Does your morning flaw-seeking, wrinkle-checking ritual at the mirror make you a little crazy? We’re living in a youth-driven, beauty-obsessed culture that tells us “if you’re a woman who is showing visible signs of aging, you’re useless.” If you’ve been feeling a little dumpy, frumpy and freaking out about getting older, that’s probably why.
Coming Face to Face with Signs of Aging?
Coming face to face with wrinkles, lines, dark spots, thinning hair and under eye bags is a truly humbling experience. Aging is definitely not for wimps. And if you’re not in a resourceful frame of mind, spending time in front of the mirror, scrutinizing your changing body can lead you down a slippery slope right into depression.
If you can relate to this mirror misery, you’re not alone. There are plenty of studies, makeover shows and books that support all the reasons why women struggle with body image and that includes aging.
Yesterday I celebrated my 59th birthday. And in many ways this older, wiser, grayer version of me is so much better than the younger blonder version of the gal I used to be.
I used to be so shy. Now I’m more confident and bolder and feel comfortable saying what’s on my mind. As a result of that, I like and respect myself more than ever.
I feel deep compassion and love for myself because I recognize that throughout my entire life I’ve only done the best I could with what I knew at the moment.
I deeply regret all the years that I wasted obsessing about how I looked, what I ate and what people thought of me. Now I love and accept every part of me and I am so grateful for the precious gift of being alive.
For years I felt crushed by betrayal and abuse. I’ve been down the road of self-hatred and I know the price you pay is more than any of us can afford. As an incest and sexual abuse survivor, I know what it’s like to feel crippled by feelings of shame that fool you into thinking your body should be the scapegoat for all the hurt you feel.
For years, no matter what weight or size I was, I remained at war with my big, fat, chunky thighs. Then one day it became crystal clear that my body was never the problem, but hating myself was.
As an author and coach I have the extraordinary opportunity to share the gifts of my discoveries with my readers and clients. As I learn and grow I teach others to do the same.
Plus Model Magazine Inspired Me to Love My Bigger Body
I could never have become okay with myself aging as long as I resisted accepting myself as fat.
I credit Plus Model Magazine for teaching me how to see my full-figured shape as beautiful. Plus-Model Magazine opened up a whole new world for me that led me to discover the resources I needed to learn how to love my bigger body.
During the course of writing my book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” I was reading Plus Model Magazine. By having access to this whole new community of curvy and confident women, I was able to interview many female pioneers in the size-acceptance movement.
My book, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In” represents a 6 year journey of self-discovery that led me to recognize the power of self-love. As I interviewed women for my book I was exposed to learning new and different ways of thinking about my bigger body. Adapting their attitudes and beliefs transformed my relationship with my own body. Their insights helped me to achieve a new level of confidence and they can help you too.
You Don’t Ever Have to Feel Unworthy Again
Your past does not have to define you. Maybe like me, you can relate to having some tough experiences in your past. Perhaps they left you feeling more than a little bruised, and your confidence was shaken. Maybe you’re more shy than before and don’t feel comfortable standing out.
Imagine if you had a gift of being able to see your experiences through fresh eyes. You would feel differently about them and then you would act differently. Well, I have great news for you.
You Can Makeover Your Negative Self-Image
I’m proof positive that you can makeover a negative self-image. Coming from an abusive background, for years I had a very low self-image. I spoke to myself disrespectfully all the time. Whether I was putting myself down and calling myself “Stupid” or berating myself by saying, “I hate you, you fat pig.”I didn’t realize how much harm I was doing to myself. Do you do that?
Stop Body Shaming Yourself
As you notice evidence of your imperfections, do you call yourself names and put yourself down? You probably learned to be tough on yourself because someone else was hard on you. We tend to repeat the behaviors of the people in our lives who have been the most influential–for the good and the bad.
Maybe you noticed this trait in you, but you’ve been thinking that it’s harmless. Just a little tough love. Right? Wrong. It’s not love at all. The truth is talking down to yourself in a mean and disrespectful way will only make you feel worse. And if you’re okay with treating yourself like crap, other people will pick up on your energy and figure they can walk all over you too. Before you know it you’re filled with a mountain of resentment feeling unappreciated and unloved. It’s a bad scene.
