WHOLEHEARTED LIVING - CULTIVATING AUTHENTICITY

Being authentic isn't something we magically have all figured out, rather it's about making choices about how we want to show ourselves to the world.

WHAT IS WHOLEHEARTED LIVING?

Brene Brown talks a lot about the concept of "Wholehearted Living" in her book "Daring Greatly" and to sum it up in a couple of sentences it means: Engaging in life from a place of belief in your own worthiness - cultivating courage, compassion, and connection. It also involves cultivating a sense of being "Enough" which is the the opposite to scarcity thinking - where we feel that we never have enough (especially compared to what we believe we see others having).

CULTIVATE is my Word of the Year for 2021 and Brene mentions Cultivating in her 10 Guideposts to Wholehearted Living from another of her books "The Gifts of Imperfection". Today I'm focusing on an area I've been working hard on over the last decade, and that's Cultivating Authenticity - and how it applies to Midlife and living our best life right now.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO LIVE AUTHENTICALLY?

Since I turned 50 I've been drilling down on what it means to live authentically - to be brave enough to be my true self and to live that out honestly and openly. Being authentic isn't something we magically have all figured out, rather it's about making choices about how we want to show ourselves to the world around us. We can choose to put on our mask and to be who we think other people want us to be, we can smile, and jump through hoops, and be all things to all people......or we can lay that mask aside and choose every morning to face the world with honesty and courage.

I've spent my entire life trying to protect myself - I hadn't realized this was my modus operandi until I read Brene's thoughts on vulnerability and being willing to let down our defences and show others our imperfections. I hate being vulnerable, I'm frightened people won't like the "real" me, I'm good at covering myself with a shell and being what I need to be for others to accept me. BUT is this how I want to live for the rest of my life? The answer is a resounding "NO!" and that's how the journey through my 50's started.

HOW DO YOU CULTIVATE AUTHENTICITY IN MIDLIFE?

Cultivating Authenticity isn't an overnight decision, it doesn't mean you wake up one morning and think "I'm going to be the real me and everyone else can like it or lump it" - for someone like me who's developed that protective shell and worn it for decades, it takes a lot of time, and re-assessment, and adjustment (and courage) to notice when the mask goes on and to be willing to put it down and face the world as my "naked" self - good, bad, imperfect, and full of insecurities and doubts.

Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice — a conscious choice of how we want to live. Brene Brown

When you become real you risk other people not liking this "new you", you risk criticism, you risk not looking like you have a handle on everything, or that you have it all under control. It takes courage to be open and to know that it might mean losing face, losing friends, disappointing loved ones, or just not being "all things to all people" anymore. But the cost is worth it when you live with your true self on display, and hopefully in the process you might inspire others to do the same - imagine what it would be like to see yourself as enough - just as you are and to like that person.....it would feel amazing!

LETTING GO OF PEOPLE PLEASING

For each of the 10 Guideposts, Brene mentions something to Cultivate and something we need to let go. When it comes to Authenticity, the thing we need to let go of is People Pleasing. For most of us in Midlife, being people pleasers is an ingrained habit. It's what we grew up believing was an important trait and something we worked hard on through the raising of our families, our work life, and our social life. For me, if others were happy, then I was happy; if others liked me, then I liked me. My worth was tied up with the opinions of others and I worked hard to please people so they would like me.

Finding your authentic self is the most important process you’ll ever go through.  Emma Scheib

Now when I read what I just wrote I feel a little bit sad. All those years of trying my hardest to be what I thought others wanted me to be, all those years of self-doubt and putting my needs under the table - and for what? The people who are important to us and who love us don't need us to have our mask firmly in place 24/7 - they know we're not perfect and will love us despite our imperfections. They're happy for us to express ourselves, to be real, to be honest, and to allow our wants and needs to be voiced. So why did I waste all that time?

