Throughout my time on this big, turning rock, I’ve had the incredible privilege to be surrounded by strong, passionate, intelligent women. With their own spectacular uniqueness, these inspiring female forces of all different ages have shown me time and time again the importance of living life by your own rules. Letting go of societal pressures, forgetting the status quo, and above all, dismissing messages from patriarchal mass media about what you should be doing at any given age, how you should look, dress, act, feel, etc.—scratching all of that to uncover the beauty that stems from unapologetically living life according to your own wants and needs. Ah, the liberation!
Not too long ago, I asked several of these women to share a few pieces of advice, for as the well known quote says, “the decisions we make, dictate the lives we lead.” Below are their riveting responses:
“Not setting a timeline is probably one of the best rules for a woman navigating this world. Don’t allow society to hang those shadows over your head. We all walk different paths and they can all be full of inspiration and delight. Once I became 29, on the edge of 30, I asked myself, ‘what you so worried about?’ No matter the age, you are the same YOU, so just be YOU!” – Claire, 30
“Don’t feel pressured by societal timelines. I think I’ve been asked almost every week since I got married, ‘when are you and your husband planning to start a family?’ We’ve been married almost three years, and we aren’t thinking anytime soon; we want to travel (a lot!) and save a good chunk of money so we can maintain the same lifestyle we currently have when we *do* decide to have kids. Don’t feel like you have to make a life-altering decision based off of other’s preconceived notions. Make sure you stay true to who you are. At the end of the day, societal timelines don’t work for everyone. Make sure you’re putting your (and your partner’s) dreams at the forefront of your life, instead of letting them get pushed aside because you feel a certain pressure from society, family, and/or friends. Generally, those who are in your life want what’s best for you; be clear, and make sure they know what your plan is and why. People who aren’t in the relationship shouldn’t make you feel like you need to speed up your timeline or change your priorities. Ultimately, stay true to yourself and do what’s best for you and your partner.” – Laurel, 28
“No matter how busy life gets, how frustrated you become, don’t forget to LOVE, as that puts all things back into perspective.” – Karen, 56
“If you asked me 10 years ago where I would be at this current state in my life, you would have heard the typical bullet points: married with at least two kiddos, a dog, and living in a cozy little house by the countryside. That is very much not the case today. I am sure a lot of us had or have similar thoughts and expectations. Why would we say that, you might ask? I believe that we are taught specific timelines and ages that certain tasks/expectations are to be accomplished. Marriage, having kids, building a home and settling in one specific area, and many more societal pressures really mold us to feel we should complete certain timetables. I’m not saying those goals are not great ones, because they are, but just maybe we need to learn a different kind of self-love and learning to walk before we run.
I decided to move abroad at the age of 26, and it has single handedly been the best decision of my personal growth and career life. Through embarking on a lot of solo traveling all across Europe, I have opened my eyes to many new cultures and have really began to appreciate and love who I am, even if I am not following society’s timelines and expiration dates. I have learned to live my own life and am genuinely grateful and blessed by the growth mindset I have gained by not following someone else’s timeline and not sticking with the status quo—but instead figuring out my own agenda. My advice to anyone: go take that leap of faith—even if it scares you—because what you don’t try, you will never know if it was the best thing for you.” – Sarah 27
“The only piece of advice I live by is don’t let a man tell you what to do. You have a mind, use it! Whatever you do, do not be dependent on a man for ANYTHING!” – Julie, 57
“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’ by Theodore Roosevelt. With all the social pressures women face—devoting time to family, climbing the corporate ladder, being involved in the community, all while supposedly staying fit and thin—instead of isolating and comparing ourselves to other successful women, let’s instead build each other up in hopes of building a larger community of strong women.” – Bethany, 28
“Embrace your natural beauty. Travel to become more open minded. Take your education serious, and learn early that you can’t buy the most valuable thing in the world: time.” – Grace, 23
“In the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s, United Technologies Corp. ran a series of full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal that never mentioned UT or its products, but instead provided words of wisdom and inspiration. My Dad would often bring these to our attention, sometimes ripping off the page and even though I probably amassed a bunch of them, there’s one in particular I’ve had one since college that I probably had hanging in our dorm room and in my offices since then:
Will the Real You Please Stand Up?
Submit to pressure from peers and you move down to their level.
Speak up for your own beliefs and you invite them up to your level.
If you move with the crowd, you’ll get no further than the crowd.
When 40 million people believe in a dumb idea, it’s still a dumb idea.
Simply swimming with the tide leaves you nowhere.
So if you believe in something that’s good, honest and bright, stand up for it.
Maybe your peers will get smart and drift your way.
It still is as appropriate now and resonates with me as it did 35+ years ago.” – Vanessa, 56
A few other words of advice from Vanessa:
“Don’t get stuck in the past, it’s a nice place to visit, but live in the present and think ahead into the future. // As you get older you realize the value of having experience, the good experiences and the bad experiences. You can’t learn experience or download experience when you are young, it just comes with living, muddling through and then taking time to look back and appreciate where you were then and where you are now and all the in between. There’s a saying that Experience is a great Teacher, and I understand and believe that. // And lastly, don’t wait for the ‘perfect time’ to start something or when you ‘have it all together,’ that time may never come and your opportunity will be gone.”
What about you? How do you live life by your own rules?