Embracing the 50+ Years

I just finished watching the new episodes of the Netflix series “The Crown”. While season one and two had actually endeared “The Queen” to me and allowed me to shift my perspective of this powerful and dignified figure, so I could see her humanity, the third season had—and not just due to a change in actors—a bit of a different effect on me. It had me reflect on how we as women manage to combine our power, wisdom and kindness in the second half of our lives. How does becoming older affect our self-image and our relationships?

Olivia Colman stars as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown.

Some of us stay stuck in fear, in being inauthentic and not speaking up because that is what was role modeled to us as “politeness” and the only way to be as females. Others, newly aware of their power and position, might be tempted to set their boundaries by ripping into others under the pretense of speaking their truth. The women that I admire speak their truth, but with consciousness, kindness and warmth, always aware that others do their best and are not out to get them. We all might react too strongly when we feel overwhelmed. The key is to readjust back onto a path of heart-centredness. Compassion and understanding does not only show up in what we say, but also in how we deliver it. We can speak and express what we are guided to say from a place of clarity, with compassion and understanding.

Christiane Northrup coined the term “Alpha Goddess” for the perimenopausal or postmenopausal woman who has come into her own. When we have entered that “second spring of our life”, self-care and self-development become priorities, as wellness expos show—they are primarily visited by women of that age group. We feel it is our time to accept ourselves fully the way we are with all our strengths and weaknesses.

“They know their strength because they have experienced significant loss and come through it.” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age) We have learned to ask for help when we need it and that overall we are smart and capable. We have learned to put matters into perspective and trust that everything will pass. As mature woman we are very much aware of the fact that “no” is a complete sentence, which is liberating. We are free from the need to prove ourselves. “We look back and see that we didn’t do so badly after all. Maybe we have some regrets and maybe we disappointed some people, but that’s part of being human” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). Sometimes we simply need a fellow Goddess to remind us that we are doing well.

We know that we do not need to let ourselves be pulled into other people’s drama, summarized so beautifully by the phrase “not my circus, not my monkeys”. We also recognize when a friend needs us to hold a loving space or when it is time to reach out to a professional.

Being a coach and supporting others, I have strong wise women supporting me not only as friends, but also in the role of a therapist or a coach. Depending on what is going on in my life, I reach out to either one of the latter. I admire and trust them, yet they are also human. They might not always be able to give me what I need. In fact, my therapist, despite having known me for several years, missed the mark the other day. When that happens, we can slink away quietly and not reach out to that person anymore, or we can speak up. A good practitioner will listen and be grateful when you speak up. In fact, when I let her know that in the particular situation I did not need her to go into problem solving mode for me, but I simply needed to be heard and held in my vulnerability, she replied with a simple heartfelt “I am sorry” and the acknowledgment that she sometimes misses the mark when we do a phone session rather than an in-person session. I admire and value her for that response and unless she repeatedly misses the mark despite me speaking up, I see no need to end this relationship.

The same applies to our friendships. “Alpha Goddesses know how to make new friends but keep the old—but they only hang on to those longstanding friendships if they’re vitalizing instead of draining” (Northrup, Goddesses Never Age). There are friends and family members who drain our energy with drama or other toxic interactions, but as we refuse to be pulled into their turmoil, they naturally fall away. We can release them and let them go with understanding and forgiveness.

I have recently become newly aware of who some of my true friends are. They are not our social media connections that we are sometimes so busily feeding, but those friends who you can be vulnerable with because you know they feel confident in themselves and are far beyond competition between women, status, gossip or pettiness.

Some of them are my age, but that is not even the main requirement for a supportive nurturing relationship. One of my dearest friends is 84 and she will be reading this blog as she follows with interest what is going on in my life. She is curious and young at heart, while being wise and kind. She is one of the women I admire most. If I only have half of her spunk and joy for life when I am her age, I will be fortunate. Another one is in her early 30’s, who also is wise beyond her earthly years, and I am grateful to have a friend who is like a third daughter. And then there are a handful of amazing women my age who I consider to be part of my tribe. Our relationships are equal. One day they need me, another day I need them to remind me of who I am and can be. I know I can reach out to them at any time and that I will be received without judgment.

They have boundaries where necessary, are aware of their feelings and of their own baggage. They are able to be kind and honest with themselves. We all are triggered or judgmental at times. The question is what do we do with those emotions and judgments? Do we choose to rip into others and kick them to the curb when they do not fall in line, or do we acknowledge our flaws and work on stepping into our true self?

To get back to the Queen in the Netflix series, she mostly stands alone and she hardens over time. She is unable to connect with vulnerability or love to her children or most other people. She finds peace with her dogs and especially her horses, but in my mind she misses out on what it truly means to be this amazing age of 50+.

What the women I love and admire have in common is, in my opinion, the most important quality in any man or woman: they see with their hearts. They are smart yet have the most loving view of others. They have managed to step into their power and being authentically themselves while treating others with kindness. They all are true Goddesses in my mind, when most of them wouldn’t even think of themselves in that way. I am proud and grateful to have each of them in my life.

 

Contact me (Angelika) for sessions at

905-286-9466

greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca

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Self-Compassion – Luxury or Necessity?

Sarah comes in through the door, I pour her a water and I ask, “How are you?” She replies, “Aww, not that great. I have been feeling really down for the last two weeks. So much has been going on with my family, and at work, too. It all feels futile. I have failed in so many ways. I just can’t handle all these conflicts and problems anymore.”

I don’t usually see clients when they feel good or are at the top of the world. Instead, they normally come back when something has happened and they need to work through a conflict, often both an outer one as well as an inner conflict.

Life throws us these curve balls and the Inner Critic voice we all have loves nothing more than to beat us up in the face of adversity. It pipes up especially loudly when we feel we have made a “mistake” or “failed” in some way. We didn’t get the grade we were aiming for, we are being laid off from a job or are not being hired for a position we have applied to, the person we would like to date rejects us or our marriage is struggling, we are experiencing fertility issues or our teenager is acting out, we have received worrisome health news or are trying to lose weight with little success, and the list goes on and on.

self-compassion 1

The “I’m not good enough in some way” story is almost universal. We all struggle with it at some point in some way. How much we struggle is largely based on the experience we had with our caregivers during childhood. Were they compassionate, empathetic and able to love us unconditionally? Or did we have the experience that we were loved when we were “performing according to certain standards and ideals, and that love was withdrawn or guilt was applied” (Dr. Kelly McGonigal), if we didn’t meet the expectations.

The sad news is that most parents did not know how to raise their children with unconditional love. And we cannot even blame them because what we have not experienced ourselves is hard to pass on to the next generation. Sarah, for example, had an emotionally absent father and a harsh mother, who preferred her younger children and had unrealistic expectations of Sarah as the oldest. No matter how hard Sarah tried to please, she could never win her parent’s attention and full love. When she was 18, she married to get out of this cold home. Unfortunately, that marriage didn’t last, as Sarah naturally brought her childhood issues around love with her into that relationship. She tried to be perfect and to please, but never felt that she was good enough. The failure of the marriage, however, added to her list of regrets and mistakes, which all seemed to prove her unworthiness.

Receiving conditional love as a child is the breeding ground for pathological perfectionism and the feeling that we are never quite enough. The good news is that we can still heal those wounds with self-compassion and the compassion of others.

self-compassion 2

Our feeling of lacking in some way is very old. When we go back and remember moments of self-esteem deflation, we realize how early this started. The qualities and criteria, however, which allow the Inner Critic to collapse our self-esteem, have changed through the different developmental stages and can be quite arbitrary. The Inner Critic will always find something to criticize. Ultimately, that critical voice is the internalized parental or societal voice. It has the power to completely deflate us and affect our mental, emotional and physical state.

Smaller or bigger Inner Critic attacks are not only very common but brain research has shown that self-criticism and self-judgment are the default setting of our brain. When we are not focused on doing something specific, the Inner Critic is running its programs of comparison and categorizing into good and bad. Sadly, most of the time that voice is not all too friendly with us, which has direct effects on our health. “We know that people who are highly self-critical, who are never good enough, are obviously at increased risk for depression. And depression reinforces those feelings.” (Dr. Kelly McGonigal)

Nicola Hermanto, a PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at McGill University, published a study in 2016 that looked at adults in Canada, England and Portugal and the relationship between self-criticism—so in other words a lack of self-compassion—and depression. This study did not just find a high correlation between those two factors, but they also found that the fear and inability to receive compassion from others contributes to depression. Feeling unworthy of receiving compassion, or being suspicious of other people being kind and caring, increases the link between self-criticism and depression.

Dala Lama

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them humanity cannot survive.
– Dalai Lama

If we all have a default tendency to be self-critical, the one thing that becomes a necessity to counteract that Inner Critic voice is a loving, compassionate Inner Parental voice. Part of that process is the ability and willingness to receive kindness, empathy and loving support from others.

Subconscious belief changes therefore need to address the issue of deserving and receiving, as well as beliefs around making mistakes and embracing failures as part of life, instead of a sign that there is something deeply unworthy and shameful about us.

Once we have changed some subconscious beliefs about our own worthiness, it becomes easier to practice self-compassion or inner compassion. True self-compassion means feeling a “sense of love or self-acceptance or inner acceptance even in the moment of self-esteem collapse” (Dr. Ron Siegel). When we have this sense of okay-ness, or sense of value and worth in the world, we can lovingly re-parent ourselves. With love for ourselves in moments of crisis, we can ask, “What’s good for me in this situation? What is the self-loving thing to do or think right now?”

self-compassion 4a)

Another very powerful piece of work in practicing kindness and gentleness towards ourselves is self-forgiveness. Often the most important work is to forgive ourselves for our past choices and decisions. We don’t need the forgiveness of others nearly as much as we need our own. We can alter our relationship with ourselves by releasing those harsh judgments and self-critical thoughts that keep us imprisoned within that sense of not being valuable, not being good enough. Moment by moment of inner compassion, we are healing our sorrows and wounds and ultimately changing our entire life.

self-compassion 5

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Angelika
Life Coaching, Belief Changes & Forgiveness Work
905-286-9466, greendoorrelaxation@yahoo.ca