CULTIVATING AUTHENTICITY IN MIDLIFE

Brene shares a wonderful thought about Midlife 

Midlife isn't a crisis, it's a time of unraveling where you feel a desperate pull to live the life you want, not the one you’re “supposed” to live. The unraveling is a time when you are challenged to let go of who you think you are supposed to be and to embrace who you are.”

I think my 50's were the beginning of the unraveling - I've been shedding some of my longheld beliefs and I've been replacing them with new, healthier ideals. Self-worth, self-acceptance, self-compassion - concepts I'd never taken ownership of before now feel like they're within my grasp. I just need to step up and be brave enough to show up and be myself - imperfections and all. Those who love me will be with me through the journey, those who get left behind were probably not really with me in the first place. It's exciting and it's scary - but it's soooo worth it - life just keeps getting better.

When you're brave enough to live in your truth - quirks, insecurities, fears and all - you carve out paths for others to do so as well.  Scott Stabile

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you living each day without a mask, or are you still trying to keep all the balls in the air and everyone happy? It's exhausting being a perfectionist, it's like fighting a never ending battle with yourself. Maybe it's time to let go and start living authentically - it's never too late to make a start on a new and fulfilling way of life.

RELATED POSTS


Being authentic isn't something we magically have all figured out, rather it's about making choices about how we want to show ourselves to the world.

Being authentic isn't something we magically have all figured out, rather it's about making choices about how we want to show ourselves to the world.
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46 comments

  1. I have a similar post coming out next week Leanne about Exploring and Discovering your inner self. I do think that being authentic and true to yourself is not easy and many women are still living with the 'I should' mentality rather than 'Is this right for me'.

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    1. Hi Sue - we definitely think along similar lines :) And yes, it's been ingrained into us to do all that we can for everyone else (except ourselves). There's nothing wrong with wanting to contribute to making other people's lives happier and easier, but we do need to consider ourselves and our own needs in the mix - or we're just shells of our true selves.

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  2. First, Leanne, I LIKE the real you! You are absolutely right, how, “authenticity” is a practice. It is something I am always working on. I find I need to make sure I have quiet moments and time to think and be still, or I lose myself in all of the noise. I am nodding my head, yes, to all of the points you make. I find it interesting how even at 60 plus years old it is something I/we need to work on. When I am living my authentic life, a feeling of peace and calm comes over me. Almost difficult to put into words. It just feels right. Thank you for sharing an inspirational post, Leanne.xx

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    1. Hi Erica - I like the real you too x And yes, I need to pause often and actually think about why I'm doing something or believing something. Is it coming from a place of truth and integrity, or is it me trying to fit into a box? I'm learning too that I can say No and it's okay - often the only person questioning that "no" is me! It's nice that it's not too late to make these changes and to grow into ourselves and live our best lives.

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  3. Hi Leanne, I felt a shift towards being my authentic self 10 years ago. I was newly divorced, and free to be me for the first time in my life. Up til then I had been a people pleaser and made decisions based on what others would think. It's really freeing to finally live authentically. Yes, I lost a lot of friends around then but they weren't worth it anyway! Regards, Christina

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    1. Hi Christina - I guess a divorce will do that to you - either make or break you, and it seems to have been a turning point for you. I think I just woke up to myself somewhere between the empty nest and changing jobs and decided that I needed to rediscover "me" before it was too late - no regrets going down this path - and an element of anticipation for what still lies ahead.

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  4. Many of us midlifers were ‘trained‘ to be people pleasers. I was one until my mid fifties and I was so good at it, to my detriment. I’ve given that up now and life is so much better without it. I have no care at all these days what people think of me. I found that brings freedom #lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Jennifer - I feel a lot the same way. I still get caught sometimes wondering if I need to do something to be accepted, and then I turn it around and ask myself what really resonates with my heart and mind. Sometimes it works to "do the right thing" and other times now I'll make the choice to do what feels right for me and take the consequences of that decision. The people who matter will always be there - the others really are expendable aren't they?

