s face it the foundations for many wars came about as a consequence of people looking the other way! For sure being the “difficult child” in the room for pointing out the MASSIVE, PINK ELEPHANT, that everyone seems to have conveniently gone blind to, can be uncomfortable and I’m not about to pretend otherwise. There are definitely times I would rather have kept my head down and ignored, especially once I knew what may be the ‘consequences’ of speaking up, but something in my DNA just wouldn’t let it go by. Goddamn you DNA! Perhaps this is due to too much time spent in the company of non-human creatures; for it seems we are the ONLY sentient creatures on this planet that struggle to do this.

I have witnessed the effects of this ‘quality’ not being welcome or understood in our board rooms, in our friendships or even at home. Yet the calls to stand up and speak ‘your’ truth for the greater good, especially as women, are everywhere, trending in the media and recently with the BAFTAs and Oscars acceptance speeches.

So how do we bridge the gap between lip service and walking the talk? How best to support and welcome those voices without getting all emotionally squirly about what is being shared? Is the onus on us the ‘women that can’ to lay the pathway? What can we learn from the other amazing non-human creatures, that model this behaviour so well, with whom we share this planet?

3 Tips to Trial During Lockdown:

Tip 1: Observe you animals; yes your pets! Generally animals live authentic lives with ease. If they are happy they behave accordingly if they are fearful or sad it’s obvious from their demeanour. The difference between us and our sentient animal friends is that they tend to express emotion in the moment, ‘let it go’ and then return to a balanced emotional state; assuming that the reason for expressing the emotion has shifted or been removed. They don’t revisit a past event or imagine future occurrences, (before you holler yes if there is a relevant trigger in the present then it will trigger a memory for our animals) without any trigger and spend time rehashing and reliving the associated emotional state. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between really experiencing an emotional state, brought about by current circumstances, versus when you ‘time travel’ in your mind and (re)imagine those circumstances past or future. Your brain ‘fires’ regardless which means you are literally exposing yourself to the neurological and associated emotional effects of a drama/trauma even though the drama/trauma doesn’t exist in the present moment.

Take 30 minutes, preferably more such as half a day if possible, to be aware of how much of your thought process and hence accompanying emotional state is current and in the moment. Have a note pad and jot down each time your thoughts stray into ‘another’ non present time zone. Are you focused on that ‘debate’ from last week that really got under your skin or maybe you’re worried about coping with this lockdown for a number of weeks. Either way you are focused outside of the present and living the emotional state of a time that doesn’t exist as, it has either already passed or hasn’t yet happened. Being more animal like and present can serve you well at this difficult period. Let your pets help you practice being authentically ‘in the moment’ by spending some quality time with them; use your senses to be present feel your cat’s fur as you stroke her, listen to her purr, observe your dog in detail as you play with him, just open up your senses to really see and hear your natural environment, even the bird chirping outside your window.

Tip 2: Plan your safety valve. Newsflash having an emotion is not the issue it’s our inability to express those emotions ‘well’ or ‘safely’ in the moment and then let it go, that causes all sorts of problems and dis-ease. So when you feel an emotional swell what’s your safety valve, where can you go to ‘have a moment’ which allows for an emotional release? Do you have a go to person who will let you ‘be safely authentic’, can hold that space for you with compassion, no judgement and without needing to fix it for you? Find one and put them on your speed dial! BTW one of my best go to ‘persons’ has 4 legs and fur!

Tip 3: It’s not personal. Once you realise that when someone is being ethically authentic they are just stating their perceptual, emotional view about something. In other words providing you with useful information about the perceptual lens they use to navigate the world. Which may be drastically different to yours and often our response to that is to be offended or feel the need to change their view. But whose lens is more correct? None of us experience reality only our perception of reality coloured by life and all our experiences. Even if they have forgotten the ethical bit and the intention is to ‘wound’, guilt or shame us we, as the receiver, can chose our response and whether we allow it to impact beyond that moment, see Tip 1!