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I felt like I was back in middle school!

I recently spent a long week-end at a beautiful spa in California.

Beyond the standard fitness classes, I also enjoyed less common experiences like mountain hikes and “manifestation journaling.”

And of course I loved the spa treatments—scrub, reflexology, and deep tissue massage!

While it was a co-ed week, the vast majority of spa-goers were women in midlife. One group was celebrating a birthday, another was gathering in support of their newly widowed girlfriend. There were mother-daughter duos and a handful who came solo.

Because the meals were at larger communal tables, we got to interact with each other quite a bit. I loved meeting so many interesting women from all over the US, ranging in age from 24 to upwards of 70.

Here’s the one thing that I did not anticipate and honestly was pretty triggering for me.

The jockeying for position at the tables! At the appointed mealtime, while most of the women just sat down wherever,  some women hung around waiting to see where the seemingly “popular kids” would go and if there’d be room to sit with them.

Observing this made my stomach churn, reminding me of the social discomfort I felt when I came to the US at 13 and was bullied for my odd accent and uncool apparel. Walking into the school lunchroom made my heart pound.

Today I prioritize being around women who show up authentically and share both their joy and pain, without judgment. With my girlfriends, nobody is cool or uncool, popular or unpopular. We show up as the wonderful and flawed human beings we are, to share in deep conversation.

YOUR TURN: Do you still struggle with old insecurities? Have you witnessed other women struggling too? How do you create a safe space for you to be you? Share your experience in the comments below.

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  1. tammy edwards

    it is ridiculous, isn’t it? after 64 years, i am learning to set real boundaries, be ME in every moment of every day, and accept that everyone isn’t going to like that.

    • Hélène

      Right, never too late Tammy!! Thank you for commenting!

  2. Jennifer

    I experienced something very similar at a retreat. Someone actually moved my belongings to another space at the table while I was getting my food so they could sit next to someone. Also, had a situation there where I got left out of having drinks with a couple of ladies that I had really thought I had started bonding with. It was SO middle school.

    • Hélène

      Yes! Seriously strange to be dealing with this later in life. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Gail

    It’s amazing how we can still get triggered. The feelings were real back then and they are real today. I don’t think people realize how cruel they are being.
    Thanks for sharing this. I think many struggle with this.

    • Hélène

      Exactly. Appreciate you reading and commenting.


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I’m Hélène Stelian, the Midlife Mentor with a passion for facilitating personal development in women 40+. Through my THRIVE Courses, I help introspective, curious, action-oriented women 40+ deepen their journeys of self-discovery and growth—and create their next chapter with courage and intention.

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