Our society seems fixated on the idea that our prime, especially sexual prime, is strongest in late adolescence or our early 20s and it is a downward spiral from then. Yet, I feel my experience with aging so far has enhanced my natural beauty.
As I move quickly towards fifty and post-menopause, I notice my body changing. Yet internally, my mind is more active and engaged than ever before. I credit my work as an artist and craftivist to playing a strong role in this enriching flow of thoughts and ideas as well as the desire to take greater action and responsibility as a citizen.
I want to be more involved and contribute. Maybe aging holds some unexpected hidden gems?
I have spent many years learning to feed myself quality thoughts. Like the food we eat, I believe it is important to be mindful and selective of the thoughts that we have about ourselves. If we continually tell ourselves in our mind we have done well, it is okay to feel X or Y, and we can learn to self-sooth internally.
This builds a loving relationship within. In our busy world, this is the relationship that seems the most likely to be neglected or even abused with judgment, mental snipes, and criticisms. Remember, you deserve to be nurtured.
How Creating Can Build Self-Love
Developing a regular creative practice or passion can build self-love. When we become present and focus on an activity that we enjoy, our body relaxes, and our stress hormones reduce. This is particularly important as we age.
It can also provide us with a new sense of meaning, grow our confidence as we make new friends, or have inspiring things to share with old ones. For example, through the practice of craftivism (utilizing craft as DIY citizenship) over the last four years I have felt empowered by partnering with individuals and community groups, seeing my ideas come to life in new ways and discovering how to create spaces for dialogue and dissensus to take place.
“…. creativity has the power to change the course of an individual’s life and massively improve their sense of worth within their own community.” – Carrie Reichardt (Craftivism as DIY Citizenship: The Practice of Making Change. Page 51) *
The sense of contributing and creating new connections in my community has provided me with an important sense of meaning and pride at this stage of life. These are all inner experiences that thankfully, do not require me to look a certain way externally.
Developing Your Natural Beauty with Wholesome Nutrition
Ironically, over the last year, I decided that I wanted my body and persona to reflect the self-love I’ve developed through life experiences, therapy, art and craftivism, relationships, sexual development, and letting go of the past.
I found The Ketogenic Switch by Deborah Murtagh (www.ketogenicswitch.com.au) a wholefood eating style to help women transition through midlife by changing diet and core beliefs. I realize this program won’t suit everyone, but for me, it was the support I needed to lose weight and feel joyous and radiant on the inside.
The program has a strong mind-work and psychological component which challenges the inner critic. Through focusing on dietary changes as well as the negative self-talk I was doing, my self-love has strengthened. I can now radiate this on the outside. In other words, I feel naturally beautiful, inside and out.
Challenging Your Inner Critic
Your inner critic is the part of your mind that believes you need protection from pain or hurt. As a child, it helped you cope when you felt powerless, hurt, or traumatized. As Deborah Murtagh from The Ketogenic Switch explains, “Our inner critic is not an evil aspect of ourselves that we need to exercise. It is a ghost of our past that has never evolved – it just needs to be healed.”
As we mature, we often outgrow the need for this kind of protection, and this part of the mind turns into an inner bully or an attacker as it tries to jockey for position. By noticing this part of yourself, listening to what it says, and valuing what it has offered, it will most likely loosen its grip. As a result, you will then have space for trust, confidence, and inner peace to further develop.
So, by calming and reassuring your inner critic, feeding yourself nutritious food and thought, developing a regular creative practice or passion, and connecting to the community, you will increase your self-love and acceptance, build trust, and allow you to remain more present with yourself and others. I predict this will lead you to discover the gems of joy so they can radiate from the inside, out.
* Fitzpatrick, Tal. (2018). Tal-Fitzpatrick-PhD-Thesis-2018. 10.13140/RG.2.2.27477.27361.
About the Author:
Helen Fraser is an Australian contemporary artist, psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist who helps people understand and love themselves, think independently and fulfil their creative potential. You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter (featuring ‘heART ideas’; the psychology of creative living, news and special offers ) at her website www.helenfraser.net.au and follow her on Instagram @helenfraserartist.