When I Grow Up

9 Things I Wish I Learned Earlier in Life

A few years ago I was blessed to be welcomed into a group of amazing women. Many of these women are younger than I am (many are the same age as my daughters!), but somehow that doesn’t make a difference. Other labels we are quick to put on ourselves are irrelevant as well.

In this group, we talk about writing, the industry, our families, our faiths, our hopes, our fears, our everyday lives. While many of us have never met in person, we have developed very real relationship and there is genuine affection and, when warranted, concern for each other.

I freely admit that I have on occasion been a bit envious of some of them. Of their success, of their fan base, of how far they have progressed, of their comfort with changing technology, even of their luck (as so much of this business is getting your work in front of the right people at the right time). But this has not changed how I feel about them. I have the same protective instincts for them as if they were my sisters and daughters.These women are honest and kind and generous. They are quick to point out that we all travel at our own pace and life sometimes gets in the way of our goals. We remind each other that life events can be life-changing or inconvenient. They can fuel our writing or stop it in its tracks. Ditto for health and family issues.

As one of the older members of the group I hate to see them struggle. For them and other young women I care about, I have some wisdom I’d like to share, some things I wished I had learned earlier in my journey.

You don’t always have to be the giver. It is acceptable, even generous sometimes, to be the receiver. It is unreasonable to expect that anyone will be strong all the time. Those who are used to being caregivers often have a tough time asking for help. Many even struggle to accept help when it is offered. Stop that! Flip the roles: do you feel inconvenienced when helping someone? (If the answer is yes, that is a different problem.) Accepting help is not a weakness. In fact, I would say it is a gift. Let someone else feel valued and useful for a change.

You shouldn’t do it all. While it’s also true that you can’t do it all, that is not the point.  We often try to be everything to everyone. We strive to be good wives and mothers, good employees and housekeepers. We agree to organize fundraisers and make cookies for bake sales. We say yes to projects we lack enthusiasm for and no to time for ourselves. We need to evaluate what’s being asked of us (even when it comes from that little voice within) and set priorities. Other people are able and willing to take on responsibilities too!

Being assertive is not rude. We have to stand up for ourselves. It is no one else’s responsibility to ensure we are treated fairly. Setting boundaries makes it clear to others what behavior we will and will not accept. Telling people what we want and need eliminates the chance that they will guess wrong and saves all of us time and aggravation.

Communicate your worth. It is not enough to know your worth; you need to talk confidently about your accomplishments. Take pride in what you do and let others know about it. You don’t need to brag, but don’t be dismissive of your talents and skills. If you’ve worked hard to accomplish something, that is worthy of celebration. Consider this: someone you know might be in need of your particular talent.

It is acceptable to say no. And in most cases, you don’t have to say more. You don’t need to justify your decision. You get to decide how you spend your “free” time (or your donation dollars). Besides, most people don’t know how to respond to a simple no, so the conversation ends there.

It is okay to sometimes be rude. While it is generally better to be kind, some people don’t respond appropriately to kindness. Some will take a kind rejection as an invitation to push harder. There are no circumstances where it is acceptable for another person (whether it’s a salesperson or even someone you have a relationship with) to pressure or bully you into a decision you don’t want to make.

Self care isn’t selfish. You can’t give what you don’t have. Everyone needs downtime and some need it more than others. If your basic needs aren’t being met, you won’t be much use to others.

Admitting you need help is not weak. In fact, it’s just the opposite. Humans are social and community is important. Without community, human beings would have died off long ago. We rely on each other for many things, not the least of which is the need to be needed. Being able to contribute gives people purpose.

Most people are good. These days that is difficult to remember. Yes, many will insist that everyone is only “Looking out for number one,” but most people are willing to help when they see it is needed. Often all it takes is for them to be asked. It can be difficult for some to see beyond their own experience and to realize that their perceptions may not reflect reality, but they will often come around when someone kindly points it out.

They say the wisdom comes with age, but there’s no reason some lessons can’t be learned earlier.


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