You are nobody’s doormat
If you’re not happy with yourself and you feel frustrated that’s a message and a call to action to make a change. You are worthy of the very best and because of that you deserve to be happy. I’m excited to teach you that by changing the way you see yourself and your experiences you will have the ability to look at your life in a more compassionate light. By seeing yourself from the eyes of love, you will recognize that you are lovable and deserving.
Change Your Thinking to Heal Yourself from the Scars of Verbal Abuse
As a kid, if you were the target of verbal abuse and criticism, you may have grown up doubting your value because the people around you didn’t give you the impression you were very important. You are important. You may not have gotten the nurturing and the love or affection that you wanted as a child, from others but now you can act as your own best friend.
Blaming Others Keeps You in a Cycle of Acting Like A Victim
Blaming your parents, anyone else or any situation is a complete waste of your precious time. If your heart’s been broken by someone or grief, hurt, anger depression has you tied up in knots, the only way to get out of that self-pity trap, is to take responsibility by caring for yourself. In order to break the spell of worrying about how you look to the rest of the world, you have to start giving yourself what you’ve been trying to get from others. LOVE.
Maybe life didn’t go your way and you feel cheated and betrayed. And perhaps you’ve been uncomfortable with feeling those feelings of rage, so it’s been easier to bury your emotions in food, shopping or some other band aid promising quick relief. Although your feelings are justified, it won’t benefit you to keep on acting out the part of the victim.
By continuing to blame circumstances or people for your misery, you’re giving up your power. When you start taking action, even making little tiny baby steps and doing whatever you can do to feel better and improve your life, you’ll regain your momentum.
Don’t let the mirror, the scale, tight clothes, nasty comments, negative social media or anything else make you feel bad.
Your Amazing Power: The Ability Change Your Mind
As a person with a brain, you have an amazing power that you probably don’t even realize. You probably take it completely for granted. It’s your ability to think. In the blink of an eye you can change perspective. Remember you’re not broken, and you don’t need fixing. You’re perfect exactly the way you are. Imagine what your life would look like if you changed your opinion of yourself for the better. What could you do if you transformed all the energy you’ve been putting towards obsessing over your imperfections?
Loving Yourself and Being Self-Compassionate Isn’t Giving up
I want to be clear and make sure that you understand that loving yourself exactly as you are and learning to be self-compassionate and kind to yourself is not giving up or settling in any way. In fact it’s the fuel and the fire that powers up your internal willingness to make changes. Self-hatred and loathing keep you feeling stuck. Self-compassion and love move you forward.
Here are 6 tips that will enable you to be more confident at any age so you can get out from under your mirror misery:
1. Grieve your losses. As we age, and loved ones pass away, we spend more time thinking about our own mortality. We become aware of regrets and lost opportunities. By the time you hit your mid 40’s or early 50’s, it becomes daunting to realize that nearly half of your life is over.
You can avoid that self-pity trap and move past the ‘feeling sorry’ for yourself thinking, by facing your feelings. Looking into the mirror and pointing out obvious truths like getting older, noticing that your appearance is changing is just a habit.
A habit is something that you’ve gotten used to doing and you’ve repeated it many times. Here’s the important thing to remember. When you look at yourself in the mirror and feel bad, the problem is not your body. It’s a higher call to action to examine your life. Your self-imposed mirror misery is really just a smokescreen covering up what’s really upsetting you.
Don’t paste a smile on your face when you’re not feeling the beam coming from your heart. No use pretending you feel fine, when you don’t. Positive thinking will not be strong enough to overturn those self-defeating thoughts, because the emotional load of stress on your brain is too intense, triggering a ton of toxic hormones to flood your body. This surge of stress chemicals is preventing you from thinking clearly because your internal alarm is going off. To neutralize that stress response, you need to dump that emotional load by acknowledging how sad, regretful, angry or betrayed you really feel. There’s no way of getting around it. You have to face your feelings.
2. Tap. Emotional Freedom Technique, also known as EFT or tapping is a powerful stress-relief technique that calms you down by activating your body’s natural relaxation response . Tapping has changed my life and made it possible for me to undo much of the damage of my abusive past.
