Life is marked with change – it is the very essence and nature of life. Nothing is static, nothing remains the same. Life moves forward, and as time progresses, we progress with it.
Previous blogs contributed by Amintro have looked at some of the thematic changes women experience from 40 through 65, as identified in a study. We continue this exploration by delving into a topic that is not only psychological in nature, but also spiritual and physical: self-identification.
First, a little background on the study itself, for those of who are perhaps new to the blog. In a study published by Women’s Midlife Health, authors Annette Thomas, Ellen Mitchell, and Nancy Woods identify five general themes that point to some of those challenges.1 The women in the study took part in “The Seattle Midlife Women’s Health Study.” A total of 81 women completed the study and were able to answer the question, “Since you have been in our study (since 1990 or 1991), what has been the most challenging part of life for you?” The study spanned up to 23 years, so as to be able to really trace those challenges and changes in women’s lives.
In addressing the broad theme of self, the researchers determined six sub-themes as follows:
- Health challenges
- Existential issues
- Returning to school
- Journeying through menopause
- Personal changes
The topic of returning to school was covered in a previous blog. And, as an interesting sidenote, of the women who partook in the study, a mere four stated that menopause was the most challenging aspect of aging during the study’s time period.
For now though, let’s examine a topic that is vital at any age, and can be difficult to embrace: self-esteem and self-acceptance, especially with regards to the changing of our bodies.
Self-esteem and changes in women’s bodies with age
As women’s bodies age, it may be harder to love one’s self. Wrinkles appear more than before, hair colour changes, cellulite may pop up in undesired places. All can have an impact on a woman’s mental health and self-esteem.
According to a 2013 study conducted by the British Social Attitudes Survey, 69% of respondents over age 65 reported being “satisfied with their appearance”.2 However, 20% of respondents also reported feeling anxious, and 23% felt depressed due to their body image, whether actual or perceived.
Women’s body image and health
People older in age also tended to have an increased association with body functionality and body image. As the study noted, “For some, there may be a tension between this increase in focus on health and functionality, and a desire to maintain appearance.”
Societal pressures on women’s body images
Societal pressures also can have an adverse effect on women’s self-esteem. For example, ideas of youthful, wrinkle-free skin, as well as an acute lack of older people in media, all are part of these social pressures. And when “seniors” are portrayed, it’s often in a light that makes them look helpless and feeble. Even conversation about aging, and how youth is the supposed ideal, was shown to stir up feelings of anxiety and “increased body image disturbance.”
The importance of being active in middle age
An important note emerging from the study was that people with a lower body self-esteem were also less socially engaged. When I began Amintro, a social community platform designed for people 50+ to engage with others their age, it was one of my goals to help people 50+ counter inactivity, and ageism. People should not be ashamed of their appearance simply because they’re of a certain age, no matter what society may have us believe. Being active, and being proactive, can help stave off worries about aging and the changes in our bodies.
Tips for self-esteem as we age
A psychology clinic offers tips for boosting your self-esteem/self-acceptance as we progress in age. Here are just a few of them:3
1). Love and forgive yourself, reject negative self-talk: It’s easy to be self-critical, be it about body-image or any number of things. But this results in a vicious cycle, where we are critical, try to change things, and if the change doesn’t happen, we become even more critical. Learning to love ourselves as we are, forgive ourselves, and allow ourselves to just be are vital. If we thrive on loving others, and helping others, we deserve no less for ourselves.
2). Take note of the things that bring you joy. The clinic calls this “practic[ing] gratitude,” but however you frame it, being grateful for the things that get you through the day can do wonders. We begin to focus on daily blessings rather than dwelling on the strains.
3). Reward yourself. Have that delectable cookie, read for a bit longer, stay warm and cozy under the covers for a wee bit more. Those little joys can lift your mood and help melt away some stress, even if it’s just for a few hours. We can’t run away from our problems, but those noted little joys can bring you a well-deserved smile.
Self-acceptance is a battle we all face through life, and it can be even more pronounced as we progress in age. It’s so important that we love ourselves for all we are, in our glorious imperfections. Perfection is a myth perpetuated by media and society; there is no such thing. We are so much more than our wrinkles or physical form, we are loving, strong, compassionate individuals who deserve all the love and support that we give out. Love yourself, seek out those who understand and will care for you, and be your best self. You deserve no less.
References and Resources
- Mitchell, Thomas, and Woods, Women’s Midlife Health, The challenges of midlife women: themes from the Seattle midlife Women’s health study, June 15, 2018. https://womensmidlifehealthjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40695-018-0039-9
- Mental Health Foundation (UK), “Body image in later life,” in Body image: How we think and feel about our bodies, May 13, 2019. https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/body-image-report/later-life
- Franco, Giselle and Galperin, Dr. Silvina, CBT Psychology for Personal Development, 6 Tips to Boost Self-esteem After Age 50, https://cbtpsychology.com/6-tips-to-boost-self-esteem-after-age-50/
Written and contributed by Charlene Nadalin, Founder of Amintro. Amintro is the online social platform and information hub exclusively for those 50+ interested in expanding their circles of friends and staying involved, informed and connected. Another great thing about Amintro is that it’s FREE and easy to join! To learn more about Amintro, please visit https://amintro.com/
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