The Queen of My Self

By Susan Tolles


I can still remember the day when it hit—who was I, and where on earth was I headed? I was sitting at my computer, exploring such sites as, and Craigslist, looking for a job that would fit my skills, satisfy my need to be productive and afford me the schedule I really wanted. My “previous life” included accounting and marketing, but those jobs just didn’t seem realistic, or fun, at this stage of my life. Bottom line: I was terrified. Who on earth would even look at my resume’? How would the “rich life experiences” I’d had over the past 25 years look when comparing me to someone who was younger, had more current skills, and had a better memory than mine? Did being a woman over 50 signal the end of living a fulfilling life?

I was facing the mortality of my own identity as I’d clung to it for so many years. My youngest would soon be leaving for college, was a “middle aged woman,” just celebrating my 50th birthday, and I was dreading the empty nest. I had just returned from my first visit to Italy, and had fallen in love with the pottery and art, and was sure that I could have fun and make a profit with my own retail venture selling Italian imports. As I was talking about my desire to be an entrepreneur, I was approached by a friend to join her and another of her friends in a business partnership. I won’t go in to the details, but less than two years later that partnership was dissolved with hard lessons learned. As painful as the breakup was, it was also a great experience to build on as I looked ahead to what I might do in the future.

What I did realize through that process is that I am a risk-taker, and not the introvert I’d always believed I was. Yes, I scored in the “extreme” range in several personality tests over the years, preferring to work behind the scenes, feeling nervous in social settings and not bothered at all by being alone. What this first step in to the world of entrepreneurship taught me is that I have a set of gifts that I need to use– I am a great people-person, writer and connector with a true servant’s heart. I learned about the world of “networking,” and found that going to luncheons with other women was actually energizing instead of frightening, and also a necessary part of building a business. I found a new confidence in myself, knowing that my intuition would take me in the right direction as I embraced the freedom to move on alone when others were holding me back.

There is a real fear when you reach a point in your life and realize that you don’t know who you are any more, or you don’t have any idea where you are headed over the next few decades. I am blessed to have been married for 32 years, so have never had to experience the enormous loss that divorce brings. As a stay-at-home mom, I don’t know what it is like to get burned out after working at the same job for 20 years. But I do know what it is like to be afraid of the future as a midlife woman, to fight the image of the “woman over 50” portrayed by the media, and to feel totally overwhelmed about taking that first step out into the unknown.

If we were chatting over a glass of wine, I would tell you, “Dream big and step out on faith.” Yes, there will be times when you are scared and unsure, but you, too, have a set of unique gifts and core passions that make you a valuable asset to many. Push yourself, get out and meet new people, and be creative. Don’t allow limiting beliefs to take over, but instead turn your “What if I don’t” thoughts into “What if I do!” If you take small steps, your self-confidence will grow as you conquer your own midlife crisis. And be sure to surround yourself with a group of girlfriends who will support you along the way! I’d love to join you on your journey.


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Donna Henes is the author of The Queen of My Self: Stepping into Sovereignty in Midlife. She offers counseling and upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity. Consult the MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™

The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to



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