Recently, a very old friend of mine reached out to reconnect. This was someone with whom I grew up and was quite close with, at one point in my life. Eventually, as we got older, our friendship faded (as they sometimes do). There was no animosity or disagreements of any sort, we simply drifted apart as we realized our priorities and direction in life were veering off onto separate paths.
Every once in a while, through social media channels I would see new and exciting updates in her life: I saw when she met the love of her life, got engaged, got married and had her first child. I saw as she settled into her first home with her beautiful family.
She was living a life seemingly full of joy and contentment, and regardless of our friendship drifting apart, I was happy that she was happy.
Completely out of the blue, this old friend reached out to me a few weeks ago. I hadn't expected it in the slightest but was pleasantly surprised when I saw her name pop up in my inbox with the subject line reading, "Hi Gorgeous! Let's Catch Up!"
We organized a time to connect a few days later, and I truly looked forward to hearing how her and her beautiful little family were doing.
It turned out to be one of the most uncomfortable conversations I have ever had.
We met at my favourite coffee shop and after only four minutes of "catch-up" conversation, quickly explaining how her little one was doing, how happy she was in her marriage and how much she enjoyed her life on most days - she abruptly shifted the conversation to my work.
She began, "So Sarah, I see you're doing a lot of interesting things now. I was really surprised to learn that you had left your job out east. It seemed like you were so happy."
I'm typically met with this question from a number of people I've encountered since starting my business. So I explained, "Yes I certainly thought I would be happy - but after a while I realized I had spent over a decade of my life working towards something that I thought was "cool" or ultimately, a life that made a lot of other people happy, but wasn't necessarily for me".
She pressed for more details.
"But you seemed to be doing so well? I saw you traveled a lot and it seemed like you were really good at your job!"
"Yes, I was pretty good at my job. I also went home every night, ridden with stress & anxiety, feeling constantly exhausted and unfulfilled. I continued to work well into the hours of the evening, never being able to unplug, making excuses for going to the gym, to do yoga, to socialize, to enjoy life.
I began to associate my self-worth with the success of my career, and realized somewhere along the way, I had destroyed the most important relationship I had in my life, the one with myself."
You can have the best career, have a fancy wardrobe full of great looking suits and pin-striped skirts, have a seemingly exciting travel schedule and lifestyle, but ultimately, if you don't have confidence, self-worth or self-love, it’s difficult to enjoy the things you have. I knew something had to change, and I told this old friend that I had come to that realization.
She sat there with a pensive look on her face before continuing on to what I expect was a very well-thought out conversation that she had planned in advance before even reaching out to me.
"Sarah, are you happy?" She said it slowly and carefully, as if trying to let the words really sink in.
I thought for a moment before responding, “Yes, I am."
She persisted.... "But like, really happy?"
I felt a need to explain myself. To justify why I was happy. But at the same time, I knew we shared a difference of opinion as it related to the definition of “happiness” and that the words coming out of my mouth wouldn't make sense to her.
She continued, "I don't mean to press for details Sarah, it just seems like you're really missing out on the purpose of life. Do you have a boyfriend? Are you married? Do you want kids? Don't you want a family?"
I know her words were well-intentioned, but they seems out of place. I began to feel uncomfortable.
She continued, “ I just think, you're really missing the purpose of life. I mean, I'm only saying this because I know you and I care about you. To put it lightly, your biological clock is ticking, Sarah. Did you know there’s an increased risk of having disabled children the older you get? And what if you get to a point where you can’t even have children?”
I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I could feel my cheeks flush and my heart begin to race.
Sorry, just out of curiousity...
Did I have some sign on my forehead that suggested or left the impression that the use of my reproductive organs or fertility was somehow up for discussion?
She could have been asking my weight, my measurements or what was the date of my last menstrual cycle.
She might as well have.
I realized with annoyance, that my reaction was not a result of the message that she was sharing (after all, those were her beliefs, and I am all about encouraging others to pursue a lifestyle that makes them happy) - but instead, a result of her unsolicited judgement.
And regardless of her "well-intentioned" efforts to “help”, unless you ask for someone's opinion, they have zero right (or zero place) to offer it.
Because my blogs tend to get a little lengthy (and I know how busy you are) - I decided to break this up into 2 parts. In part 2 of "What to do when you're offered unsolicited advice" (coming soon), you'll read about the incredible lesson I learned from my biological-clock-ticking friend and ways to respond (with confidence and grace) to the unsolicited advice you receive from anyone in your life when you're put in those uncomfortable and unwanted situations.