We live in a world that constantly measures our worth by external measurements. Add to that the pressure from social media to advertise our identity, we can easily fall trap into performing and projecting what we want others to see and, at the same time, feeling less than what we truly are. In this episode, Laura Black joins Whitney Lauritsen to help us overcome these external validations and untether our identities from them. Laura dives deep into that struggle to find success and beauty, especially for women who need to be both, as well as the challenge of being too much and not enough. Plus, she also talks about the marginalized matriarch and the lack of inclusion due to relatability. Shifting our perspective and seeing life from a different lens, she then shares her advice on raising our whole person, finding self-esteem based on inner worth, and taking small steps towards soaring. Laura is a retired attorney and award-winning businesswoman turned author and speaker. Follow her in this conversation as she imparts the wisdom that despite what the world wants, we have done enough, and we are good enough.
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Untethering Identity From External Measurements: Small Steps Towards Soaring With Laura Black
I had a lovely conversation with our guest, Laura Black. I am eager to dive in more with you, Laura, because you cover something that I’m now beginning to explore in my life. I want to begin our conversation with something I saw you post on Facebook. I don’t know if it was recent or something that you had featured, because it was at the very top of your Facebook page.
You wrote, “I grew up in a world that measured the worth of a man by his success, a woman by her beauty. I was not born with the second, so I put every ounce of my being into achieving the first. It’s only now that I realize worth is measured by character and deeds of kindness, not by what we take, but by what we leave.”
That spoke to me. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about so much. This has been a bit on my mind throughout a lot of my life. Maybe women in general can relate to this because most of us have grown up where men are rewarded for success and achievement. While women are, too, there’s a lot of emphasis on the beauty side of it. I agree with this statement about worth being measured by character, kindness, and by what we’re giving and leaving behind, not what we’re just taking. I’m curious what inspired you to write those words.
First of all, it’s a pleasure being here and speaking with you. Thank you so much. I grew up in Miami. In Miami, like LA and a lot of other areas, this is a generalization. It attracts people who like to show off their body. I would drive by the University of Miami campus, and there are women in bikinis sunbathing. You don’t find that in the Northern schools. There is such a strong emphasis on our looks and physicality.
Wherever I would look, people were running, playing tennis, biking, or working out, which is all wonderful for our health, but it was extreme for me who was a very pudgy, frizzy-haired, and acne-faced child. It was tough because I felt less than others. I did not feel that I mattered. I didn’t feel important. My parents very much wanted me to lose weight and get in shape.
After I finished writing my book, Climbing Down the Ladder, and thinking about this for decades, I realized they thought that was in my best interest because it was those days when a woman was to attract a husband and you had to be beautiful to attract a husband. How could you be complete without that? It’s not like I didn’t try. I went on every diet there was, but at night, I’d be in bed, and Mrs. Fields would call to me, and I’d crave the sweets and sneak donuts in my bathrobe sleeves. The more I was pushed to be who I wasn’t, the more I needed to fill this void and I filled it with food.The more I was pushed to be who I wasn't, the more I tried to fill the void. Click To Tweet
Later on, I started learning I’m good at something. I’m good at business. I sold the most Girl Scout Cookies in my troop. Albeit I ate a lot of them, that helped the sales, but I could sell. I went around and sold greeting cards and Christmas cards. I’m Jewish, but I sold the most Christmas cards. I started getting confidence in business success.
The more I filled my ego with that kind of success, the less I needed to fill my stomach. It was also the days of those brain beauty wars. You had to pick a team. Nowadays, I think it’s hard for women because we’re expected to be on both teams. In the end, none of that matters. It matters that we have character and that one day, we’d leave this world better than we found it. I wish I could erase a lot of those years of anguish.
As you’re speaking, I can relate to so much of this and I wonder how common this is for people, and maybe not just women. I wonder if men are experiencing this, too, and it’s just not as known. Maybe it’s not even a gender issue at all. Brain beauty wars, as you’re mentioning, is something that seems to impact us all because society says you need to be successful, intelligent, and attractive. Attraction is so relative, maybe perhaps because it’s a bit undefined because everyone essentially is attractive to somebody. It’s in the eyes of the beholder, we know that, but yet there’s this weird air of never being quite attractive enough.
