If life were straightforward we would become more confident as we age. We'd all be Cool, Calm and Collected. However, the reserve seems to be the norm and I find that as women age they begin to lose the self assurance and poise they once had.
In reality, we have so much to be confident about. We gain new skills, new talents, new wisdom and new experiences. We grow more comfortable in our skin and as a result we become MORE of ourselves with each passing year. We no longer have to stress about wearing the “right” clothes or keeping up with our peers. Personally, I loathed being in my 20’s and you couldn’t pay me to go back there.
And yet, studies show that lots of women feel LESS confident after 50. Studies have found that some women experience a sharp decrease in self-esteem once they reach 50. In one study, only 15% of women over 45 said they had high or very high confidence, while almost half of respondents described themselves as having no confidence at all. In contrast, for many men, their confidence increases as they age. It seems utterly ridiculous but I know this to be true from the many emails I received on a daily basis.
So why do some women say they have less confidence as they age—and more importantly, how can we change this?
Negative Narrative Towards Ageing
I’m a big believer that the reason why some women report declining self-esteem has nothing to do with the women themselves. It’s related to the unrealistic messages we hear in our society - ALL THE TIME.
We’re inundated with messages that we, as women, lose value as we age. It’s very possible that women are turning these negative messages on themselves. The negative narrative is that we are now invisible and irrelevant.
We can take a look at those societal messages—the ideas we absorb through advertising, media and even strangers on the street—and we can start to recognise these ideas as completely false. These messages don’t have to be true for you if you can see where they come from and how they make you feel.
Once we recognize that, we can practice letting go of these negative messages. We can develop new habits that naturally increase our confidence. Underneath all those false beliefs, we have so much to be confident about as we age. We have so much experience, knowledge, wisdom, skill and connection.
Here are a few things I’ve found to help me release false beliefs, so I can continue to gain self-confidence as I age…
Detach self-esteem from male attention.
As women, we’re taught from a very young age that our value is tied to how much male attention we get.
The most obvious form of this is attention focused on our looks or “attractiveness.” Even if we define beauty for ourselves, male attention can still impact our self-esteem.
We live in a society where (even though it’s finally changing) men still call a lot of the shots. Male attention, focus and praise can be a factor in how we perceive our own value, whether that’s in the office, in the work we do, or even from strangers we see on the street.
The same study I referenced earlier found that four in 10 women over 50 said they felt less confident due to missing out on male attention. If you practice separating how you feel about yourself from how men feel about you—your confidence should improve.
Ask yourself what your self-esteem is based on!
We’re raised to base our self-esteem and confidence on external things. How much praise we get, how much we’re paid, how much recognition we get or how we look.
Even when we don’t base our self-esteem on external praise, we’re still absorbing messages all the time that say we should.
Your opinion is the one that matters here. Try asking yourself what traits you really value—in others, and yourself. Do you value caring? Strength? Perseverance? Humor? Creativity? Kindness? Then find examples of those traits in yourself and your own life. Make a practice of reminding yourself which intrinsic traits and values are important to you—and remember which traits you have!
Define your own beauty standard.
Everyone wants to take pleasure in their own unique beauty.
From childhood, we are bombarded with messages about what makes a woman beautiful. Almost every single one of those messages tells us that a beautiful woman is a young woman. Of course, youth has a very special beauty! But so do all the other phases of life.
For the most part, in the media, women in those other phases of life are ignored. So it’s pretty easy to unconsciously equate “beautiful” with “young.” That unconscious belief can wreak havoc on our self-esteem.
Ask yourself: do you really think only young people are beautiful? Probably not, right? I bet you can think of lots of examples of exquisitely beautiful people in all phases of life.
Just the practice of purposely looking for examples of beauty can do wonders for your confidence and Pinterest is a great place to start. Once you define beauty for yourself, it becomes a whole lot easier to see your own uniqueness as beautiful.