The midlife transition can come with its challenges and while you may feel lost, there are ways to work through those uncomfortable emotions. One of these is practising self-love. Many people mistakenly believe that it is the same as narcissism, or having a big ego. It’s not.
According to the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation, self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological and spiritual growth. Self-love means also having a high regard for your own well-being and happiness and not settling for less than you deserve.
For me, self-love means knowing ourselves so well that we accept who we are, including our flaws.
I wasn’t in love with myself for a long time, though. I used to question myself a lot trying to come to terms with my volcanic personality. Only later, I realised that self-love means taking care of your own needs and not sacrificing your well-being. Toning myself down to please others would have only lead to making me feel low.
Of course, falling in love with ourselves again it’s not easy and it’s also a very personal path. Everyone is unique and what has worked for me doesn’t mean it will work for you: we all have many different ways to take care of ourselves. All I know is that self-acceptance is the key to beating whatever inner conflict we might have. Giving myself a break from self-judgement, trusting my inner guts and being true to myself, for instance, are amongst the things that have helped me stay on track.
Practising self-love is also a way to motivate ourselves to make healthy choices in life. In fact, psychologists believe that when we hold ourselves in high esteem, we’re more likely to choose things that nurture our well-being and serve us well. I confess, there were times I found places in my journey where I was not present in my own life, body, or spirit. I was just there. Knowing and understanding my limits were crucial steps to reboot my life.
In the end, taking care of yourself like you’d take care of a friend in distress is the best way to reconnect with your feelings, especially when you are stuck in a dead-end. Whether you want to work on yourself or not, just remember self-love is a practice and it’s a skill that takes considerable work. Don’t rush. You will never be able to follow your own inner voice until you clear up the doubts in your mind. As the author Caroline Kirk says: “self-love requires you to be honest about your current choices and thought patterns and undertake new practices that reflect self-worth.”
What we, midlifers, can do for sure is to learning how to set boundaries, allowing ourselves to make mistakes and refusing to seek permission or approval to be ourselves. After all these years and experience, we need to acknowledge that we, like everyone else, deserve to take up space on this planet just as who we are right now.