As you were speaking now, and as I was reflecting before we even had this conversation, I kept thinking back to the documentary I watched about Pam Anderson. She released it on Netflix. It was a fascinating thing to watch because this woman that was praised and exploited for her beauty also is indicating how much she wanted to be seen beyond her appearance. She wanted to be known as talented. Perhaps she wanted to be seen as intelligent. It was incredibly difficult for her.
That’s why this documentary is so compelling because most people think someone like Pam Anderson has it made because she was seen as this sex icon, this perfect beauty, and a desirable person. Our society says that’s what we should go for. Even if you are holding this high standard of beauty, you still might want the other side of it, the brain side of it. It goes back to what you were telling me earlier, Laura, which is, we always want when we don’t have or what we could have been.
We could have it all. We could have both. My daughter is beautiful inside and out. She has the brains and beauty, o her friends. It isn’t that either/or game we had to play. At some point, women even played the role so that they would build the male’s ego, “Tell Boy, ‘You’re so smart.'” We demean ourselves to play up to someone else’s ego. That’s how it was. We had then such a hard time saying, “Where do I fit in? How can I be taken seriously? How do I act in the workplace?” It’s always been tough for women.
I was a CEO of a big company, and they always say, “If you’re too tough, you’re a bitch. If you’re too nice, you’re walked all over.” We didn’t have a lot of women role models. Now, your generation has way more, and it’s become the norm. It was a tough road to carve out, and I still think there are lots of challenges. Who am I when I’m out there? How do I react? If someone flirts, do I just laugh it off? Do I pretend I didn’t hear it? I want to be taken seriously, and it’s not easy.
It’s not. I also think despite the fact that there seems to be an increase of role models, and I feel very grateful to have had some of those presented to me, I still notice that women are extremely sexualized, even young kids. That’s a huge issue right now with pedophilia, people dressing up their children to look a certain way, and kids under ten years old getting on social media and showing off their bodies. It seems to continue through the generations. I wonder if there’s an end in sight. Do you think that there is? If not, how do we change that?
I sure hope that parents, moms, and dads out there, try to raise a whole person whose ego and self-esteem are based on their inner worth, that we’re praising, “How nice was that that you lend Sally your skateboard. That was so kind of you to go over to Joey because he’s new in the school and no one’s playing with him.” This world needs some kindness and inclusivity. Those kinds of values are what we need to stress. The other is so superficial. We need to be healthy. We want to eat healthy because we want to live long. We need to exercise because we need to build our bones and be healthy. Healthy is different.This world needs some kindness and inclusivity. Click To Tweet
We base our whole self-esteem on something so transient. I’m in South Florida now. I walked down on some of the areas. There are more med spas than gas stations. There’s no end to it. They fix things I never even looked at in my own body. I saw it on TV the other day. People know about this, but they take the fat out of your cheeks. I’m like, “If that was the only place my fat was, I’d be so happy.” It’s like there’s no end. Your elbows and every part of our body get done. It’s so sad. If we would take all those dollars and efforts and did it towards education, kindness, and things that mattered, what a better world.
That is so fascinating because it doesn’t quite make sense to me why this continues to happen. You’d think that women, as they become more empowered, would learn these things. It’s not meant to shame, by the way. It’s easy to say, “Focus on your brains instead of your beauty,” but there is the pressure to have both.
I also see a correlation between younger women, myself included, feeling like if I can just use my appearance, then that can help me become successful. I see this especially on social media with the younger Millennials and Gen Z who might be trying to use their body because they know sex sells. If they can attract people through their appearance, they can make more money.
Maybe they feel like they’ll stop focusing on their appearance once they have enough money. I don’t know if that will ever actually happen or if it’s just a myth. Also, something you and I were talking about, Laura, was maybe women feel like there’s a ticking clock. They only have a certain amount of time to use their beauty, and then later in life, they’ll focus on their brains. What do you think?
Wouldn’t that be a shame if we waited? You’re right. There have been so many studies that show attractive people have a head up that they get hired more easily. People want to be around them. We like attractive people. We do. However, if we look back into the 1800s, the Rubenesque period, women were beautiful because they had curves, and they had something to them. That was the beauty. We then had the other extreme where the super skinny was the beauty. Someplace along the line, we have to realize that these are made-up standards that go with the times just like fashion.
We all want to feel good about ourselves. We want to look our best. We’re going to a wedding. We want to look beautiful. That’s different from taking that as the highest ideal to reach for. Let’s reach for more. We can and do have both. We are smart. As women, we’re smart. Now, we have every opportunity to do what we want with our lives in so many ways.