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  5. Hi, Leanne - Like the other commenters, I also like the real you - a lot! I am glad that you are more and more comfortable with letting the real you show, and saying 'no' when what is suggested is not right for you. Thank you for sharing this with us, and for encouraging us to reflect on our own authenticity as well.

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    1. Hi Donna - it's so lovely to reach the point that others like us for who we truly are - and not for the person we've manufactured to fit into what we think they'd like. Taking away the veneer and letting myself be real is still hard at times, but so worth it in the end - and look at the fabulous women who are standing with me! x

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  6. Thanks Leanne, this was interesting and as I'm working my way (slowly) through Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, I can see the points you are making. We can feel sad that it's taken all these years to get to where we are and be our 'real' self but we are now being honest so that's good. #lifethisweek

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    1. Hi Deb - yes I'm working through it slowly too - there's no rush and I really enjoy the points Brene makes and the permission she gives us all to dive deeper and to let that "inner self" come to the surface. It's been a journey for me, but I have many years ahead to reap the rewards!

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  7. I feel this so much! I will be 50 this coming fall and I feel like I’m just really starting to need to be authentic. I have been a people pleaser for so long and being liked is important to me. But I’m tired of valuing other people's opinions and feelings sometimes more than my own. I’m treading slowly into doing things the way I want to and really being who I want to be versus who other people expect. The only thing that makes it a little bit harder now is that I’ve still got kids in high school and am friends with their friends' parents so I still have to kind of “keep up appearances” in ways that might affect my kids. I’d imagine that once they leave for college I will feel even freer to really be me when I only need to concern myself with potential consequences for myself not myself and my kids (and my husband already mostly knows and likes the real me)!

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    1. Oh I could have written almost this exact comment 10 years ago! Being the "nice" person and trying to fit in everyone else's box was soooo important to me and it was something I did without even thinking about it - it was just how I was taught to live my life.
      I think 50 really is the turning point for a lot of us - the kids move on (or out) and our husbands know and love us (most of the time!) and we feel freer to stretch our wings a little and see what happens.
      Writing this blog opened my world even further because there were so many other 50+ year old women on the same path and we cheered each other on. I still find it difficult to say "no" sometimes, but that's on me and nobody is as bothered about it as I am! Recognizing that, and making better choices about what makes my heart/soul happy is what my 50's have been about - and I can't wait to see what my 60's have in store! I hope you'll come back and share the journey with me x

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  8. So very true. As I am getting older, I am trying to be more my authentic self. I am finding it easier because I have adopted "I don't care" attitude about people liking me or not. It is such a great feeling.

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    1. I think a lot of us are heading in that direction Patrick - caring less about fitting in other people's boxes and more about what feels authentic and true in our own minds and souls - it's a great stage to reach!

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  9. Leanne, I think a big part of becoming authentic is 1) knowing what we want and 2) expressing it with confidence. When we come off as wishy-washy or uncertain of what we are saying, we open ourselves up to being manipulated. Confident, decisive women have been labeled 'selfish' or the B word for far too long. Many of us, because of our own self-esteem issues, have been guilty of dispensing those labels. But, there is nothing selfish about knowing what you need to be happy and going for it, not asking for it, or waiting for someone to give it to us, but actually earning it through self-knowledge and awareness. Yes, people will fall away from your new self, (even though your core values are the same) but as others have stated, those relationships were not authentic to begin with. Congratulations on doing the work and going for what you want at this stage of life.

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    1. Hi Suzanne - you are so right about confident women - assertive is translated to aggressive or pushy when a woman stands up for herself. I also find that well meaning (women in particular) try to guide us back into that neat little box so we don't rock the boat. I'm much more able these days to quietly push through and to choose what feels best to me, rather than toeing the line. Fortunately my husband is really good at telling me it's okay to just be "me" - after all that's who he married!