Prior to learning about tapping, I spent nearly 15 years in traditional talk therapy attempting to put perspective on my very abusive past. It helped considerably, but there were still memories of mine that were much too traumatic to bear.
EFT Changed My Life By Giving Me the Tool to Stop Acting Like a Victim
In 2004 I was attending a coaching training to become a Master Practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming. My class was doing presentations and our chairs were all arranged in a circle. Something a colleague of mine said triggered a memory of one of the worst and most traumatic events of my childhood. In seconds, I went into a full-blown panic attack. I felt a surge of emotion rushing through my body. I looked down at my hands that had been resting on my knees, and noticed they were trembling uncontrollably because the muscles in my legs were bouncing out of control, going up and down. Lucky for me, a colleague of mine sitting next to me, noticed my distress, tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention and whispered an invitation to help.
As soon as we exited the room, I began to sob uncontrollably. I remember her telling me that she was an Emotional Freedom Technique practitioner and if I would give her permission to tap on my hands and face, she could help me feel better. She did. That day changed my life and I’ve since vowed to share EFT with other women also struggling with depression and self-doubt. EFT has done for me what nearly 15 years of therapy failed to achieve. It’s given me emotional freedom so I no longer identify myself as a victim. I don’t think of my abusive past as a curse or a reason to feel ashamed. It’s made me the strong, loving, compassionate person I’ve become. And whenever I forget that and I get tripped up and fall down again, I just use EFT again to pick myself back up.
To this day when I get triggered to remember upsetting and traumatic events from my past, and my thoughts turn to paranoia and fear, I automatically use tapping to regain clarity. I work with clients who also have trauma in their past and I’ve learned to use EFT to help them transform those upsetting memories and turn them into self-pride and confidence. I am proof positive that you don’t have to live your life feeling like a victim. You can clean the slate and start over and feel more vibrant and alive than ever!
In the 2 photos above, I’m teaching Supermodel Emme’s (Emme Aronson) Meet Up group how to use EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) tapping to get control of their emotions so they can start each day with plenty of energy and confidence.
Emme Aronson is one of the contacts I made from reading Plus Model Magazine. Emme is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s book, “Curvy & Confident: 101 Stories About Loving Yourself and Your Body) And I’m incredibly proud to have my story, “Beauty At Every Size” published in that book.
As I shared with Emme’s group and I teach my clients, whatever anxiety or overwhelming emotion you’re experiencing you can get relief and feel better by using tapping. Scientific studies on tapping have proven that tapping works because it sends a calming signal to your brain to stimulate a production of feel good chemicals like serotonin and dopamine to relax your muscles at the same time that they calm your thoughts. It’s like getting a great massage while you’re also talking to your best friend.
3. Don’t tolerate criticism – We get our sense of value and feeling of being lovable and worthy from our environment. It’s our parents and caregivers who first teach us about love. As children we don’t have any say in how people speak to us or how they treat us. But as adults, we can make those decisions for ourselves. As I mention often in my book, We teach people how to treat us, and it’s never too late to change the rules. But expect that you will face a lot of resistance from the people who have benefited by tearing you down with their criticism. Always consider your safety first and avoid putting yourself in the line of fire of a physically abusive person.
Feelings of shame about your body or your age comes from the way you’ve learned to think about yourself and the history of how you have seen others being treated. Many times people are not even aware of the fact that they are saying hurtful things, because they have developed a tolerance to criticism and verbal abuse from their own experiences with their families.
Become aware of people in your life who treat you disrespectfully. Sarcasm and criticism is hurtful and you don’t deserve to be abused. Being spoken to in a sarcastic or critical tone is not okay. Give people the benefit of the doubt by taking them aside and speaking to them in a non-threatening and soft tone letting them know that you have decided that you want to be treated with kindness and respect. Ask them specifically for what you want and how you want them to speak to you.
4. You are in control. Your thoughts have power. Depending upon where you choose to point and focus your thoughts, it will either energize or suck the life out of you. If you focus on all the reasons and thoughts that make you feel bad, you will only attract more ‘feeling bad’ into your experience. The chemicals of emotion are all just energy to your system. It’s not good. It’s not bad. It’s just energy.
