Let’s be completely frank: getting older and being retired can do a number on a person’s self-esteem. Yes, it’s greatto own your own time, and to feel good about having made it to “this stage in life.” But every rose has a few thorns and this particular branch might also include feeling less significant, less capable, and okay, less attractive.
If you’re feeling down just reading this, please don’t “cancel” me. Studies show that self- esteem dips between the age of 60 and 70, but keep reading because there are several powerful things you can do to regain or maintain a positive sense of yourself.
Reject negative stereotypes
Be adamant about not buying into the prevailing BS about what it means to be “old,” a “senior citizen,” a “retiree.” YOU decide what is true for you, period. And while you are at it, take a good look around. Go to a local park, be a voyeur at the Y, or attend an event. You will observe many older people in the swing of things, enjoying life. Let them be your inspiration. Need a science-based nudge? Consider that Yale School of Public Health found that“encountering positive messages about aging—instead of negative stereotypes about being ‘over the hill’—can enhance the mental and physical well-being of older individuals.”
Love who you are right now
You’ve gotta love yourself, period. If you focus on what’s not there, or what you’ve lost, this will be a lot harder to do. Challenge yourself to list 12 great things about who you are right now. Go ahead, start with “older and wiser” (because you know you are!) and then keep going. Consider the positive things that people say about you, such as “you’re so much more easy-going now” and add that characteristic to your list. The more authentically-robust your list is, the better!
Choose a healthy lifestyle
At this point, you know what works for you – and what doesn’t – when it comes to your diet, your physical activity, and your sleep. Yes, the discipline good health requires can be hard, I know. So, aim for success instead of perfection, missing the mark, and then feeling worse about yourself. Start with a small goal for each of these key areas. Make sure that it is something you are willing to commit to and reasonably confident that you can achieve. Mark your successes and, little by little, add another goal.
We are social creatures by nature, and this is not the time to pull away from engaging with others. In fact, people who have supportive, loving relationships with friends and family experience higher self-esteem and overall happiness. Whether it’s joining a group where you live, getting involved in your church, or just inviting a neighbor to join you for coffee, take that first step. Then, commit to one or more forms of regular contact because it is the continuity that creates the connection.
Try something new
I remember the first time I saw an older woman with chic purple hair of the intentional, statement-making variety. We were in Phoenix, Arizona and I did a double take. She looked awesome! Other than the personal style option, you might consider helping others by volunteering in our community. Check out www.volunteermatch.org , or just start asking around. Some retirees start innovative small businesses (pet sitting, computer skills, gardening, etc.) and, increasingly, many take on part time jobs which provide a little cash and a lot of opportunity for engagement with others.