For many women midlife is a second chance at reclaiming their power, making big decisions and potentially big moves.
How The Past Holds Us Back
The beliefs we hold about ourselves and the world around us develop in response to the environment and relationships we grew up with. The external messages we heard when we were young greatly influence how we see ourselves as adults.
For example, if we grew up in a calm, stable home environment, with patient, understanding caregivers, we develop a positive self-image. We speak to ourselves compassionately, and we can be kind and forgiving toward ourselves. If we grew up with a heavy dose of criticism or a lack of safety, we needed to prioritise our caregiver’s expectations over our own needs to ensure our own survival. Our inner voice is likely to be a harsh critic that keeps us in line, and we may struggle with self-doubt and an inability to identify and prioritise our own needs as adults.
To survive childhood, we learned to internalise the voice and messages of our parents and caregivers, and they have unconsciously become our own.
How To Heal At Midlife
Making bold moves and creating change requires the confidence to back your own decisions, the self-belief that you can enact change, and the self-worth to fight for what you want. When these qualities are not yet developed we must learn to take our own growth and healing into our own hands. By giving ourselves what our caregivers could not, we fill in our own gaps around what was missing during childhood.
Midlife is the time to reassess our lives, and to identify and meet any unmet needs from childhood. When left unattended these form blind spots that limit our ability to engage with and enjoy life fully, and limit our capacity to believe that we can have the life we crave. Brene Brown talks about the compassion we need to love ourselves and others, and the connection that gives true purpose and meaning to life.
Mothering yourself is about giving yourself everything you needed and deserved when you were growing up. Nurturing, trusting, protecting and celebrating yourself are all part of learning to mother yourself well.
3 Ways To Practice Self-Mothering
1. Listen inward and value your own truth.
Check in with yourself regularly. Recognise what you’re feeling, without judgement or criticism. This takes practice but helps to build confidence in your own knowing. When our decisions and choices have been heavily guided by the “shoulds” or expectations of others it takes practice to build trust in ourselves.
- Going for walks alone, or sitting somewhere quiet and still, so you can tune in to the internal dialogue. You may encounter your inner critic, presenting the opportunity to challenge its harsh messages, and offer yourself more kindness and compassion.
- Journaling to access your own thoughts and beliefs. This can be a place to have a conversation with the younger parts of you, who are looking to feel seen, heard and understood. (Get Your FREE journal below)
2. Make self-care a priority.
Mother yourself the way you would a small child, and tend to your needs in the most generous way possible. Self-care includes the way you eat, the quality of your sleep, the environments you place yourself in and the relationships you engage with. Self-care is the process of caring for your body and soul so you can grow into the full, healthy expression of yourself.
- What do I need that will help me feel nurtured right now?
- How can I attend to myself compassionately in this moment of struggle?
3. Be ready to walk away when you don’t feel valued or respected.
When we practice self mothering we develop an unwavering commitment to honour and protect ourselves. We enforce this by setting clear personal boundaries with others. These boundaries guide others on how to appropriately engage with us, allowing us to feel safe, respected and valued in our relationships. You may need support initially, as you learn to manage the discomfort that has prevented you from setting healthy boundaries in adulthood. This ultimately protects us from unhealthy future relationships that cause resentment, manipulation, and abuse.
- Noticing when you’re feeling drained, burdened, resentful, controlled, or controlling. Notice the impulse to “people please”, submit to guilt or take care of the other person. Instead of acting out this conditioned response, take a deep breath and redirect that energy toward yourself. Connect with your own body and focus on what YOU need to nourish yourself.
Midlife is the time for living life on your own terms, honouring the responsibility you have to your own wellbeing and happiness, and giving yourself the things you missed out on growing up. Midlife presents the opportunity to heal from any of the gaps or wounds you may have developed during childhood that are still preventing you from having the life you imaging for yourself.
At its core, learning to mother ourselves is recognising that we can be loved for who we are, not the person we were told to be. We finally learn to build a strong sense of self-worth and start untangling from unhealthy early beliefs and behaviours.
My clients appreciate having a collaborator to walk with them as they navigate this path. If you would like to discuss working together on your own healing, let’s discuss your unique needs. Book a Complimentary Discovery Call over here .
About Michelle Seelig
Michelle Seelig is a Counsellor and MindBody therapist working with women to help them get unstuck, rediscover the joy and meaning in their lives and ultimately grow into the person they were truly meant to become. If this article raised issues you are struggling and you would like to discuss working together on your own healing, book a Complimentary Discovery Call over here and together we can discuss your unique needs.
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With 30 days of writing prompts this journal will help you cultivate mindfulness in daily life.