It’s that time of year again. The Instagram Christmas decoration one-upmanship makes way for endless ‘New Year, New You’ content. Designed to maximise our insecurities, chip away at our self-love and encourage spending on a complete personal renovation.
But what’s wrong with you as you are? Why do you need changing? Maybe your New Year resolutions from now on should focus on self-love rather than self-recrimination.
Interesting fact – I am writing this blog whilst co-working with a coach friend. A beautiful, smart, successful and altogether inspiring coach friend.
And within the first 20-minutes of our chit-chat (before we hit the ‘work’ bit of our working lunch) I noticed something. Before sharing a couple of her recent accomplishments, she threw in a disclaimer. You know the type of thing ‘I don’t mean to brag / it’s nothing really but…./ I’m not being big-headed…’. Why?
Why can’t women ‘brag’? What is wrong with acknowledging our achievements with pure unadulterated pride?
Why can’t we give ourselves a massive blooming pat on the back without needing to apologise for ourselves first? What makes it so hard to speak positively about ourselves when negative self-talk seems to trip so easily from our tongues?
Accepting the old you
If you’re on social media for any length of time you’re probably being encouraged to love yourself more. That’s great, but it also sits uncomfortably alongside the whole ‘New Year, New You’ thing. Which encourages seemingly complete transformations of our looks, size and mindset.
Excuse me – but, up yours! What’s so wrong with the current me? Why do I need to be a newer version? Would a little tweaking not suffice?
Don’t get me wrong – this blog is not advocating a life on the sofa eating chocolate, drinking wine and ignoring your ever-increasing ailments. That’s not self-love, that’s just resisting positive change. And it does not lead to a life well lived (well – I suppose it depends on the quality of the chocolate and wine….but swiftly moving on).
Remember, I’ve built my career on the concept of self-development, I’m in; a fully paid-up member of the ‘personal growth appreciation society’. But… and it’s a big BUT… change should not be demanded from external forces or from an internal belief that we are not good enough.
Ideally, change comes from a place of self-worth, knowing that we deserve the best and deserve to experience the joy of growth, development and wellbeing.
That includes not letting New Year resolutions and the ‘New Year, New You’ revolution hand you another excuse to belittle yourself. And not leading you to believe you have to change in order to be loved (by you or anyone else).
Why is self-love hard for midlife women?
After all we’ve collectively earned our stripes in the careers we have carved, the families we’ve raised and the achievements we have notched up. But for women, self-love and acceptance often do not come naturally.
Well – it certainly doesn’t help that qualities often highly valued in women, such as physical attractiveness and reproductive potential, are seen to diminish around midlife. Whereas those exalted in men, such as business acumen and financial success, may be at a peak.
This leaves many women feeling increasingly invisible and makes every wrinkle another opportunity for self-flagellation and a burning desire to be different.
Do you just flick the switch and suddenly a new inner self-love light comes on?
Unfortunately not. It has probably taken a lifetime of negative self-talk to reach your current level of ambivalence regarding your fabulousness. That can’t be reversed overnight. But it can be reversed over time. And what better change to dedicate yourself to this year than loving yourself more. Imagine the possibilities that come from that?
It’s important to note that some of the suggestions below are challenging and may throw up some difficult feelings and thoughts.
Some of you may feel equipped, and even excited, to work through these. Whilst others may require the support of a coach, counsellor or psychologist to process more difficult and complex emotions. Genuinely – I’d encourage everyone to go forth and find someone to dig deep with….but I would, I’m a coach!
1) To love yourself you need to know yourself. Think about it – your love for many of the important people in your life grew as you got to know them. But have you ever spent time really finding out who you are as a person? What makes you tick? Your likes, dislikes, strengths, values, character traits, beliefs and vision for the future? No – well, maybe it’s time?
Challenging feelings can emerge when we focus inwards, as we are not going to understand or even like everything we see. But digging deep is often worth it as it can help us unearth why the self-love is lacking in the first place.
2) Pay attention to your inner voices: We all have them. Some call them inner gremlins, whilst some say it’s our super ego. We all have that internal critic commentating on everything we do and criticising our every move.
Maybe you’ve never paid attention to it before or you’ve tried to ignore it, but I’d encourage you to take a listen. To consciously notice your internal dialogue and how you talk about yourself to others. You might be surprised by how harsh and unforgiving you can be. It’s probably not the supportive, cheer-leading you offer your loved ones.
