Artist: Joseph Barker
In my elder years I have developed a different relationship with my body than the relationship I had with it when I was a teenager, when I was in my twenties, when I was pregnant, after having children and even with the relationship I had with it whilst I was going through menopause. Throughout this ongoing span of time, I was always very conscious of the ‘shoulds’ that daily invaded my thoughts.
Today, I am in my seventies and I now have a deep love and appreciation for my body without having to obey any ‘shoulds’. No longer is my mantra “I shoulda done this, I shoulda done that, I shoulda, I SHOULDA”.
When we have ‘shoulds’, we often believe that others also must do the same! As a result, we can find ourselves in the position of judging and finding fault with others. How many times have we heard; “she shouldn’t eat that second piece of cake, she shouldn’t drink so much, she should exercise more to lose weight” (I’m sure I could fill a whole book with a list of the ‘shoulds’ and even the ‘shouldn’ts’) and how many times have we felt irritated by those who don’t obey the ‘shoulds’ as we think they should have done so?
When I look back at how many of the ‘shoulds’ I didn’t do, I can see how that started anxious thoughts of feeling guilty that I wasn’t doing the right thing, or that I was slack, or even that I was a failure because I was not following the rules. Did I at those times recognise that the ‘shoulds’ were controlling me or did I take on a deeper sense of feeling guilty but not deep enough to change my ways and indeed follow the ‘shoulds’?
Did I fear what I would experience as a result, if I didn’t obey the ‘shoulds’?
Today, Should I Love Myself and if so, Should I Self-Care? has lost its power over me. I have dropped the ‘shouldas’! I have discovered that when healthy inclinations become ‘shoulds’ or even ‘musts’ then there is a big problem in that I am not being true to the intelligence of my body, and that it knows what is needed to live a healthy and joyful life.
Where has this new relationship of dropping the ‘shoulds’ come from at this age and stage of life? It has emanated from a deep acceptance, observing and thus loving the beauty within, a beauty steeped in being able to live without any outside influences, without the imposition of what I should look like or how I should live or why I should be doing ‘things’ to stop the ageing process.
So, what should I look like? Should a woman in her 7th decade of living be wrinkle free, slim, have perfectly groomed make-up and hairstyles? Or should that should read, she should wear her aged wrinkles with pride and honour, forget the painted face make-up that covers up and tries to hide the fact that our skin in no longer plump and vibrant and that she should allow her hair to be styled to suit her face rather than to follow some trendy hairstyle that doesn’t really suit her?
And what of the media-hyped up concept telling me how I should live? Indeed! It should be debunked for the falseness that it tries to portray about how the elder woman should be living. Yes, the thousands of health and well-being articles in women’s magazines are full of advice and evidence that if we live by their ‘should do’s’ we will have ‘ageless beauty’ as we journey through our elder years!
Instead, could how I live be based on knowing that I am responsible for my own choices and how those choices will affect my lifestyle in either a positive or a negative way. There are no ‘shoulds’ needed here and instead they could be replaced by the phrase ‘recommended’. When healthy inclinations become internal rules – ‘shoulds,’ or ’musts,’ or ‘gottas’ – then we need to reassess what motivates us and instead be true to our inner knowing, true to the intelligence of our own body that guides our choices.
I no longer have to imagine what it would be like to be unchained from the ‘shoulds’ and even the ‘shouldn’ts’. It now feels more relaxing, ease-full and freeing to live my elder years based on living wholesomely in wholesome ways that I know my body was designed to live.
So, the title of this article: Should I Love Myself and if so, Should I Self-Care? now becomes: I love Myself and I make self-care choices that support and emanate this love of Self and Body as the years roll on by.
P.S. how come there aren’t thousands of articles in men’s magazines that advise them how they should be living in their seventies?
Ruth A., Australia
If you enjoyed this article you may also like to read:
Self-Care – Nurturing and Loving Your Body