Celebrate Your Emotional Independence this Fourth of July

http://www.shmirshky.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Ellen_Dolgen_Menopause_Monday.jpgYes, the Constitution gave us freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to bear arms (or, in our menopausal state, the right to bare arms).

But think about it. Are you emotionally free? Do you have freedom from a negative self-image? From a lowered sense of worth? Freedom from the word "can't"?

If not, it's time to free yourself from the negative chatter (both internal and external) that holds you back from doing what you want to do or simply being who you want to be.

You know what I mean. As women in the throes of perimenopause and menopause, we constantly have to filter out those subliminal messages that make us feel less than fabulous.

I am reminded of the record album (yes, that dates me and I'm proud of it!) and book titled Free to Be... You and Me by Marlo Thomas and Friends back in '72. Although the overriding theme was gender neutrality — promoting individuality, tolerance, and comfort with one's identity — a major message was that anyone can achieve anything. That's a concept we can take to heart as women truly in the prime of our lives.

Our knee-jerk reaction is to blame the media, the entertainment industry and advertising campaigns that — while perhaps not blatantly disparaging older women — glorify youth and, by association, cast a negative light on the natural process of aging.

One company’s efforts

Restorsea™, a natural skincare brand, is making an effort to "reverse the negative stigma associated with aging, encouraging women to embrace it instead." Its first digital advertising campaign, featuring new brand ambassador Gwyneth Paltrow, is centered on the idea that "Your Best is Yet to Come." Restorsea™ Founder and CEO Patti Pao started her company at age 50. "Proof that 'Your best IS yet to come,'" she said.

While I commend Restorsea™ for its efforts, I must question its selection of Paltrow as brand ambassador. At 41, she's a mere youngster compared to many of us.

Restorsea™ wasn't the first brand to look at women in a new light via its advertising campaign. The 2004 Dove® Campaign for Real Beauty ad campaign featured real women whose appearances were outside the stereotypical norms of beauty. The ads asked viewers to judge the women’s looks (oversized or outstanding? and wrinkled or wonderful?), and invited them to cast their votes online.

Dove ad campaign takes flight

In 2007, the Dove® global study, "Beauty Comes of Age," revealed that 91 percent of women ages 50-64 believed it was time for society to change its views about women and aging. The campaign celebrated the essence of women 50-plus — wrinkles, age spots, gray hair and all. Internationally renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz captured images that celebrated what, until then, were viewed as "flaws" in aging women.

The Restorsea™ and Dove campaigns are admirable, but what we need to do is not look outward, but look inward. It's those pesky little voices in our head that we need to turn off, to drown out with positive reinforcement.

Avoid these thinking traps

According to the National Association of Social Workers, negative thinking leads to negative self-talk, which can affect self-esteem and even physical health. Positive self-talk, however, boosts a woman's confidence. Here are a few thinking traps we should avoid:

  • All-or-nothing.Black or white/good or bad thinking takes into account only extremes and does not look at the whole picture. Sure, I may have a few more wrinkles, but that's not all. I also have a lot more wisdom and moxie.
  • Crystal ball. While we may wish we could read other people's minds, it just ain't so. Thinking that others are viewing you as old and irrelevant will only lead you to project those thoughts onto yourself.
  • The blame game. Similar to personalizing, this is when you think in terms of “poor me” or “it’s all [fill in the blank's] fault.” Blame game thinking puts you at risk to behave as either a victim or a blamer. Instead of blame and shame, train yourself to think not as a victim, but as a victor over aging.
  • “Should-ing.” A spin on shoulda/woulda/coulda, this type of thinking assumes (and you know what they say about assuming!) that you and other people should think and/or act in certain ways. If you think that you're old, out of touch, and should take a back seat in life, you'll tend to act that way. If you think that you're vibrant and can contribute to society, look out, world!
  • “What if" and “if only.” Thinking like is likely to reinforce resentment, fears and anxiety. You can't turn back the clock, so there's no use in thinking "What if I were 10 years younger?" or "If only I didn't have these wrinkles ...." Change "what if" to "what about" — as in "What about I smile at my reflection in the mirror?" Change "if only" to "if I want to" — as in "If I want to, I can [fill in the blank]."

Are you guilty of falling into any of the thinking traps listed above? If so, free yourself from those traps now. When you do, you'll be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Let freedom ring!

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