It took me many, many years to make progress of any kind in this area. I was insecure as a child and felt like someone outside of life looking in, wondering what everyone else knew that I didn't. I put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward. And I ALWAYS assumed I was the one who needed to change. What a burden.
In my 50's when I began interviewing people for magazine articles, my mind opened to the idea we could all be unique. Not only was that okay - it was desirable and exciting. Diversity was the theme. That doesn't mean it was easy to embrace self acceptance, but it was a start. Connecting with a great mentor helped a lot and, while I still have tough moments, for the most part I'm good with who I am.
The change that has come in recent years is letting go of the need to be understood. This one is much harder. Cancel Culture has made social media a mine field. Trust me, if anyone can misunderstand or twist what you post into something unacceptable, they will. This is especially true if you have a very public social media presence.
It's also important to understand that language is a very elastic thing. You write something, or say something, with a clear intention in mind. After giving it wings, you discover that other people receive that same set of words in an entirely different way. So misunderstandings and judgement can come when you least expect it.
SO SO SO hard. I am fortunate that those I consider my close circle were supportive and we continued on. I could not love them more. Since then I have had other times a post or something I said hit someone wrong, or we have had a strong disagreement on a topic. First I check in and make sure I feel solid in my thoughts and beliefs, as well as my why. If they are right I apologize. If I feel strongly, I let it stand and let the chips fall where they may. I don't try to defend myself.
I think it was Glennon Doyle who said something to the effect that she realized for her to live her best life, she had to accept that it would make others unhappy. It gets easier every day to let go of expectations or things, but to let go of relationships is really hard. I don't know about you, but I was brought up that was dead wrong. I was absolutely supposed to make others happy and, if I did, I would be happy and loved.
I want to be clear in who I am, I want to keep growing and evolving, I want to challenge myself, I want to have new experiences, I want to learn. Nowhere in that list is I want to spend my time making everyone I know happy. And to be honest, I have come to realize that goal isn't possible.
Letting go, truly letting go, means embracing that some relationships will end. It means embracing others may not be happy with your choices. They may even excuse your "poor" behavior because you are "older." Accept it, ignore it, and move on. Don't bother wasting time to try to explain yourself. There is no time to waste. Be your most authentic self without apology.
Those that love and respect you will continue to. Those that don't will fade out of your life. Make each day count!