At the end of the day, as I tell my kids, nobody can give you that feeling you get from looking in the mirror and saying, “I’m proud of myself.” Nothing can fill us up except for our own understanding and owning our awesomeness. If we don’t get that, somehow, then we don’t have anything because then we’re just covering the fact that we don’t feel like that.
That is so true. It feels hard because of the messaging that is so prevalent. That could be based on social media. What you were describing, walking outside your door depending on where you live, you might be bombarded with advertising and people that look a certain way. It can feel very challenging to go inward, but that’s where the value seems to be. It reminds me of another subject matter that you focus on that I’m curious about, which is finding meaning beyond the business card.
I love that phrasing because there is the superficial side of things. We might feel satisfied about ourselves based on our appearance and/or feel satisfied because of productivity, achievement, success, and all of that. I love the emphasis on the meaning outside of perhaps both those things. In your opinion, what is that meaning? If it’s not just beauty and brains, what’s beyond that?
It’s so ironic. I was thinking about it. My first book was called Big Butts, Fat Thighs, and Other Secrets to Success. That book was helping women bring in business because everything, whether it’s ratings, clients, or we are at any given institution, whether it’s a law firm, stock brokerage, selling real estate, or social media, can we bring in business?
One of the key ways to do that is wearing our identity on our sleeve because we never know where business comes from or connections. If we’re out at a soccer game with our kids, we want the other parents to know that we sell real estate in case they’re going to list their house. We want them to know that we’re in a state planning attorney because they might be doing that, whoever you sit next to on a plane. Wherever we go, it’s a chance to form connections and bring in business.
It’s so important, as we’re building our career, to advertise our identity subtly, get it into conversations, and let people know what we do. Before we leave, we would give a business card and say, ” If you ever want to talk about your legal problems, please feel free to give me a call.” Comes the day where we leave the workforce. When we’ve built this identity all these years, and those of us like yourself who’ve become very successful at what they do and it is their identity, when we leave that box of cards in the drawer, we feel naked like, “Who am I now? What’s my purpose and meaning?” It’s a very difficult transition. That’s what Climbing Down the Ladder speaks to.
For me, I had to go through a near-death experience to help turn myself around, not on purpose. Out of nowhere, I got sick, my colon burst, I became septic, and the doctor had to tell my husband to bring the kids in. They didn’t know if I’d make it through the night. Up until then, I didn’t know how to not be productive. I thrived on productivity.
When I was going to leave the workforce, I was going to have to have very accountable quantifiable goals. How many books did I read? How many states did I visit? If you think about it, we start school where we get grades, so we’re measured. We have these quantifiable measurements of success. We’re then looked at what college we get into, where we rank in our class, and whether we going to graduate school. We’re measured.
All of a sudden, no one’s measuring. We lose that identity. There’s this facelessness. I describe it as a feeling like an empty tube of toothpaste or the cottage cheese that is in the back of the refrigerator that nobody wants because it’s reached its expiration date. I did learn to be in the moment. I learned that when we’re so goal-driven, which is great because we want to reach our goals, but it’s like we have blinders on, and we’re only playing in one lane. By taking those blinders off, there’s this whole world that has passed us by that we have a chance to rediscover. There’s this sacred space between when we do leave the workforce and we die. Shame on us if we don’t maximize that and see everything we’ve missed.
Are you saying that has been there all along, it’s just that we’re missing it because we’re so focused on the measurements as being part of our identity and our goals? What’s that like to have that realization? As you were talking, I was thinking, “I would love to live without measurements.” I run a private community called Beyond Measure.
That phrase, beyond measure, has so much meaning to me, personally, and now more professionally. I’m striving towards that. I don’t like the measurements. When you’re saying there was like a sense of emptiness or loss of identity without the measurements, that’s something I’ve never considered. I always thought getting beyond the measurements was the goal for me, but not a place where there’d be a gap, so that’s interesting.
It is. I remember so vividly. One day, I was sitting on my deck at the beach. I looked up, and there was this big bird, and it was flying. I watched it. The first thought that went into my head was, “I’ve never watched a bird fly,” as dumb as that sounds. It then occurred to me the bird was soaring. It was only flapping its wings when it had to change direction or for specific purposes, but most of the time, it was soaring.We're always flapping our wings and never giving ourselves a chance to soar. Click To Tweet
I realized we’re always flapping our wings. We’re not giving ourselves enough time just to soar, and there’s a whole richness that can be found. We don’t have to keep striving, next. Everyone has lists. I’m checking it off my list, next. There’s no free time. It’s all about getting everything done and achieving our next goal. If we’re also raising children, there is no time. How sad. Life just goes by.
