“Ageing is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person
you always should have been.”—David Bowie
Maybe this quote resonated because I’m about to turn sixty. But then again, it may have caught my attention due to its topic. After all, “becoming,” is merely another term for transformation.
Before I begin, it’s important to state that who we are is enough. We’re perfect, or at least perfectly imperfect, and there is no need for us to change a thing. However, sometime stepping into a deeper version of ourselves leads to higher levels of fulfillment and happiness. Though not required, exploring this concept may prove rewarding.
However, going within to explore our truest self is not always easy. It requires us to look at our shadows, triggers, and those bits and pieces that cause disappointment or shame. However, after muddling through the sticky stuff, our true essence emerges. Untainted by dramas and traumas, it is here our dazzling pure self shines.
I had to dig deep to uncover the real Michelle. Like an onion, there were many layers to peel away. And while I’ve had glimpses of who she is, in no way am I able to consistently embody her. In fact, I frequently slip back into older versions of me. This is not to say these previous editions were bad or required “fixing.” But when I’m able to show up as my authentic self, I’m suddenly more comfortable in my skin, less consumed by what people think, and more apt to forgive. Instead of worrying about meeting expectations, I become curious about how things make me feel.
This certainly was not the case in my twenties, thirties, or forties. During those decades I judged my successes on preestablished metrics. I didn’t know any better and wanted to make others happy. Not only did I worry about how I was perceived, but it was also important how others viewed our sons. Looking back, I see the unintentional consequences this had.
However, in those precious moments when I can step into who I truly am, life changes in the most beautiful, yet subtle ways. But for this to occur, I had to let go of who I thought I should be and become open to an unfamiliar woman inside—a spirited lady filled with surprises. She has an independent streak, finds energetic practices captivating, and wants to explore life’s uncertainties. But that’s not all. She’s welcoming her gray hair, no longer worries about everything being perfect, and believes nature holds the cure to most of our everyday problems. Although not totally unfamiliar, she is most definitely a certainly a kinder, calmer, braver, and happier version of me.
Meeting our true self can be a daunting journey. It takes time, commitment, and brutal honesty. It requires we look at our belief systems, asking if what we once held as truth still holds water. And as we become aware of and open to different ways of thinking, certain “old” perspectives naturally shift. This can feel awkward, sometimes causing feelings of distress.
Becoming open to innovative information and encountering unfamiliar experiences often prompts us to question our ways. Doing so may lead to minor adjustments in our thought processes. Sometimes, however, we undergo epiphanies, resulting in an adoption of a radically different perspective.
As I tip toe through my transformation, certain beliefs are no longer “black and white.” Suddenly, shades of gray are appearing—in how relationships should be, the importance of doing vs. being, and why an honest “no” can sometime be healthier than a guilt-ridden “yes.” Former practices that were conveniently murky are now becoming crystal clear. For example, I no longer use endless rolls of aluminum foil and countless plastic storage bags. Yes, there are many more ideas to examine and habits to question. I suspect certain foundational beliefs will remain rock solid while others will shift. That’s what happens when we witness who we truly are and begin to become who we are meant to be.
Ageing’s allowed me to better own who I am and accept where I need to let go. Perhaps it’s because I have less to prove, want to make a difference, or realize my time on earth is not limitless. Maybe you, too, feel an urge to step into your power and surrender what no longer matters.
Through our individual transformations, we nudge open the door for the one inside–the persona who’s always been there but was afraid of not fitting in or being judged—to emerge. No longer is it important why our true self remained hidden. What matters is he or she’s here now.
When we become who we are instead of trying to meet the expectations and needs of those around us, life becomes sweeter. This is not to suggest we become self-absorbed or ignore our responsibilities. Nor does stepping into our true self miraculously prevent “bad stuff” from happening. But when we courageously become who we are supposed to be, we’re somehow better equipped to deal with life’s ups and downs. We stop taking others’ behaviors personally because we know their reactions are most likely not about us. Instead of casting blame, we hold them in compassion. And no longer do we look around us for happiness because it’s clear our joy comes from within.
Embracing the person who’s lived beneath the masks and identities we’ve created to thrive or survive empowers us to live fuller, more meaningful lives. By owning who we truly are—the self we’ve protective through layers or armor—we release the fears that have kept us small and realize our potential … we become.