Don’t Do This for Anyone (But Especially Not Your FF)
I was thinking about what to write this week and came across a social media post where a young woman talked about leaving her lover because he was too small. She wasn’t talking about his package. She was talking about his energy and ability to handle her as a fully-developed (and ever-developing) woman. I think this is one of the most important things we can notice about our (potential) partner, but what if we’re the one who is being ‘small?’
Women in the Western world, and in any culture that doesn’t see women as fully equal, are often brought up learning how to make themselves small in a similar way. We learn, from a fairly early age, to ‘be good,’ to ‘act like a nice young lady.’ We also learn to minimize our needs, dismiss our curiosity, grow in silence, and fold in on ourselves so that we don’t upset someone else.
How many times have you been asked to ‘take it down a notch’ or ‘look the other way’ or ‘just let X have his say’ so that your full idea and energy didn’t upset someone else? I would guess it’s a lot.
In relationships we also become small, sometimes for safety, but often because we fear we won’t be loved if we are fully ourselves. We don’t tell our partner what we really think, we feign interest in something, we pretend not to know something so the other person can feel powerful. I think the generations after us are growing out of this, but I still see and hear it quite a bit in my own generation and in some of my clients. (And, we can’t help it! It’s been ingrained in us to act this way from the very start!)
One of the gifts of mid-life is that we start to refuse to do this. The hormonal changes of mid-life mean we are tired of the BS, tired of being invisible, and tired of not talking about what matters and taking a stand on it. This is why mid-life is wonderful! But there are also situations, and the Sex Surge® is one of them, where we can fall back into that old habit of being small.
When I was in the Sex Surge, I made myself very small for my FF. And by that I mean I didn’t really talk about what I cared about, I only listened to him and engaged with what he liked. I feigned interest in things he was interested in so that we could stay connected. I rarely talked about myself and asked his advice on things (things I sometimes knew a ton about already). I wasn’t terribly brash, mouthy, colorful, or engaging (which I am most of the time). I made myself fit into the space he allowed for me in his life, which meant I had to cut off parts of myself to do so.
I regretted that a little bit at the time, but I deeply regret it now.
Don’t make yourself small for anyone.
In mid-life this can also look like:
- not speaking our opinion so we don’t upset someone else
- holding back our emotions so much that no one knows what we’re feeling
- not talking with friends and family about how we are changing through mid-life, peri-menopause, and the Sex Surge
- continuing to be involved in activities and clubs that are dragging us down (like the PTA or the dysfunctional book club)
- enabling partners, parents, and children
- anytime we feel like a martyr
The thing about being small is that it doesn’t help us or our friendships or romantic relationships or anything, really (unless it is for safety reasons). If I had been completely myself with my FF, it would have been apparent very quickly that we weren’t going to be good for each other. (Honestly? I’m waaay to much for him. Too alive, too smart, too sexy, too empowered, too healed, too real. And I’m sure that’s a big part of why we never connected.)
This is true in mid-life situations as well. When we are ‘small’ for our friends, our partner, and/or our work we aren’t getting to share the fullness, brilliance, and magnificence of who we are or what we have learned in these 40, 50, or 60-odd years around the sun. And I really, really believe the world needs empowered, wise women now more than ever.
In truth, I think we’ve all been small in some way or another- and we all know the damage it does to us, internally. We’ve all lost friendships for being ourself- and while that hurts, isn’t it really the only way to live? Being small- denying our needs, truths, desires, experiences, knowledge, wisdom- it really doesn’t help anyone. It leads to frustration and resentment and it often comes out sideways anyhow. Better to be brave, better to be all of who we really are, better to tell the truth and live than to cut off some part of ourselves. Like the tree in the box in the picture above, being small is not going to help the tree be fully itself. Mid-life is the time to shine and be fully ourselves whatever that looks like for you. You’ve earned the right to be yourself.