Well, you’ve been listening to that voice either consciously or unconsciously for years and the more you hear something, the more you believe it.
Once you’re aware of the voice, you can try acknowledging it and observing it without judgement. Maybe even thank it for it’s opinion (perhaps keep this one inside your head) and then let it go. You can try replacing it with a supportive, loving and caring message instead.
Keep doing this and over time the negative voice may quieten, allowing you to hear the positive internal voices that have been drowned out in the past.
3) Accept yourself warts and all: Yes – the good, the bad, the interesting and downright odd. You are unique and you are GREAT. You are also flawed. Sorry, but you are….and we couldn’t be friends if you weren’t. Perfection is creepy… we’ve all seen the Stepford Wives, right?
You make mistakes like everyone else. Choose to stop berating yourself for them and instead, use them to learn and grow. And just a note on your body. Despite what we are fed daily in the popular press, you do not need to look 20 to be beautiful.
Yes, you could probably take care of yourself better and make some different choices- but do it knowing you’re wonderful already.
And if you want a little extra help turning back the hands of time, you go right ahead and do it. Just make sure it’s coming from a place of love and not from a fear of getting older. Because we all are, and the more we can learn to appreciate those lines, greys, stretch marks and bumpy bits as part of our story then the more we can accept and love ourselves for exactly who we are right now.
I’m a huge fan of self-compassion meditation for building self-acceptance – check out my resource list at the bottom for a link to a whole host of resources from Kristen Neff, self-compassion Queen (and midlife badass!)
4) Spend quality time with yourself. Think about it – how do you nurture relationships with those you love? You spend quality time with them. You have probably built your best relationships by giving others your time, attention, unconditional love and unwavering support. So, bring that approach closer to home and get up close and personal with yourself.
Do things you love and that feed your soul. Meditate, dance, sing, write, go for long walks in nature, do yoga, listen to podcasts, watch movies, take long baths – whatever floats your boat. Do it mindfully and do it regularly. Nurture your body with healthy food & lifestyle choices. Then say no to more of the things that don’t fill your soul.
Choosing to nurture yourself does not make you a bad person / wife / mother / friend – it is not indulgent or selfish. You were not put on this Earth to serve others above yourself. There is no prize for midlife martyrdom, so drop out of the race and put that energy into you.
If you need some inspiration for ways to spend quality time with yourself then check out my blog ‘5 Reasons to Try New Things in Midlife’ which is packed with ideas…many of which I will be trying this year!
5) Get frugal with your time, energy and resources. Women are often givers. And midlife women often have a lot of people to give to (children, colleagues, partners, ageing relatives, colleagues…). It’s very easy to keep giving until there is very little left for ourselves.
Now is the time to put in boundaries and to ensure that we have the resources we need for ourselves and those that truly care for us. This might require letting go of some people or activities, which can be tough. But it can also leave space for other opportunities and relationships (including the one with yourself) to flourish.
So, if there are currently people or things in your life that have you questioning your worth – distance yourself however you need to. You do not need, or deserve, negative influences in your life. What you do need more of though is quality self care so head to my blog ‘Beyond Spa Days and Manicures: What Real Self-Care Looks Like’ to ensure you start filling your self-care quota in a really beneficial way.
For many women reading this, self-love may feel like an unobtainable dream. If that is you then I would strongly encourage you to seek support. Find someone to work with you, get online and try some of the activities below, read, listen, watch whatever you need to. But make a conscious effort to start treating yourself with the love and respect you deserve.
Who knows – if tell yourself enough that you’re worth it, you may actually begin to believe it – like those around you already do.
Here are some nice resources and exercises to help you build self-love this year. I’d love to here how you get on with them:
- PositivePsychology.com: Self-awareness building exercises
- PositivePsychology.com: Inner critic worksheets
- Kirsten Neff: Self-compassion resource
How have you built your own levels of self love? Let me know in the comments and share your ideas with everyone.
If you like what you’ve read and would like more practical information and tips on nutrition, lifestyle and mindset for midlife women then give me a follow at motherflushingmidlife at the social links below. And if anyone you know might benefit from my content, let them know where to find me xx