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  10. Leanne I'm definitely a people pleaser but think I also try to live authentically, although it might come second to making sure others are happy / satisfied / not hindered in any way first. But my big thing is to always be myself no matter the situation and who I'm dealing with. I think it kinda works cos when I meet people they often say I'm exactly as they expected. (Which I think is good!)

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    1. I like that you're exactly as expected Deb - you certainly were when I met you a couple of years ago. I just really like people who aren't "fake" and people pleasing sometimes feels a bit fake to me these days - like I've put the honest me behind the smiley mask and faked my way through doing something I never wanted to do in the first place. Which is why I'm grateful I get to say No a bit more often these days.

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  11. Gosh, you made me think. I didn't do any kind of thinking about myself except from a career perspective and being a grandmother when I was 50. In fact, I turned 50 in the first year of my principal role and became a grandmother again that year too. I still felt I could do anything and loved my role. However, when other matters in my workplace impacted me severely because of work overload and more, I first had to examine my worth and my health at age 52. That was the beginning I guess of working out what I found my life balance to be. It ended up being a mix of working in schools again, supporting our family and grandma and more. But...at age 64 and onto 65 that is when I had literally had enough. Still, never say never, and at 71 I feel the call of being 'out there' more again but where I call the shots!!

    Thank you so much for linking up for #lifethisweek. Next week, the optional prompt is
    8/51 Explore. 22 Feb. I hope to see you there and I wish you well for the week ahead. Denyse. #lifethisweek #linkup #Mondays https://www.denysewhelan.com.au

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    1. Hi Denyse - I'll be interested to see what your next "out there" move will be! I'm quite content with the life I have now - where there's only me (and my husband) to take into consideration most of the time. I'm happy to do all the family stuff and the other roles I have, but I'm not loaded up with them any more and I feel a lot lighter these days - especially now I'm not squashing my life into my days off. Every day is a day off!

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  12. As you said, Leanne, living an authentic life is a decision we make every day, not one that we suddenly say, "Okay, now I'm authentic!" and it's done. I surprised (and disappointed) myself not long ago, by remaining silent on a topic of importance when I realized my beliefs were the minority opinion in the room. I guess I'm not beyond people-pleasing yet. I am on the journey of discovering and living my authentic self, and based on the comments here, it's not a lonely journey. Many people are on it with me. Thanks for sharing this important message and starting a conversation.

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    1. Hi Christie - I think we'll always try to protect ourselves in a situation where it feels super uncomfortable to voice our opinion. I think authenticity can mean choosing to not participate in the conversation, or refusing to agree with something that goes against our values - we don't have to shout it to model it :)
      I know I still need to be more confident that who I am is okay (more than okay) and that it doesn't matter if not everyone likes me - I can live with that and those people aren't my people.

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    2. Hi Christie, I just want to chime in here, about remaining silent when we're in the minority. I don't see it as a weakness, or as not being authentic. We learn to pick our battles, and sometimes it's just not worth it (for our mental health, or just for a peaceful soul) to start a discussion that may lead to discord or even anger among friends/family/colleages. It's not necessary for us to air our views every single time, it's also a skill to listen to others, even if we disagree with them, and silently digest what they're saying instead of actively disagreeing with them. The less you speak the more you learn. xx

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  13. I'm still a balls in the air person. I'm better than I used to be - much better - but still wear the mask for the day job where I don't allow much of me to peek through. Somehow it feels important to keep that separate - as there's a me and a day job me.

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    1. I think I was the same Jo - the person I was at work was quite different to "comfortable at home" me. As that last job became more and more psychotic I could feel myself faking my responses and pretending to care - and that's wrong on SO many levels. Once your integrity starts to be replaced by a smiley face mask you know you're in trouble!

