How to Develop a Positive Self-Image during Midlife
BY CAROL FREDREK
It has been found that women who accept age-related changes to their body during midlife are kinder to themselves. They are more confident, forgiving, and at ease with themselves.
Knowledge is Power
- Role Models
Finding positive role models is important to know that there are other women who don’t buy into the myths of youthful aging. They are beautiful, confident, and grounded.
It is important to identify the negative self-beliefs that your inner critic has repeated over the years. For instance, “I hate my body. I just want to have enough control to be thin again. My skin sags and have those lines around my eyes. I feel so miserable”. The negative thoughts lead to the painful feelings; shame and the guilt.
You can challenge those thoughts. You see a young woman, thin, athletic, tight skin and you think “Why can’t I be like her?” and feel you are a failure, unlovable, unattractive. You have no control.
Change those thoughts to “I am much older. I like my body as it is.” You might then feel empowered and secure.
- Body Love
Begin to look at all aspects of your body. This includes your hands, your hair, your eyes. It is exploring your body in ways that you haven’t before. Maybe you like your buttocks because it is soft and round. Your hands may show your wisdom, and that feels wonderful.
You don’t need to cover up parts of your body. Begin to explore your sensuality through photography, with your clothes on or off. Create a safe space to do this. This includes where the photography is done and who does the photographing. If you choose to wear something, be sure it feels good, sensual. Embrace who you are!
- Letter Writing
Another approach is to make friends with your body. Write your body a letter. You can respond to that letter by having your body write one back to you. You might be amazed at what comes up. Make sure you won’t be disturbed and create a safe space for yourself. It could be with incense, candles, and /or music. Make it a space that feels good to you.
Self-Compassion is about being “kind” to yourself. Being aware of how you talk to yourself should come from a place of self-compassion. How would you talk to someone you care about? Your partner, your children, your parents?
Self-Compassion is also being “gentle” with yourself. Forgive when you have harsh words for yourself. To carry anger and guilt is toxic. It is important to tell yourself “Perfection is Imperfection”.
Do nice things for yourself! This could be taking a bubble bath, going for a nature walk, doing yoga, or taking a meditation class. It is celebrating you …
Ask yourself “In what ways do I celebrate myself?”. “What would I want to do that is not on my list?” Choose one of these each week. Learn what works for you.
Women with poor body image are at high risk for developing disordered eating or an eating disorder. There has been an increase in older women asking for help with body image and disordered eating than what has been seen in the past. For some women, the eating disorder is new and others have struggled with disordered eating in the past.
Carol Fredrek, MA