You can transform those negative thoughts and emotions to feel however you want. If you want to feel more confident and rise above your circumstances, you’ve got to grieve your losses and face the feelings you have about where you are now and how you feel about getting older. You have the power of choice. You can choose how you want to feel by changing the thoughts you think. You can choose to embrace this new older and more mature stage in your life and make it work for you or you can buy into the belief that you’re all washed up. It’s all up to you.
5. Seek out role models of women over 40 who exemplify confidence and body acceptance. My attitudes towards my body changed when I began finding role models of women whose bodies were shaped like mine.
If you’re struggling with feeling insecure around aging, look for role models of women who have embraced their ageless beauty.
As far as ageless examples of celebrities, Cher, Tina Turner and Oprah are my personal favorites. Notice women in your personal circle who exemplify agelessness.
Go online and expand your search to include great YouTube videos. One of my favorite YouTubers is Monique Parent. She is a Hollywood actress who teaches women over 40 how to go from drab to fab. By expanding your awareness of the possibilities and learning how to manage challenges, you’ll feel so much better.
6. Spend more time being happy and finding inspiration where you can. Do things that pull you out of thinking about yourself and your problems. Listen to music, volunteer your time, watch movies you love, spend time with close friends.
Every moment of every day is filled with fresh opportunities for you to do what you want. Obsessing about the image of yourself you see in the mirror will only make you feel worse. I get it. I know. I feel your pain. Let me tell you a little story about when I realized that trying to fight the signs of aging was just a waste of time.
Back in 2011 I first noticed some wrinkles and dark circles under my eyes. They could have been there for 10 years, but I’ve never noticed it before. For several weeks after that, throughout the day I found myself nervously checking my mirror, spending far too long inspecting myself for signs of aging. Then I started looking for solutions to dark circles, watching videos and paying attention to conversations, looking for answers.
Until one day I stood in front of my magnifier mirror, tugging at my eyes, trying to make the dark circles go away. Suddenly a painfully sobering realization hit me and I started to cry. As I tasted my salty tears then rolling down my cheeks, I realized that I had been here before.
This place of self-hatred and shame was so familiar to me. Now instead of focusing my shame-filled thoughts on hating my fat thighs as I had done for decades, my new obsession was around feeling ashamed about aging. The dark circles were just the first evidence I noticed.
Sure I could buy that cream, and follow every shiny ball solution out there, but in the end, I would just be chasing after a dream, wishing I was something I’m not. Younger. I’m older now, and I’ll never have the younger version of me back again. And neither will you.
Our answers are not in fixing our bodies and making external changes that often don’t last. Instead the true answers and our real freedom is in self-acceptance. To get over the feeling of wanting to hide yourself, we have to embrace our imperfections, face this aging thing head on by looking deeply into ourselves, and grieve our losses so we can get on with living our best life.
Back in April, Angel my precious husband of 30 years died suddenly of a heart attack, just 2 days before we were planning to move. Then just 6 months later my best friend died. At the beginning of my grief, I was consumed with self-pity.
I’m still at the beginning of my grief journey for both my husband and my dear friend. But their sudden passings have taught me a valuable lesson. Life is precious and you never know when your last day will be.
Please don’t spend a moment longer worrying about how you look. Realize that aging is a privilege. I was once complaining about my dark circles to a friend of mine, and she said, “Andrea, I have learned to embrace aging because I realize it’s a sign that I’m alive.”
So wherever you are on your journey, embrace yourself exactly as you are in this moment. And if you can’t yet do it on your own, I’m here to help you.
Whether your challenges are with the size of your thighs, or the wrinkles ’round your eyes, reclaim your power from your mirror and take a stand. The problem is not your body. The problem is hating your body.
If you’re tired of picking on all your flaws and finding fault with everything you do and want to find some inner peace that will power you up, join me in my Facebook group, “Lovin’ the Skin You’re In: How to Bounce Back from Adversity
Andrea Amador is The Juicy Woman. Equal parts sweet and oh so sassy, Andrea’s a curvy and confident plus size body image coach/bestselling author who shows mid-life women how to transform their blues and body shame into self-compassion and kindness so they can build their confidence from the inside-out.