Monday, April 23, 2012

Mid-LifeTransformation: Interview with Flourish over 50

This month I'm starting something new on the Musemother blog, and have joined up with several really smart women bloggers to bring you some interviews and links to theirwebsites for women at mid-life. This week I've interviewed Susan Tolles from the website Flourish over 50. Enjoy!

Musemother: We’re taught that aging is bad, that we’ll lose our productivity, our attractiveness, our youth, be ugly, useless, out of shape. How do you counteract that attitude?
Susan: The Baby Boomer generation is “kicking butt” in the world today. We are active, intelligent, confident, and reinventing ourselves in record numbers. In surveys I have done in my Flourish Over 50 community, at least 65% will respond positively to the statement “I love who I have become as I have aged!” The others are actively seeking new direction in their lives, to create an abundant future for themselves. We are refusing to stay at home, play bridge and go to book club like our mothers did. When I meet a woman who feels unattractive and useless, it doesn’t take long for me to turn her around as we focus on her unique gifts and inner beauty. With over 35,000 visitors to the website every month, I know that women over 50 are actively seeking information to help them lead healthy, balanced lives with style!

What do you do personally to look and feel fabulous?
I have learned to put myself at the top of my to-do list, to keep my mind, body and spirit nourished. I do all the usual things—eat a healthy diet, take vitamins and minerals, keep a good skincare regimen, and get a good night’s sleep—so it is the confidence I have in who I am that makes me radiate “fabulous.” People tell me I am the “perfect picture” of my Flourish Over 50 brand, and 75% of that comes from loving what I am doing and having the opportunity to touch the lives of others with my message of hope and renewal.

What is the biggest obstacle to a woman feeling good about herself after 50?
The media!  For decades, advertising has promoted younger looking women who are thin and gorgeous—of course, as a result of airbrushing and Photoshop! We are bombarded by print and TV ads that feature women we are “supposed” to look like. Only recently have some of the major cosmetics companies begun to focus on older women, and it’s about time! We don’t have to be wrinkle-free with flat tummies and thin thighs to be beautiful. There is true elegance in aging.

What is the biggest myth about turning fifty?
In our parents’ generation, women over 50 were, for the most part, invisible. They went to book club, played bridge, entertained and had seemingly ho-hum lives. If someone told me I had to live like that now, I would scream! This is not the time to stop living! Instead, it is the perfect time to start over, to enrich the legacy that you are leaving for your grandchildren and their children. We don’t even think about slowing down now—we have too much left to share with the world!

What is the greatest thing about turning fifty?
There is such a richness that comes with aging. We have priceless wisdom from the years of experience we have had raising children, often while working hard in one or more careers. We have juggled those roles with volunteering, caregiving and being “all things to all people,” and finally it is time for us to live the life WE want, not what others want for us. Turning 50 is such a huge transition point, and there is great freedom in finally saying “So what, if someone doesn’t like me? I love who I am, and who I have become. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem!”  

What has the midlife transition taught you about your own resilience and joy?
In my “pre-50” life, I had taken personality profiles several times, always scoring in the “extreme” level for being an Introvert. In the past three years, I have discovered that people like me for who I am, and I can just come out of my shell and be ME!  I have met so many amazing women who bring the best out of me, who support me and challenge me to stretch and grow. I have such self-confidence in the person I have become, and know that when I face speed bumps and potholes along my journey, I will be a better person on the other side. I still enjoy my alone-time, when I need to quiet my mind and soul, but the times I have with my girlfriends are what give me new energy.

What role do our men (sons, husbands, fathers) have in our self-image? Do you think they help or hinder ?
The men in our lives play a key role in our own self-worth. I am blessed with an incredibly supportive husband—we have been married almost 33 years—and he has been right with me all along the way. But I have met so many women who have divorced in midlife, devastated by a relationship that has fallen apart because the husband cheated or because they just have grown apart. That can destroy a woman’s perception of her own value. The father-daughter relationship also has a lasting impact on us, and can affect who we choose to marry and how we relate to all men in our lives. My family is so tightly woven together because we keep our Heavenly Father at our core.
How did the idea of the website come about and how did you find partners?
I had reached that point of stark realization: I was a middle-aged empty nester, still smart, useful and resourceful, but didn’t know what to do with my life. I started searching the Internet for resources for women over 50, and there just wasn’t much out there. At the same time, a friend suggested that I start blogging about my journey. When I received comments on my blog posts from women I didn’t even know, I realized that there were others who were experiencing the same emotions and challenges I was. My creative juices started flowing, and I decided to create my own website to share information to help myself and others live abundantly.
At first, I was generating all the content myself, and it was draining. After a while, I took a look around me at the women I knew, or knew of, who had the same vision for serving women. I reached out to a few to ask for their contributions, and they were thrilled to join the site. We have gone from a small blog to a major resource for women around the world, with over 35,000 visitors every month from over 90 countries. I love to share reinvention stories from other women along with our regular guest author articles, and we are even doing video series now. As I envision the future, there is so much to be done, but I am having so much fun along the way!
Anything else you would like to add?
From the beginning, my motto has been “Dream big and step out on faith.” Being over 50 brings with it the freedom to focus on yourself, to pursue those old dreams that have been on the back burner for so long, or to create something totally new for your life. Believe in yourself!  Set big goals, then have confidence knowing that you have what it takes to accomplish them. Surround yourself with cheerleaders, be willing to explore the detours along the way, and celebrate often! Enjoy living as you flourish, inside and out.

Susan Tolles is an Expert in Midlife Reinventions who inspires and equips women around the world to flourish inside and out.  As a website creator, published author, speaker and life coach, Susan helps women celebrate and enrich their true inner and outer beauty as they age with grace and vitality.  

Susan Tolles has contributed to the collaborative books  Inspired Women Succeed and The Unstoppable Woman’s Guide to Emotional Well-Being, both available on her websites. She lives in Austin, Texas, has been married for over 33 years and has three incredible children. She has worn many hats in her life and has personally experienced her own amazing midlife transformation, proving that it is never too late to discover your purpose and follow your dreams.

Thanks Susan for your clarity and enthusiastic answers! We wish you every success in your endeavours to bring the Flourish back into women's lives over 50.

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