4 Ways to Love and Accept Yourself in Midlife
When you accept yourself life gets better.
How you do it is to confidently acknowledge that there’s so much about you that’s good. You also know you’re on the path of continuing to growth when you can accept your wonderfully imperfect self too!
Daily life is challenging with unrealistic expectations of who you think you need to be. The media, social media, family, work, society at large, all try to shape you into the image of someone who measures up even if you might not agree.
- trying to do a good job
- be a good person
- be valued by those who matter to you
This is what’s really important in life.
So, how do you get past negative self-talk, worries about not doing enough and living up to unrealistic expectations?
The path of acceptance is one of courage. It requires you to get clear about what you need, even when you aren’t sure or change your mind or make a mistake about what you really want.
Practicing self-compassion while you figure it out will help you stay on track.
Here are 4 ways you can cultivate more self-acceptance. They are all interrelated moving from what’s outside of your control to what is within your control. As you follow the steps, you’ll clarify what you want in your life and set goals that align with your values.
1. Call out unrealistic expectations – especially appearance related ones.
No matter what your age, culture, race, gender or nationality the media (and social media) often highlights the ideal and can leave you feeling that you don’t measure up to the ideal and unattractive. Comparisons aren’t only for teens; it can happen to us no matter what your age. Research has shown that the more media you consume with attractive people in it, the worse you feel about yourselves. But it’s important to remember that the media is a reflection of what we’re already thinking and to get unstuck it’s important to remember this. If your focus is appearance based, you likely feel that you fall short because your brain is already oriented that way. If you see media for what it really is—a show—then you can stop comparing yourself to unrealistic ideals and accept yourself.
2. Limit negative self-talk.
One of the ways you can better accept yourself is to challenge your negative self-talk. All of us have an inner monologue running all day long. If this self-talk is mostly negative, you’ll have a hard time feeling good about yourself. For example, many of clients say things like, “I’m not attractive anymore”or”my life is a mess” or “I didn’t work so hard for my life to be like this.” You can stop some of these painful thoughts by simply limiting your media and social media time, which can help the immediate negative reactions.
I haven’t met anyone yet whose life is completely negative or positive. For longer term relief practice noticing when you have the feelings of satisfaction or when you laugh or even when you feel proud of yourself. When you recall pleasant memories – times in life when things have gone well, your brain gets a boost from recalling that experience. The act of remembering good times can open up a more optimistic frame of reference and help you get unstuck from negative thinking and accept yourself.
3. Express yourself.
What else stops you from accepting yourself? Mostly, it’s our fear of what other people might think about us if we showed our true selves. For example, maybe your friends all have the same opinion about a political topic, so you decide not to share your different point of view. Maybe your friends have a particular view on what’s healthy eating and exercise so you decide not to talk about your views because you just don’t want to have that conversation. Or maybe your friends enjoy sharing a meal at a fancy restaurant, so you decide not to invite them to your house for the cozy dinner you’d really enjoy. Even as adults we often hold back because we’re afraid of how we’ll be judged.
It’s human nature to want to show the best sides of ourselves. And holding back your opinions occasionally is a necessary part of life — in fact, it can help make our relationships a bit easier and more enjoyable. You don’t have to share everything with everyone all the time!
However, self-expression is a problem when you edit yourself so much that people pleasing is your default and your unique perspective gets lost. The result? Few of the people in your life know who you really are deep down. Maybe you even start to question who you are and what you believe. Another consequence is that the important people in your life don’t have the opportunity to accept you as you are. Most importantly, you don’t give yourself the opportunity to accept yourself as you are either.
4. Celebrate your strengths.
Sometimes it’s easier to focus on your weaknesses instead of celebrating your strengths. This is especially true for “problem solvers.” Everyone has things that they just aren’t great at doing and that’s okay. But, when you focus on those things instead of focusing on what you’re good at too, it leads to getting stuck. If you get down on yourself regularly for the things, it’s going to be hard to like yourself as much as you could. So, celebrate your strengths and discover even more about yourself. When you gain a new or broader perspective it usually helps you accept yourself more.
In sum, when you accept yourself, life is easier – that’s the bottom line! It’s a process to get there. And part of that process is building habits that support your well-being and personal growth – step by step. Habits that help you feel good and continue to grow and nurture yourself with compassion and accountability make the process easier.
How will you begin the process of accepting yourself?