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It’s Time: You Do You!

By Rhonda Collins, I Start Wondering Columnist

One of my most important life lessons has been to be myself, rather than what other people expect of me. Though many of us spent most of our lives focusing our energy on taking care of everyone else, smart older women are realizing that now is the season to make ourselves a priority.

Millennials use the phrase “You do you” to sum up this approach to life. The first time I heard it used, I was with a group of millennial students who were discussing the pressure they sometimes feel from their parents to choose a certain career. 

Emma said her parents repeatedly told her “You do you,” and my initial thought was “Wow, how selfish.” But, as I got to know Emma better and discovered what a confident, self-aware leader she was, I thought, “How smart!” She was lucky to have parents who taught her to be herself and do what she loves. 

As I got older and retired, I’ve come to believe that we have a lot to learn from younger women with their “You do you” philosophy. Prioritizing ourselves as much as we can is a value that all older women should adopt.

What is “You do you”?

Being yourself does not mean that you stop having empathy for others, that you stop helping when asked, or that you isolate yourself from others. 

It’s also not just about self-care. While important, I believe being yourself is about more than just ensuring you are mentally and physically healthy. It’s also not about branding ourselves to make ourselves look a certain way to gain the most likes on social media. 

As the character Leslie Wiggins from the TV show Ted Lasso, said, “The best brand is just being yourself.”

It’s simply about being true to yourself.  “You do you” is about being free to express what you know to be your preferred style and lifestyle, to choose a career and hobbies that make you happy, and to choose to be with people who lift you up

Maybe some of your current choices were due to the expectations of others or decisions that are not relevant today, and they no longer make you happy. Maybe it’s time to change that.

As we age, we have more freedom to choose our own style based on how we want to present our authentic selves. It could be as simple as adding some purple tint to your hair or transitioning to more casual clothing. Being yourself could also mean more serious lifestyle choices, such as changing your career, where you live or whom you live with. 

What do you dislike?

Prioritizing yourself is not just about adding, changing and doing new things. It’s also about letting go and leaving things behind. 

For example, I don’t like the way dresses and skirts look on me. After retirement, I stopped wearing them. I also no longer wear shoes with heels, and I don’t carry a purse. 

My reprioritizations also extend beyond physical appearance. I have never enjoyed going to baby showers, so a few years back, I gave myself permission to not go anymore. Instead, I give a gift to the new mom on a personal visit. 

Who are you?

“You doing you” also is about being authentic to your deeper self – what you know in your soul to be your personality, your values, your attitude, your gender, your interests, your beliefs, and your dreams.

We should feel free to experiment with creating these soulful new versions of ourselves. You might try a new make-up style or join a dance club, and then decide those changes are not for you. That’s okay. The point is to experiment and see what feels right to you. 

The great news is that older women can find it easier to follow their passions and shift to heart-driven behaviors. We tend to be less worried about what people think, less constrained by workplace rules and expectations and may have more time on our hands.

What’s the catch?

Of course, you will always get stares from the judging sort when you wear that unique pink polka-dot hat that you love. Just shake off their eye-rolling because as Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate.”

The main downside to doing things your way instead of the conventional way: you might miss out on some things. For example, it’s a good idea to listen to your biological clock for your sleep patterns and to get the best rest for your body’s needs—but that may not coincide with your community’s typical routines.

Case in point: I have one friend who wakes up at 4 a.m. every day and another who doesn’t roll out of bed until noon. What they both have learned is that if you choose to have a different sleep schedule than most of the rest of your everyday world, you are going to be unavailable for some fun gatherings or have a hard time focusing on those required meetings that conflict with your sleep schedule. 

Similarly, any lifestyle choice you make that is outside the norm – whether it’s living without a car or living with 50 cats – is going to require some extra gumption to maintain. But it will be worth it if you love your alternative way of life and feel it represents your authentic self.

How can you be more you?

Ready to explore the “You do you” life? Begin by asking yourself if you are happy.

If you are not, I suggest it’s not because something is wrong with you, but rather that you aren’t creating and living the life that reflects your personality and passions. 

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” 

Instead of making annual New Year’s resolutions to change yourself, resolve to simply be yourself. Create a life that represents the authentic you.

Maybe it’s been so long since you’ve thought about who you are that you are no longer sure how to define your true self. Start by thinking about what you love and what makes you happy.

Here are some questions to ponder to start creating the life you want:

  • Does your appearance reflect your values and what you love? Consider seeing what it feels like to be a redhead or to go gray. If your favorite color is blue, why not put it on your nails? 

  • Are you tired of the same old routine in the bedroom? Maybe it’s time to mix things up and explore your sexuality more to discover what gives you pleasure. 

  • Does your house and community truly feel like home? Should you downsize, purge, redecorate—or relocate? Perhaps it’s time to finally make that move to the mountains or the beach.

  • What have you always wanted to learn or do? Sign up for that art class or that trip to Antarctica. Are there other new activities that would bring you more fulfillment than your existing routine?

  • Are you happy with your current fitness level and the state of your health? Research what it will take to be where you want to be – physically and mentally, then, create a plan to make it happen. 

  • What would you love to no longer have in your life? Make a list; then, whether it’s a purse or a toxic relationship, leave them behind.

Just identify what needs to happen for you to be happier and then start manifesting those things. Remember, in most cases you can go back to your old way of doing things if you don’t like the new stuff, but you will never have the opportunity to be a more authentic version of yourself if you don’t try.

No more excuses

Why make an effort to be your true self? Because you are worth it! After spending decades working and helping others, you deserve to prioritize yourself.

It’s time to do it now before you forget – either from giving up on your true self or from the arrival of senility – what it is you love and who you really are inside. Don’t wait until you have more money or lose weight or have a boyfriend before acting.

Now is our time to listen to our desires, allowing ourselves to create and experience the lives we want. That may require some hard work and a major commitment to build your dream life. But won’t it be great to feel comfortable and at home by being your true self?

It’s time to love yourself. It’s time to do what you love. It’s time to live your life in a way that honors your dreams and reflects your personality, interests, and values.

Pledge today to live the life you truly want, by prioritizing “You do you.”


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