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  14. I am reading Brene Brown too right now. My hubby gave me the book for Christmas. The Gifts of Imperfection. She talks about living Wholeheartedly in there too. It must be one of her common themes. I really like it. She also writes about fitting in versus belonging. It has me thinking about my blogging. It's tough to really belong somewhere. I have several different groups of blogging friends, but I am not sure if I really belong anywhere or if I am just trying to fit in. I think Brene went through a midlife crisis that she calls her Spiritual Awakening. Cultivating authenticity is tough. We wall want to please people, to fit in. We may not want the disapproval that comes with being our authentic selves. Still very much a work in progress for me!

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    1. Hi Laurie - I read that book a couple of years ago and have begun re-reading it because I want to address those chapters of "cultivating traits" here on the blog and how it looks for me. I feel the same way with some of the blogs I read - some I really relate to and others less so. What I do love is sharing my heart and allowing my voice a place to speak without having to be quite so careful.
      This is my little space to be me - to motivate myself to grow and become a better version of "Me" and to hopefully encourage others as they walk the same path. I've just reached that point in life where I won't pretend anymore - faking it is just not part of my skillset these days - and it's such a relief!

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  15. Hi Leanne. It's Christina Daggett. It really helps to know that on this journey, to authenticity, there are women my age dealing with the same obstacles. I wrote in a blog post, over a year ago, when I was turning 60, about the obstacles I faced in becoming authentic. I feel like I'm still a work in progress, as I head towards 61. The biggest challenges for me are self-acceptence, and feeling accepted by others. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this book, as well as your own experiences. It's very helpful.

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    1. Hi Christina - I love it when you leave a comment because I think we're on very similar paths (just on opposite sides of the world!) And yes, allowing ourselves to be real and to accept that not everyone will like us for who we are. I read an interesting article on "fear of negative evaluation" and realized that it's something I definitely struggle with - and learning that not everyone is going to love us is a huge leap for me. Definitely a work in progress too!

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  16. Hi Leanne, I love following your journey to 'self'. It's hard, I know, but so worth it! I did get stuck on one thing you've written here - "So why did I waste all that time?". Please, don't consider it as wasted time. Consider it as something you had to live through to get to this time where you can recognise your need to learn more about yourself. You wouldn't be the 'you' that you are now without all that 'wasted time'! Embrace your past just as much as you're embracing your present, it was just as important as now is. Have a lovely weekend, and thanks for this post, it's wonderful! xx

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    1. Hi Cheryl - thank you for those kind words, and you're right, it's all part of the journey isn't it? And to have been as self-focused as I am now, back when I had kids and a family and work commitments would have been quite detrimental I think (and felt quite selfish). Now that I only have "me" to worry about, I can afford to spend the time to drill down and get rid of some of the dross and the expectations - it's a nice stage to have reached.

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  17. Hi Leanne, Congrats on doing the work and taking steps to live authentically. I agree with Brene Brown that it's a practice - a conscious choice. I'm glad you're more and more comfortable with being the real you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us at #WeekendCoffeeShare.

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    1. Hi Natalie - what I love about blogging is that there are so many women modelling the type of lives and behaviour and attitudes that I aspire to. As I slowly work my way towards being my true self, it's great to have those role models as examples of how it looks when you perservere.

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  18. Oh Leanne... we are most definitely on the same journey, aren't we?? And thank goodness for Brene Brown to help guide us to (finally) becoming who we are meant to be! As you've heard me talk about before... I really love Brene's distinction between "belonging" and "fitting in" I've tried to fit in my entire life. Much like you, I've tried to live up to others' expectations of who they thought I should be. It's exhausting!! And while I do fear losing relationships as I finally have the courage to remove that mask... I also believe I will discover new relationships where I truly belong. This online midlife community is definitely one of those spaces where I feel accepted just as I am.

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    1. Molly you're so right about the fear of losing people, but I'm coming to realize that anyone who falls by the wayside was not really committed to being in my life unless it was on their terms. It's the same with saying No to things - I miss out occasionally, and I disappoint people occasionally, but it's so nice to only say Yes to things that have some meaning for me.
      Doing stuff for the sake of "someone having to do it" or squeezing myself into someone's idea of who I should be - both are stifling and I'm so glad to be leaving them behind me these days. And you know what? I haven't lost a single important person in my life - the ones who love me are still there and happy for me to be "real" - and I love the support from the blogging community too - like minded women are such a blessing.

