Becoming Me!

This is something I wrote in 2012, about becoming me, at the request of someone else; it was published somewhere, although I can’t remember where! I find it interesting to read and I hope you do too. Becoming anything is important; becoming yourself, and not what you’re expected to be,  is vital …

February, 2012

“If I take a moment and look back on my teenage years, my twenties, my thirties and my forties, I marvel at the self-confidence, self-esteem and sheer unadulterated chutzpah with which I lived!

I was slim and gorgeous. I was fortunate enough to have had a wide and varied education. By the time I was 40 I had visited 48 countries and lived in four. I was an actress, I was at medical school for a number of years, I sang, I was on TV, I wrote and Produced for TV, I performed and directed on Radio, I was a music publisher, I designed and developed software, I designed and manufactured clothing and jewellery, … and the list goes on!

I was always fortunate, landed on my feet in any crisis and, as my Father used to say, always came up with a bunch of roses.

The reverse side of the coin, as you would expect, was a little blacker. At 17 I was diagnosed with manic depression (bipolar) and over the years spent time in hospitals for both manic and depressive episodes. Standard treatment was Lithium plus some other drugs. I experienced the pain and heartbreak most of us experience, including the early death of my Father, the loss of a child and the loss of my mother to dementia.

I entered my fifties; buoyant, energetic, vivacious and in my usual somewhat hyper state (not manic … just up!). In fact, it was really a question of business as usual. Until I turned 56!

Oh no! I look like my Mother …

I woke up one morning looking like a piece of chewing gum on the sole of my shoe … my beautiful little body with pert boobs and a sensational bum (both of which were definitely lower than they had been the day before) looked sad. My skin started to resemble a crêpe frock (alas, it didn’t shrink when it got wet!), my arms became the proverbial bingo wings and staring back at me in the mirror was … my mother!

Don’t get me wrong; I loved my mother but as long as I’d known her she had been old. (We all perceive our parents as being old because we never knew them young.) And now I looked like her and we all know what that means …

Adding insult to injury was the departure of my brain to sunnier climes. I assume they were sunnier because there seemed to be an awful lot of rain on my sad little parade.

The brain-mouth connection disappeared; whatever was going on in my head certainly wasn’t coming out of my mouth. In fact, I seemed to lose myself. I even contemplated filing a missing persons report … I’d been gone a lot longer than 24 hours.

Where had I gone? The becoming business was looking bleak.

What shall I do?!

In despair I turned to the library and the internet and a variety of wide and diverse avenues for a solution to the way I felt, the state of my brain and the way I looked. Hot flushes (ugh!), a complete lack of tolerance, physical changes I could never have imagined in my worst nightmares, a thickened waist, tiredness, overwhelm and absolutely nothing to wear, were just some of the problems for which I sought a solution.

In my quest for me the one thing I didn’t find was something (anything!) that provided an answer to all my questions in one fell swoop.

Talking to many, many other women I soon learned they had the same problems. And, like me, were looking for solutions …

As a woman who had survived a life of challenge and even managed to become drug-free (medication = drugs) without ending up in hospital (despite the forecasts of my Psych and doctors!), the obvious answer was to pull myself up by my boot straps (for the umpteen millionth time in my life) and find my own solutions; not just for me … but for other women too.

And so I re-invented myself! As you do …

What I did!

I wrote a book about style for middle-aged women(Hot Stuff: the Ultimate Guide to Style for Women of a Certain Age) and started a company (Aging Disgracefully) to provide information about whatever it is women want to know, when they reach a certain age. Everything from hair and make-up to handbags and dressing for your body shape, plus stepping into your own power; diet, relaxation, finding a passion, living with passion and embracing change Really, just becoming me (or you!

Along my path on this part of my journey, I have been privileged to meet some extraordinary women, and I have found a tremendous number who understand it’s their time to live.  Finally, they can say “It’s all about me”, and peel off other peoples labels. They are becoming me.

But I have also met the opposite. Women who have surrendered their power and are afraid to get it back. Women who have sunk into middle-age and become ‘grey’. Women who no longer feel sexy or vibrant or smart or loved. And these are the women I like to work with most … so much unused passion, so much untapped potential, so much to give and, just as importantly, to receive .

Learn to receive.

As women, receiving is something we find hard. It took me a while to wake up to the fact that I had nothing to give if I was always empty. I started doing things I loved and rewarding myself … because I could. It was difficult at first because, for a variety of reasons and at that time in my life I felt unworthy and selfish … and it’s hard to suddenly start receiving … but I learned!

When did you last ask, “what am I giving me today?

Learning to receive is one of the keys to a vibrant and healthy life after 50; like learning to say NO, and providing no reason. These really are essential if your years after becoming a woman of a certain age are going to be all you would like them to be.

Now I go to yoga twice a week, I cook, I go to the movies, I watch TV if I want to, I have a manicure and pedicure once a month and a facial. And I do all this (and more) because I am worthy and I have learned to love and accept myself for who I am. Was it an easy ride? No. But the journey was amazing … and it keeps getting better …

My life now is about love and gratitude and keeping myself full to over-flowing … I can give so much more.

… I have finally become … me.”

Have you become you yet? Neither half full or half empty. Just Full to overflowing …


  1. Anne says

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. As I am about to turn 67, I have always loved fashion and looked after my appearance, but I have never known who I really am. I was brought up by a domineering mother who just didn’t respect my opinions. Most of my life has been moulding myself to be what people expected of me. This year, I have booked myself a trip to China, alone, have started an active exercise routine, started to eat even better than before, joined a group of women who explore our city and surrounds, meditating, having massages, finally working on my hobbies and taking time for the things and people I love. There have definitely been glimpses of ME over the years but I was too influenced by others not supporting or encouraging me. Some toxic people and situations in my life have been left behind and I plan on living with fun, friends, love, great health, travel and excitement. Who knows what my new future holds?

    • Penelope Whiteley says

      Anne, what can I say! YOU GO GIRL!!!! I am slightly older than you and have started so many things over the past few years, including my own travel company for solo women over 50! I am so thrilled to learn you are also becoming the Butterfly you really are; it makes me very excited!! Keep me up-to-date with all the wonderful things unfolding in your life; I’m so pleased you found my story inspiring. As you may know, exposing yourself can sometimes be an unpleasant experience. I’m glad I wrote the story though; it seems to have inspired others as well.

  2. Vicki says

    Thanks for sharing Penelope. Sound advice all
    Round. If we don’t value ourselves nobody else will

    • Penelope Whiteley says

      You’re so right Vicki. It’s important to remember that what was … is no longer.

  3. Therese says

    Thank you for sharing. I wear a mask, still trying to find me but unworthy of love. I won’t give up as I see we r all looking for this and yes I have to look at me.

    • Penelope Whiteley says

      Therese, you will be amazed at what happens when you get rid of the mask; the more you are open, the more is open to you. One of my huge lessons was that the only person whose love I need is my own. Have you thought of that? How can you love others if you can’t love yourself? I have also learned that history is just that … history. Nothing that has happened in my life can affect me now; unless I choose to let it do so. Take heart and keep going … any baggage you have is baggage you don’t need! Buy some new suitcases and see the world …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *