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  • Carolyn Karoll LCSW-C, CEDS-S

Embrace Aging: 10 Strategies to Foster Positive Body Image

Strategies for women in a youth-obsessed culture.

Houston Embrace Aging Positive Body Image Therapy

  • Women 40-plus navigate societal norms and physiological changes in aging.

  • Societal appearance standards can shape worth, yet they're socially constructed and deconstruct able.

  • Embracing aging involves a multifaceted approach centered on acceptance and "bigger-picture thinking."



Over the past decade, extensive research has delved into the topic of body image during mid- and late-life, with a predominant focus on the struggles experienced by women in these phases. This emphasis is hardly surprising, for a society fixated on youth and beauty standards, including the "thin ideal" and "ageless skin." Encountering a woman who not only accepts but also holds positive feelings toward her body is a rarity in this context.


Research indicates that women aged 40 and above face various influences that shape their perceptions of appearance. These factors include observing changes in their bodies and societal expectations to minimize signs of aging, such as lines or gray hairs. The societal norm of female beauty, marked by the thin-young ideal, becomes more distant with aging-related physiological changes impacting the female body.1


Houston Embrace Aging Positive Body Image Therapy

However, it's crucial to acknowledge that aging is a natural and, if lucky, a fundamental part of life. These societal standards of appearance that often define worth and value for so many are socially constructed and, therefore, can be deconstructed.


To find acceptance in aging and embrace the changes that come with it, individuals can follow a multifaceted approach that centers on themes of acceptance and "bigger-picture" thinking.


Here are 10 empowering strategies to help individuals find peace and appreciation for their aging bodies.


  1. Identify and adopt realistic role models: Challenge societal beauty standards by critically evaluating media images. Seek out older individuals who embody qualities like strength, wisdom, and courage, focusing on attributes beyond physical appearance.

  2. Reengage in self-care practices: Reconnect or, in some cases, connect, for the first time, with your body by engaging in self-care routines emphasizing valuing and responding to your physical needs. These routines can include activities like applying lotion, attending regular doctor appointments, exercising, meditating, and practicing yoga.

  3. Avoid making disparaging remarks about your body: Practice self-compassion by looking in the mirror and describing your body in neutral terms. Avoid negative self-talk and instead focus on acknowledging your body without judgment.

  4. List reasons you appreciate your body: Once you can view your body neutrally, recognize the positive ways in which your body has served you. Express appreciation aloud, write down these reasons, and refer to them when negative self-talk creeps in.

  5. Write an apology letter to your body: Reflect on any past mistreatment or neglect of your body and seek reconciliation. Apologize to your body for any harm it may have endured, fostering a sense of connection and acceptance.

  6. Practice self-compassion: Stop blaming your body for the natural process of aging. Speak to yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would offer a friend, treating your body with love and care.

  7. Get accurate information about aging: Seek reliable resources on the aging process, encompassing changes in your body. Recognize that weight gain in midlife, for instance, can result from hormonal and metabolic shifts. Understanding these natural changes helps normalize the aging experience.

  8. Try a holistic mind/body approach: Integrate your mind and body by exploring techniques such as guided imagery, mindfulness meditation, mirror work, and compassionate body scans. These practices can help challenge self-criticism, reduce self-objectification, and promote self-acceptance.

  9. Shift your focus from eternal youth to fundamental values and personal transcendence: Redirect your focus from pursuing eternal youth to exploring fundamental values and personal transcendence. Shifting your attention away from appearances, engage in an existential journey that embraces the natural aging process, fostering acceptance and promoting personal growth. Consider what legacy you want to leave behind and how you wish others to remember you, allowing these reflections to guide your path.

  10. Connect socially: Cultivating meaningful connections with friends, family, and community in mid to late life is instrumental in cultivating emotional support, fostering a rich exchange of diverse perspectives on aging, commemorating life achievements, diminishing stigma, and deepening a sense of belonging. This shared experience challenges societal beauty standards and normalizes aging, ultimately contributing to a more inclusive and positive body image.


Houston Embrace Aging Positive Body Image In Person Therapy

Houston Embrace Aging Positive Body Image Online Therapy

In a society captivated by youth, navigating the journey of aging requires a deliberate effort to redefine beauty and self-worth. By challenging cultural obsessions, fostering self-compassion, and celebrating the richness of each passing year, you can embark on a peaceful relationship with your body that transcends the limitations of age-centric standards. Remember, true beauty is timeless, and your worth extends far beyond the superficial constraints of cultural expectations.


Carolyn Karoll, LCSW-C, CEDS-S, - Website -


References


Kilpela, Lisa Smith et al. “Body Image in Adult Women: Moving Beyond the Younger Years.” Advances in eating disorders (Abingdon, England ) vol. 3,2 (2015): 144-164. doi:10.1080/21662630.2015.1012728

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