I remember hearing that when you turn 40, you stop caring what people think of you.
Or when you turn 50, you will just say what you think.
Well, both of those birthdays have come and gone and I still care what people think of me and I do not always say what I think.
When will it happen for me?
Will it ever?
But lately I’ve been wondering if perhaps it is a gradual shedding and not one big fell swoop like I am expecting.
I care less than I did what people think of me.
I am aware that what they think of me is not my business. That I have no control over it.
I am aware that we all project our crap onto others.
When I find myself judging somebody, I remember to turn that mirror around and it is almost always, without fail, something in myself that I do not like.
I don’t always say exactly what I think. But I do sometimes. I do more than I used to.
I used to be addicted to self-help books. I would roam the aisles of the bookstore, desperately seeking that book that would finally fix me.
That is what I thought. That I needed to be fixed. That in some essential way I was broken.
Now, I will sometimes casually browse the self-help or personal growth section but it is never with that intention of filling up some gaping hole in me.
I used to take everything personally. And I mean everything.
The cashier didn’t smile at me? I must have annoyed her in some way.
A small group is laughing in the corner. It must’ve been at me.
Now, I do that less. Now, I remember that it’s not all about me.
In fact, it is rarely about me.
Now, I have some distance, a psychic buffer between me and the me that never feels like she is enough.
And that, right there, is what that hole is.
The not-enough hole.
Not thin enough, successful enough, bold enough, generous enough.
Just not enough in some deep and profound way.
That’s a pretty big hole to fill. And all my life I have tried to fill that hole by being what everyone around me needs me to be. Caring too much what they think, not saying what I want. I’ve filled it with wine and sugar and TV and amazon.
Obviously, that hole is not going to vanish just because I turn 40 or 50 or 60 or some other magical milestone age.
That hole is always there. It’s part of being human. It’s how I deal with it that matters. Not filling it up with sugar or wine or shopping or TV .
Instead, learning to sit with the hole. Befriending it. Acknowledging that, yep it’s still there. And navigating around it.
That, to me, is santosha—being content with what I have, where I am, who I am.
Or as Pema Chodron says—befriending who I already am.
Befriending myself even when I care too much what others think of me.
Befriending myself when I fail to speak up, speak out.
So, no, I haven’t woken up after a milestone birthday suddenly a new person.
Instead, I wake up each day, doing the best I can, gradually shedding those things that feel too heavy to carry, those things that dull my light.
I wake up each day with the intention of befriending who I already am.
I wake up each day fully intending to embrace and experience santosha—a deep and abiding contentment with exactly who I am, right now, in this moment.
And, in this moment, I am enough.
More than enough.
And so are you, my sweet friend.
So are you.