A few years back, I briefly donned a SpongeBob SquarePants costume and attempted to walk around a parking lot. It was, indeed, a brief effort, because the very large and unstable head kept this petite woman leaning too far to one side. SpongeBob Askew should have been my name.
I was, in a way, trying to fulfill my secret desire to do a stint as a college mascot.
Yes, on the football field or gymnasium floor.
Yes, dancing around and being goofy, and few would know it’s me.
You know what else I would enjoy doing for a short while?
For starters: Driving a tram at my local botanical garden and telling passengers all about the lovely place. Being a paid docent at a historical home. Pouring wine (I’m not very good at beer) at a some fancy schmancy event.
What about you? Are there some jobs or gigs that you would love to try, but you’re afraid of what people might think?
If you answered “yes,” trust me when I say I understand.
Why do we care so much about what others think? If we really want to be SpongeBob for a day, what’s holding us back?
One of the many wonderful gifts of midlife and especially in being past menopause is that we are often-and hopefully-more grounded in who we are as strong women who have lived life. We still may have some insecurities, but we’re far from our younger, greener selves.
Still, some of us can’t seem to shake worrying about what others think. If you really don’t care what someone else thinks about you, congratulations!
I’m getting there.
Here’s a truth: Most folks don’t spend their days thinking about us. Our egocentric selves may think that, but I’m here to tell you it’s just not so. Do YOU spend your days thinking about what your neighbors are doing?
Consider this: If you saw a school principal bagging groceries at your local supermarket, what would you think? That she retired? That she lost her job? That she needs extra money? That she was doing anything to stay away from home and her unhappy marriage? An educated woman bagging groceries?
I know a priest who did this for a while. I’ve heard his observations and interactions in the store provided much fodder for future sermons.
Consider this: Maybe the principal just wanted a break from the demands of her responsibilities. Perhaps she just thought it would be fun to chat with a variety of people in a less demanding job a few nights a week and make a little extra money for her upcoming vacation.
Truly, though, it would be none of your beeswax why she bags groceries.
I’ve known many people who’ve taken jobs that seemed “beneath” them, because they weren’t having any success landing a career in their chosen field. Some ended up staying in those jobs for years, loving them and making more money than they would have made in their original choices.
Midlife-those years between around age 40 to 65- is a time to start fulfilling those dreams and having some fun, especially if you don’t have the obligation of a family. We only live once, so why not do some things that you’ve always wanted to do?
So, get out there. Sell lipstick. Drive the parking lot tram at a local amusement park. Be a grass cutter for a lawn care company (or start your own). Be SpongeBob. You’ll meet a diverse group of people, possibly make new friends, and shed your concern about what “they” might think.
My sweet mother would occasionally ask me- particularly when I was wearing some midriff-baring top as a teen- “What would they think?”
I never did ask her who THEY were.
And these days, I don’t much care…. or at least I’m getting there.
Amy Walton is an author, speaker, and certified life coach who is making great progress in not worrying about what others think. Although her assuming SpongeBob’s identity didn’t go very well, she’s still hoping to be a school mascot for a day. If you can arrange it, or if you’d just like to connect her, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.