If you ever want to give yourself a little boost to your self-esteem I have a simple little trick that works wonders – spend some time catching up with old friends. An afternoon, a bottle of wine and long chats about the good ol’ days.
What will eventually emerge will be stories your friends recall, of you and each other, having fun together. Inevitably, those friends will mention all the things they love about you, the qualities they value and hold dear. It’s as refreshing as a cool dip on a hot summer’s day and it’s far more effective than any self-help book or session on a shrink’s couch could ever be. Because this is an authentic experience where real people – who know you – hold you in high regard. It’s wonderful and it’s what happened to me a few weeks ago.
I spent the weekend with old school friends, celebrating a dear friend’s 40th birthday. It was fabulous. It was fun and frivolous, carefree and a laugh-a-minute. It was one of those times when friendships require no work at all and being together is as easy as drinking.
Coming home, on the plane I was reflecting on my good fortune at having met such wonderful, interesting people at school who have stayed with me my whole life. And I was trying to drill down to why I feel so buoyed after such a weekend. I replayed conversations and funny things that were said and my mind recalled the seemingly endless stream of compliments that we exchanged with each other. “I really love your photos” or “That piece of writing was wonderful” or “That dress suits you” and so on.
As I age and my life – and personality – moulds around my family, I think it’s easy to lose sight of who I am without my children. So much of my self-identity – how I see myself – is tied up with them. When I picture myself, they are in the picture with me. I’m a wife also and much of my day is consumed with conversation with my husband. Usually it’s the small stuff, what to have for dinner, did the boys remember their homework today, someone’s lost a hat, there’s a load in the washing machine that needs hanging out. Sometimes it’s the big stuff. Mortgage, pay rise, Christmas plans, health.
When all of that is stripped away, as it was on my weekend away, it’s an interesting period of rediscovery, of reminding myslef exactly who I am now without those things. The last time that I didn’t have any of those things – a husband, children, a mortgage – I was in my 20s. I’m approaching 40 (shudder) and naturally I’m not the same person as I was then.
As the plane cruised at 30,000 feet, taking me back to my current life and my other identity, my wife and mother persona, I realised that for a weekend I had been able to see myself as my friends see me – a thoughtful person, a good listener, a funny, witty, clever dinner partner, a treasured friend. And it was startling. And lovely.
We all get stuck in a rut, going about the day to day, and often forget that we are more than what we do every day. Away from our children and husband we are other things. And as I returned to Brisbane I made a mental note to try to devote time to those other things that make me me. I also determinedly vow that I will spend time making my friends, all of them, feel as treasured and wonderful as they make me feel.
I figure there are worse ways to spend your time.