Today’s guest post is written by Christiann Howard. Christiann and I met when she started coming to the monthly Women Write Night that I host at my local library (thank you, Kim, for inviting her to join us!). Immediately I enjoyed what Christiann brings to our group — a friendly smile, an inquisitive ear and tales of her travels as well as tales from her writing endeavors (including research trips to the local jail)! I’m thankful to have made a connection through our writing and honored that she was willing to write a guest post. Thank you for sharing yourself and your thoughts, Christiann! (The author and a sweet pup shown in the image at right.)
Age 40 – The Quest for Authenticity by Christiann Howard
When I was in my 30’s, someone warned me, “Around 40 you start a real push for authenticity.”
‘Authenticity?’ I thought, ‘No problem. I have integrity. I’m an honest person—I don’t even cheat on my taxes.’
But nothing could have prepared me for the extent of the Authenticity Drive that set in at age 40. You see, I had no idea how much of a people pleaser I had become. How much I had resigned myself to go along to get along. How much I sacrificed my own opinions and desires to “make peace” (read avoid confrontation). And just how silent I forced myself to be about my true spiritual beliefs.
In Materials Science to say a specimen has ‘integrity’ means it has the same properties all the way through. And that was my problem—I didn’t really have integrity. My outside didn’t match my inside. Approaching age 40, that wouldn’t fly any more. My true self began to assert itself. In small ways at first, then larger. For example:
- I didn’t stop going to my daughter’s performances or sporting events altogether, but I took some time away from the family to backcountry hike and camp. The things I truly enjoyed.
- I got vocal about a fair division of the housework and parenting duties.
- When the company I worked for had to cut the staff in half and all the employees that were fired were women, I told the president of the company that I had noticed.
- I looked into our finances and realized that I was uncomfortable with the constant increase of debt. Then I began paying our debt down myself.
- With my friends, I stopped pretending I felt disempowered when I really felt empowered and responsible for what showed up in my life. The mutual complaint sessions and pity parties stopped.
And here was the largest change:
- I took my spirituality out of the closet. I didn’t proselytize or evangelize, but I stopped pretending that I wasn’t deeply religious. My spiritual life is my own and it’s private, but it stopped being my “big, dark secret.”
- Oh, and at church, I stopped pretending that I agreed with every tenet and opinion the powers that be put forth. I admitted that there were a few beliefs I couldn’t support and that I hoped some things within my church would change.
Certainly someone like me, who was pretty far off the authenticity mark approaching age 40, is going to feel the drive more strongly. I’m sure there are those brave souls who were themselves and only themselves from age 15. That wasn’t me. For me, the shift was major.
Now, continue the thread. I’d love to hear your stories about turning 40 and asserting your authenticity.