What would you recommend to somebody who’s reading this now and in this moment thinking, “I want to soar?” That sounds nice. How do you stop? Can you opt out of it at any point in your life even if you’re still in that striving period success-wise? What if you’re a parent? How do you pause and stop flapping your wings when it seems like so many parents don’t even see that as an option?
That’s right. Therefore, we’re teaching that to our children, too. We start with small steps. We could take moments in our day if we’re very conscious and mindful. Even when we drive our kids to school, we could say, “Let’s look out the window. Who can find a bird?” We could just do, “This is mommy time. I need five minutes.” Just little pieces. Everything doesn’t have to be over-planned and overthought. Even if it’s a couple of hours we say, “On Saturdays, from 1:00 to 4:00, there are no plans. We’re just going to be. We’re going to play at the beach, run up the hill, or sit and look out at the water.” Whatever it is, we could make those moments.
Some people go to meditation. It’s wonderful if you like that, just mindfulness and being in the moment. Even on a walk, you can be very mindful of the moment. With other people, instead of talking all the time and thinking, “What am I going to say next when they’re finished?” That’s how we listen. We listen and say, “How do I respond to that?” That’s a normal conversation. What example can I give that happened to me that’s even more extreme than what they described? We could be present, so practicing being present.
It is a practice. I feel so blessed to be able to listen to people like you. That, in itself, has been an ongoing practice on this show. I noticed when I first started this show that I was just trying to think of the next thing to say. I still do it because there’s this pressure and idea that you need to be prepared. Maybe that preparation is part of it. For me, preparation feels like a sense of security. If I’m prepared, I feel safe. If I’m prepared and keep flapping my wings, then I’ll keep the momentum. There’s a fear perhaps that if I soar, what if I fall?
Except if you find yourself dropping, you could flap a little bit, but that doesn’t mean you always have to be flapping hard.
It’s so true and sounds obvious.
Again, as women, we’re so hard on ourselves. We think we need to do everything perfectly. Again, it’s a generalization, but I see it too much. If we have a partner, we let the partner help us, but we want to do everything. We have people for dinner. We want to fold the napkins in the right way and make the best food, do the best job at work, raise the best kids, and wear the best clothes.
How about the idea of being the best you are? How about permission to ourselves that we are enough, we’ve done enough, and we’re good enough? Once again, own our awesomeness. There’s nothing to prove. At the end, there are no report cards. You’ve never been to a funeral where they said, “I’ll give him a B-minus.”At the end, there's no report cards. Click To Tweet
Laura, I saw somewhere on your social media, maybe it was your website, a testimonial about how fun and funny you are. You are having me laugh so much over here. These are beautiful examples and visualizations, too, because maybe in these moments, we can think about ourselves as soaring instead of flapping. We can think about, as morbid as it might feel, the end of our lives, at our funeral, what a relief to know that our teachers aren’t going to show up and give us another grade. I imagine that some people might be concerned about what’s written in their obituary or gravestone. Some people get so consumed with what’s going to be said about them even after their lives. They want to leave a legacy, and perhaps that puts pressure on people, too.
I hope my legacy, yours, and most of us, is that the world is just a little bit better because we were here, whether from raising a child or more than one child, being kind to those around us, or helping the environment. Whatever it is, the world’s a little bit better because we were here. I’ve never seen on a tombstone, “It was a C-minus life.” It doesn’t happen. It’s going to be the years with the space, and it’s up to us how we fill that little dash.
It’s so comforting to hear you express this because it feels like so much striving, and I’m trying to be more purposeful. It’s a beautiful timing for my life and hopefully, for the readers as well. As you were sharing some of these things, I keep reflecting on the joy I felt doing nothing or doing something that was away from the busy day-to-day. For me, it’s typically travel. I imagine a lot of people feel the same. There’s a big desire to go see something outside of your environment to do something out of the ordinary.
Years ago, I started doing this more regularly. I started taking road trips around the country. I didn’t intend for them to be by myself, but nobody wanted to go with me except for one friend. I’ve done a few over my life, but this is a newer tradition. I started my first road trip years ago with a friend, and I felt more comfortable going with her. I did this round trip and she didn’t come on the way back to Los Angeles. I was by myself and it felt scary. It was out of my comfort zone, but I identified how incredible it was to just be so focused on the travel that everything else in my life melted away.
