I founded the Midlife Movement Membership to help women who are struggling through the perimenopause and all the changes midlife brings, to rediscover themselves and boost their confidence. Over the months, I have come to realise that one of the keys to being happy in this next part of our lives is self acceptance.
What do I mean by that? Well, today's young women undoubtedly are subject to societal pressures about how they look and how they behave, but I believe we were born in a era where generally (there are always exceptions!) we were encouraged to be quiet, to be, dare I say it, subservient. To be good.
My dad gave me some advice. You're an intelligent girl, Jo, he told me, but if you want to get on in life you have to learn how to hide it sometimes. He meant around men, particularly older men who took exception to a 16 year old taking them on and running rings around them.
I loved my dad. He meant well, and I am sad to say I heeded that advice for many years. I actually thought there was something wrong with me because I found it so difficult to conform.
Not any longer - I have learned to accept and love myself for who I am and my mission in life is to help other women through the vehicle of the membership to come into their own and move forward with confidence and even excitement.
For now, here are my 7 top strategies to find self acceptance.
1. Take a look back to see how far you've come
They say don't look back because you're not going that way, but I believe it helps to remind ourselves of how we got to where we are today. Without dwelling on regret, we can acknowledge where we might have made a different decision or handled things differently. We can recognise what we have done well, the people we have loved and cared for and the knowledge and experience we have gained.
2. Forgive yourself and others
Most of the time, we do the best we can given our resources and our understanding. Inevitably, we don't always get things right. For example, I wish I had recognised how badly my son was being bullied and acted to remove him from school sooner. Dwelling on that doesn't help anything though - I know I did the best I could at the time and I have learned to forgive myself for the mistakes I made. Likewise, it is pointless - and damaging to me in the present - to hold onto resentment towards those who I felt have treated me badly.
3. Make a list of your qualities and achievements
Keep your list positive - focus on the good things that have happened to you and relive the feeling of pride you have felt in your achievements, large and small. Don't hold back! No one is going to read this list but you.
Now that you have acknowledged and forgiven yourself for your perceived mistakes, it is time to build a foundation on which to build the rest of your life. A solid foundation built on your good qualities and best intentions.
4. Check your self talk
Notice the way you speak about yourself and the way you speak to yourself inside your own head. What words do you use? Are they kind? Constructive? Are they true?
Once you recognise the way you speak to and about yourself, you can start to challenge those thoughts. I occasionally still catch myself berating myself for doing something stupid. I stop when I realise and think - was that stupid? Am I stupid? Of course not - I am doing the best I can and perhaps just need a little more time to work out the best way to do something.
Ask yourself: would I berate someone I love that harshly? Use your answer as a barometer too gauge whether you are being too hard on yourself. Afford yourself the same kindness that you do others.
5. Make time for self care, every day
Make sure you spend at least 30 minutes every day on yourself. It might be a walk in the sunshine (getting in 30 minutes of exercise into your day at the same time!) or a long, scented bath. It might be broken up into 5 minutes watching the birds in your garden, 10 minutes with a cup of tea and a magazine, 15 minutes scrolling through Pinterest... build pockets of time for yourself into your everyday. This is your life - find ways to enjoy it.
Remember to breathe. As in, take a moment at your desk to close your eyes, ground your feet and fill your lungs with air, feeling your belly push out before letting the air out in a long, slow sigh. A simple pause, several times a day, will bring a feeling of calm into your life that automatically makes you feel better about yourself.
6. Keep a gratitude journal
Take the time to review your day and jot down what has been positive and the things for which you are grateful. This helps to keep life in perspective and makes you feel good about yourself, setting you up for a restful night's sleep.
There have been times when all I have been able to say I am grateful for is the roof over my head, that my bed is warm and the fact that I am not hungry - but those "little" things are actually huge. There is always something to be grateful for, no matter how difficult the previous 24 hours have been.
7. Keep moving forward towards your goals
One step at a time, keep moving forward. You deserve a life of richness and purpose as much as anyone else on this planet. You are worthy of all the wonderful things life has to offer.
Once you learn to accept yourself with all your foibles and human flaws, the day to day becomes so much easier to deal with.
If you need a little help, come and join us in the affordable monthly membership.
You can also sign up to the waitlist for the new Midlife Roadmap course, launching in February 2020. You'll receive my weekly newsletter in the meantime to inspire you and keep you connected.