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  19. First off, I love Brene! You know she lives in Houston, right? :-) I have had such a journey of moving away from worrying about what people think of me. I have found that I have an easy time being vulnerable, in that I am very open about my journey and challenges. But I have found that some people would go over the top, lavishing me with praise for what I have overcome, but would want nothing to do with me as soon as I said that I still struggled. I used to be so hard on myself because of this, because I thought I wasn't good enough. But now I see that their comments were not about me at all. It was their own perfectionism, their own issues. If I still overeat when I am stressed, if I still occasionally indulge those negative voices and then use wine to cope with it, that has nothing to do with the other person. If they disapprove of me, it is likely because they want there to be a "graduation," where it is possible to no longer go back to old habits. But that isn't life. I've learned to let such people go and not worry about it.

    Bethany @ Happily Loco
    http://happilyloco.wordpress.com

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    1. Hi Bethany - we really never quite know where people are coming from do we? We expect that they'll think like us, but they rarely do. The older I get, the more I'm able to put that worry about their opinions into the back of my mind - it's still there, but it doesn't drive my self-worth any more. I do try to keep that shield up at times because I think we all want to be liked, but I'm letting it down more these days and just walking away from those who don't enrich my life. I hope you do too. x

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  20. Ahhhh this was so good!!! I am pinning this to go back and read. Man. Soo much truth in those words. I have not read any of Brenes books yet but they are on my list. I am 52 and I can relate to so much of this. Thank you for sharing.

    Heading over from Weekend Coffee Share

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    1. Hi Kirstin - Brene was a great discovery in my early 50's - her Gifts of Imperfection book opened my eyes to a lot of behaviours I had that I thought were healthy and actually weren't. The relief of finding out that perfectionism wasn't the ultimate goal was such a joy! It set me on the path to living more authentically and not worrying about other people and their opinions quite so much.

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  21. What a small world we live in! I had Wholehearted as my word of the year last year, after reading The Gifts of Imperfection. Being myself is important to me: I spent so many years fitting in, and it did me no good. I'll have to get a copy of Daring Greatly next payday if it's that good.
    For now, I'm looking for midlife blogs that speak to where I am now: hence my first visit here today. It's been worth the trip so far.

    Don't worry, I'll be back again. I've missed having good blogs to read. Life has been so busy recently, and I need to take time to be me.

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    1. Hi Jem - how lovely of you to pop in and visit - I nearly chose Wholehearted for my WOTY but went with Cultivate because it had a proactive feel to it - intentional action. I don't think Daring Greatly was as good as the Gifts of Imperfection - it didn't hit quite the same note for me, but anything of Brene's is always good and full of little helpful gems. I do hope you'll keep visiting and we can get to know each other - Midlife blogging has brought me a lot of friends and connections - and it's absolutely the best unexpected bonus!

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  22. OK we need to feature this one. Those of us who have lived in places of responsibility are masters at putting on the mask. I didn't have the courage to take it off until much later in life. The process did have its own stress, it took me 6 months to work through, thank the Lord, the truth does make us free. See you in the Pit Stop.
    Kathleen

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    1. Oh that's just lovely that you're featuring my post Kathleen - and I hope it helps others. I wore a very pleasant mask for a long time - one that let people have far too much say in what went on in my life. Now I'm much better at saying "this is who I am" and if you don't like it that's fine - walk on by and let me get on with living my life peacefully and without jumping through your hoops :) I'm glad you found your way to that place too x

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  23. Brene Brown is becoming very popular! I'm hearing her name everywhere at the moment. I mean, she's been popular for a while, but just in the last week I've heard her mentioned at least five times by different people.

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Thanks so much for your comment - it's where the connection begins.