I did it again the next year. Now, I have this incredible thing in my mind. It’s something I can reference at any point and I can go time travel back to these trips, and remember what it was like to just stand, do nothing, and look out over an incredible part of the country like the national parks I’ve been to. Sometimes, I’m looking at those birds like you’re describing. Sometimes, I’m looking at magnificent mountains, ocean, or bodies of water, and it puts me in that state of tranquility, appreciation, peacefulness, and presentness that you’re describing. I realized that I want that more often. I don’t want that to be just a couple of times a year.
It gives perspective. The word I like to use is perspective. If we can imagine a tall apartment building, if we live on the first floor, and we look out the window, we’ll see the street, some people, and that view. As we climb higher till eventually, one day, we’re on the 50th or 30th floor, we could say, “There was a river there.” You see everything out of a different lens. The more we put ourselves in these different positions where we get perspective, it makes us more and broadens us. In the process of growing, being more, and getting perspective, the little things don’t matter as much.
When we have a job, we want to do the best we can. We owe that to ourselves and our employer. I’m not saying we should slack off or not do a good job at all. I’m saying within that and all our other responsibilities, we have to nurture things that will help us grow. A big thing for us, especially women, is friendships. It takes time to nurture a friend. When we’re working and if we’re child rearing, that’s limited. As we get older, that’s going to be a big source of support for us. I do urge readers out there to do a survey of their friends.
How many close friends do they have? Not just people that you spend time with because you’re bored, but people who you love. How much time do we give to our community? How much time do we let ourselves learn something new that doesn’t have anything to do with anything, whether it’s artwork, music, or rocks? It doesn’t matter. How many times do we allow ourselves to feel our spirituality, whatever it is, if we’re religious or not? All these things make us more. One day, when we do leave the workplace and are finished with our other domestic responsibilities as such, we need that whole group of things to fall back on, and provide us comfort.
That reminds me of something else I was curious to hear from you, which was about, as you put it, moving to the front of the line in your family after your parents pass. I’m also curious about the role of the marginalized matriarch. I’m not sure if those two points are connected or separate discussions, but the front of the line of the family. It sounds a bit scary. My parents are still alive. I have a very good relationship with them. One day, they won’t be here. I have one sibling, and I’m the oldest. That sounds a little frightening, to be honest.
It is. For me, within few years of each other, I lost my dad unexpected. A few years after that, I lost my mom, both not that long ago. It’s funny, it comes at the same time in my life where we leave the workforce, our kids grow up and out of the house, and then our parents. It’s a lot of loss at one time that no one prepares us for this. No one talks about this. I remember my husband saying to me, “You’ll get through it because everyone on earth has to lose their parents,” but it hurts and it’s sad.
I say, “It sounds very trite, but we should call our grandparents more if we have grandparents, and we should call our parents because we will lose them. That’s a given.” We do take that role. Our parents are role models, so we want to take from them what was good. We could leave to the side the stuff that maybe wasn’t so much, and become those models for the next generation.
That was part of my inspiration for the road trips that I’ve been taking, too. During my now annual trip, I started visiting different people from my family that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I realized that I was passing by their homes. At the first trip I did, one of my cousins reached out to me and said, “Are you going to be passing by?” It hadn’t even occurred to me to visit her because we weren’t very close. The next year when I did the trip, I made it a point to see her. I got to meet her kids for the first time because she lives in a part of the country I never go to for business or pleasure. It’s just not something that’s regular for me.
Seeing the beauty of nature and being present added to it, but as you’re saying, it’s the connections I got to build with family members gave me so much gratitude and connection. Thinking about a cousin even who I hadn’t been close to for most of my life, and now, suddenly we’re developing a relationship together. I get to develop a relationship with her children. I don’t have children, and at this point, probably won’t have them. Now, I can connect with other family members’ children and my friends’ children. To your point, growing into that place of being a role model feels so deeply satisfying.
It is. I love that you do that. That’s just phenomenal that you’re taking the time to meet these family members because family’s important. It’s grounding. Again, as we get older, it’s more important. I was proud that I could get my mic set up, and I didn’t mess up anything. There’s the technology. When I’m with my adult children or even my grandchildren, I could sometimes get A to B, but it is probably fifteen steps where they look at me differently. The flashlight went on my phone, and I couldn’t find the place to shut it off. I was real proud. I said, “Siri, shut off the flashlight,” and it went off, but they were hysterical.
