Don’t get tied up in external appearances
Our Ask An Angel correspondent is Arlene Petersen, Certified Senior Advisor and Life Care Navigation Specialist in the area of senior home care.
Q. I want to try water aerobics, but I have not stepped into a pool for years. I’ve heard so many good things about it from friends, but quite frankly, I am a little self-conscious about the whole thing.
A. Body image is something we all struggle with. Even as an aging adult, we know inches have shifted and moved…just not quite where we might have expected them to move! First of all, I want to congratulate you for being aware of your need to stay fit and healthy. The “move it or lose it” mentality rings loud and clear as we get older. If you choose to act on it, you will stay strong and independent. As I talk to many seniors, the reality is they know things are changing and their bodies don’t look the way they used to, nor do they behave the way they once did. Let’s tackle the issue of feeling self-conscious.
According to a recent article from AARP, Ambassador Pepper Schwartz, PH.D, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington states “we’re constantly getting the message that thin, young and sexy is the best way to look.”
Personally, I have some recommendations for you to consider:
1. Don’t compare yourself with others. I remember being a young school girl, where everyone seemed to compare themselves with others. Perhaps now that you are where you’re at in life, you may think you are beyond such thinking, and that could very well be the root of your concern. It is very important to recognize that our bodies change and that you are not alone!
2. Keep in mind that natural forces are at work. Our bones change and weight shifts. There are many reasons for this. It might help to speak to your doctor about things like osteoporosis or medications that might be contributing to the body changes you see.
3. Beauty comes from the inside out. It might sound cliché, but it is so true. I meet so many “beautiful” seniors that I would never consider them to have a negative body image. The reason is because of their disposition. You can only work with what you have and attitude is the most important part of who you are. Someone may be a knock-out, yet have a negative disposition. Not many are attracted to a complainer or to someone who points out the downside of a situation. Learn to be cheerful and you will radiate beauty!
4. Society focus. Every now and then, as I channel surf, I come across one of the home shopping networks. Lo and behold, it seems that there is some new cream that will erase every wrinkle on my body, every imperfection, and every unwanted blemish from my body. Really? Society emphasizes the external and it’s very easy to buy into empty promises. There is nothing wrong will doing what you need to do to make yourself feel pretty. A manicure or a day at the spa will do wonders. But realize that it’s an external affair. What really matters is what’s on the inside.
5. Get ready for the day. I can remember when I was a young mom and there were days I looked rather “frumpy”. Now that I am older, I know that I feel my best when I look my best. I get prepared for the day as though I had an appointment to keep. It makes me feel good to look presentable. There were a few days when I stopped my routine, and I noticed something. My relaxed look affected my disposition! There is nothing wrong with feeling cozy in comfy sweat outfits, but when I start my day, I know I will feel more confident if I just take a few extra moments to step up my appearance.
6. Stay fit. It’s very important to be pro-active and maintain our physical well-being. When we feel good, we tend to look good.
Move forward with your desire to participate in the water aerobics you mentioned. We all have to start somewhere! “Baby steps” is the key phrase today!
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