By Lizbeth Schoen, LCSW-C, Therapy Services
We baby boomers are aging. You may have noticed: our vision changes, our middles thicken, our faces sag, sleep becomes elusive, joints stiffen, hair thins. We have hot flashes or we are cold all the time. We gain weight no matter what. The list goes on and on.
We are at a time in our lives when our self-image and identity may be shifting as our bodies and our roles in life begin to change.
Children grow up and leave to start their own lives. We may be caring for our parents or may have become middle-aged orphans. We become grandmothers, caregivers, widowed or divorced.
As we begin to redefine who we are inside, it can be natural to scrutinize our outer appearance, too, and fixate on the changes and signs of aging.
Every day we face ourselves in the mirror. Many of us wish we had a different shape or size, a younger complexion, fewer wrinkles, more firmness here, less fat there. Can we even remember when we last wore a bathing suit in public? We may struggle to find clothes that fit and that are flattering or stylish. We try to look more like some ideal image that doesn’t really exist. It’s hard not to think this way when the media bombard us with pictures (sometimes doctored) of glamorous, young and thin models and celebrities.
How do we value ourselves? How do we face the challenges to feel good about ourselves as we age in a culture that puts so much value on youthfulness and how women look?
We know the advice and many of us try hard to follow it. Eat healthy food, exercise regularly, learn to meditate, spend time with friends, do something that you find meaningful and purposeful, pursue a hobby, stimulate your brain, practice gratitude.
There are role models for embracing this time in our lives. Who are the strong, capable women in public life whom you admire because they are making the world a better place? Look around: what about our own mothers and grandmothers, teachers and older mentors?
But perhaps the most important thing we can do about our body image is, finally, after so many years of resisting it, to accept ourselves as we are and as we change. Our wrinkles, jowls, thick waistlines, grey hair are testaments to the lives we’ve lived, the babies we bore, the worries we carried, the million problems we solved, the meals we cooked, the love we gave and the selflessness with which we gave it.
By Lizbeth Schoen, LCSW-C, Therapy Services, Jewish Community Services in Howard County
To learn more about how JCS can help you solve life’s puzzles please visit our home page or call 410-466-9200.