Now, they’re all looking at me a little differently because I don’t know technology. I don’t know the latest stars and pop culture. I’ll watch something about who’s going to win these awards, and I’ve never heard of any of the people. Again, it’s marginalized. The kids roll their eyes. I don’t know what’s in fashion anymore.
Is pantyhose still in? Do you wear them in a dress? If you do, is it nude or black? What color of nail polish are you supposed to wear? I go get my nails, and there are 87 colors. We used to just have different shades of red. Do I go to green? Can I do blue or yellow? Can I wear a fanny pack if I’m doing a big walk, and have no place to hold my stuff?
The kids will laugh and roll their eyes. There’s a little bit of marginalization in there. I could feel if we’re all around for a big dinner, there are lots of conversation that does not include me because they can relate to each other. Whether they’re doing the latest gym thing and they’re comparing their times, or did you binge on this show. I’m not included in those conversations. They love and honor me, and they’re wonderful to me. They’re calling me for work advice or wisdom, those kinds of things, but I’m out of it in a lot of other areas.
It’s refreshing to hear that perspective. That’s another thing. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard anyone articulate it in the way that you have. It brings a level of compassion because I’m all for inclusion. It breaks my heart to be excluded and to see other people feel excluded. I want everyone to feel included, and that age gap can happen. I worry about that happening to me.
I’ve noticed, speaking of the flapping, sometimes, I feel like I need to flap my arms hard to stay up with everything that’s going on because there’s a lot of societal pressure to know what’s happening, be cool and hip, not wear the wrong clothes, and like you said, the stars. What comes up for me as a fear of embarrassment or being looked down to as less than. How do you manage that? It sounds like you’re acknowledging it and you’re acknowledging a lack of inclusion sometimes, but is it challenging for you or is it something you’re accepting of?
I try to put things, again, use that word perspective. It’s more important that they know who’s on the Supreme Court and how they might vote than who’s on the Super Bowl team. That’s me. These are going to be long lasting decisions that affect all of us versus who wins the game. I’m not putting down the game. It’s fun. Let everyone have fun. It’s a good way to get together, and there’s good food. We only have so much capacity. Our brains can only take in so much. I’m choosing at this stage of my life to fill it with things that help me grow and look at life in a different way.
I’d rather read and listen to great and smart people’s ideas. I’d rather pick movies. I’m not big fan of horror or sci-fi for the entertainment. I just saw the new Tom Hanks’ movie, A Man Called Otto. I love that. What a great lesson. I choose the meaningful things. I laugh at myself with the kids, and we have a great time. They understand this is how it is. It’s not going to change.
That’s so sweet and profound at the same time. It’s something that we can all relate to from either side because we’ve been the person that might feel like we know it all, we’re with it, and we fit in. We’ve probably have been the person that doesn’t feel like they fit in and know what’s going on, and that’s okay. It’s a very common human fear or wound to not feel like you’re fitting in, but maybe that perspective over time helps you realize that it’s okay. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. It’s one of the lessons I’m taking away from this conversation, feeling present, and finding your own meaning. It sounds so joyful.
This time of my life is probably the best time. Growing up, my mom wasn’t joyful. She had too many pressures on herself. I did not have a role model that aging is happy. As women, the biggest gift we can give our children is that aging is happy. Life is good. There are some bad times, tough times, and tragedies, but all in all, most people are good. We’re more alike than we are different. We want a better world for the next generation. We want the right things and good things. We are more alike. Most people are good people. We get in our own way a whole lot, but we want to focus on the positive, and just be grateful and mindful of it.The biggest gift we can give is the message that aging is happy. Click To Tweet
It’s a wonderful time of life because we don’t have the stresses of making our numbers and being, “Did we build this much, do this much, or have this many viewers?” We don’t have all those. We do have, “Did I spend my day in the right way? Did I waste time? Did I appreciate it? Did I smile at the little hunched over man who was having trouble walking down the street? Did I pet the dog? Did I do all those little things?”
It’s like moving from the pressure to do all these big things to finding the inner joy of doing the small things, which I feel like a lot of us yearn for. Sometimes, it’s hard to admit because there feels like so much pressure. One thing I find so fascinating about life is there seems to be like this collective idea of pressure and being perfect, but if you speak to individuals, very few feel perfect, they’re doing right, or they’re good enough.
Where does this collective idea come from, if each individual person is not contributing to it because they don’t feel that way? Who has achieved perfection? Who has achieved all of the things that we think we have to do? Probably no one, yet that myth still looms over us. It doesn’t quite make sense how that happens.
I just read a quote, and I can’t tell you who said it, but it was so profound. It said, “Those who want perfection in everything feel perfection in nothing.” That hit me. The other thing I wanted to share with you is, after college, I took a job in a women’s clothing store. I became a buyer. It was a small chain of clothing stores. I loved when a woman would get in the dressing room because I liked making her feel good. Quickly, I could see that this would look good on her, and I’d bring her lots of clothes. It amazed me. Nobody would come out, look in that mirror, if they even came out, and smile. They would look and say, “My butt’s too big. My arms are too long.”
There’s this one woman who had to be 5’10”, long blonde hair, and huge blue eyes. I would have taken my right arm and handed it to her for her body. She said, “This is making my stomach look fat.” I’m like, “Where is your stomach?” Something clicked and said, “We’re all playing a game that nobody can win.” Why are we buying into this? It’s the same with, we could take that and put it almost in any area of our lives. At some point, we have to say, “I’m good enough. I’ve done enough. It’s okay.”
Do you feel like you’ve reached that point, Laura?
I’m not perfect in my philosophies either. More often than not, I’m filled with gratitude and I do appreciate a whole lot. Not all the time, I have to remind myself, “Why are you even dealing with this?” One thing that’s helped me lately is a book by Cameron on creativity. She pushes every morning, “Before you get out of bed, write three pages. Don’t think about it, just write it.”
I’ve been doing this for over a month now. It’s amazing how much garbage gets out of our head. Before that, I did one of the apps for meditation. I need something for ten minutes. It doesn’t matter what it is. I think we all do. Maybe it’s a quiet walk where we get all the noise out of our head and appreciate a little bit because we do have so much to be thankful for.
I love finding resources and reading. It sounds like you do, too. I wanted to see if I found the right book that you just referenced. Is it Julia Cameron’s work, The Artist’s Way? She has another one called Walking in This World, The Practical Art of Creativity.
This one is The Artist’s Way.
That’s a great book and a wonderful reference to share. We have your older book. I love the title, Big Butts, Fat Thighs, and Other Secrets to Success, and the newer book, Climbing Down the Ladder. For anyone who’s been inspired by this conversation and wanting to dig in more along with me, you can go to Wellevatr.com or to Laura’s website.
Laura, this has just been a rejuvenating, comforting, and inspiring conversation. I deeply appreciate your perspective. I’m so glad you used that word perspective instead of perfection so frequently because that’s exactly what you gave me and the reader. Also, keeping words like that in mind is helpful, what perspective can I get, and how can I look at this from a different lens or viewpoint?
Being present, too, is one of my big takeaways. It’s something we can all do by taking a breath, closing our eyes, taking a moment, or looking for bigger opportunities like you were saying, educating yourself, doing the reading, and taking those small moments. I love the example you gave of petting the dog or helping somebody that you’re passing by on the street. Those have filled my heart with so much joy. Those tiny little things I can look back on matter so much more than some of the things that we spend our attention on that don’t feel good.
That’s exactly right. You filled me by spending this time with you. Your joy and ability to listen just radiates. It’s a pleasure to guest and I so appreciate it.
- Laura Black
- Climbing Down the Ladder
- Big Butts, Fat Thighs, and Other Secrets to Success
- The Artist’s Way
- Walking in This World, The Practical Art of Creativity
- Instagram – Aging Woman Confessing Stuff
- Facebook – Aging Woman Confessing Stuff
- Twitter – Woman Aging
About Laura Black
Laura Black is a retired attorney and award-winning businesswoman, turned author and speaker. She conceived and co-founded one of the first temporary legal staffing companies in the U.S., moving on to become its CEO after it was acquired by a public company. The company emerged as the largest in the nation of its kind. Laura sits on numerous boards including The Associated Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and was a past president of Network 2000 (now called Executive Alliance). She helps later life women embrace their 2nd (3rd or 4th) acts through her speaking and writings. Her essays have appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Next Avenue, Kveller, Hadassah, and others. Laura validates challenges of women with humor and affirmation.
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