Honestly, I can’t believe how negatively menopause is portrayed in our culture. But then again, it’s not surprising given that we live in a straight up ageist and sexist society that values women in particular, based on how young and attractive we look. It may sound harsh, but tell me it isn’t true! Ever heard someone say they love the “salt and pepper” look about a woman? Nope. I didn’t think so.
There are countless examples of this in the media (everywhere you look really), where an older man is with a woman WAY younger and hotter than him. I’m talking 10/10 hot, with a guy that’s a 4. Take the classic comedy shows (The Simpsons, Modern Family, Family Guy) as a perfect example- without fail it’s a petite, gorgeous wife married to an overweight, balding guy. Seriously, how is this even fair? Why do guys get to age (and really poorly at that), while women need to maintain this ridiculous standard of beauty?
In fact, the beauty industry is a thriving billion dollar industry for just that reason- we are taught and socialized to be at war with our bodies, to fear aging and to try to stop it at any cost. Women will pay thousands of dollars to dye their hair, do their nails, wear all the makeup, buy the newest and best anti-wrinkle cream (with broccoli extract or sea buckthorn oil or whatever else!), and literally get surgeries that alter their bodies in order to continue to appear young and sexy.
If this doesn’t enrage you, then...Well, it actually just means that society and the beauty industry have done their jobs (and won). They’ve managed to convince you that it’s YOU, not them. You just want to “look your best”, right? Mmmm, maybe. Of course you want to be healthy and look as awesome as you can, but it has to be from your own standards. Not by anyone else’s. This can be SO hard to tease apart from all of the conditioning we’ve had since we were, mmmm, BORN.
Have you ever seen any plus-sized Disney princesses? Any that weren’t super gorgeous? Let's see- Jasmine? Gorgeous (even her tiger had long, beautiful eyelashes). Belle? Well, her name is Belle. Ariel? I mean she’s got the voluptuous hair and bikini body of a mermaid! And don’t even get me started on BARBIE. I remember hearing that if Barbie was a real person, she wouldn’t be able to walk and would just fall forward because of how pointed her feet are and how massive her breasts are. I don’t know if that’s even true, but you get where I’m going here.
So what has this got to do with menopause?
Well, all of these subtle (and overt) cultural messages have been wired deep into our psyches and greatly affect the way we think and feel about aging. Aging is something women want to AVOID or at the very least have some fear about. It makes perfect sense given that there are basically zero examples for us to look to when it comes to a woman celebrating her older age with enthusiasm and grace.
With memes like the one below running rampant on the internet, how can you blame yourself for thinking it’s going to be absolutely terrible?
So what do we do about it? Well from my perspective, how we view menopause as a society needs a MASSIVE OVERHAUL. These mindset shifts are for you to consider as you navigate through the menopausal transition, so you can begin to embrace the power that lies in this important phase of your life. And as each of us embrace new ideas of aging for ourselves, we start a ripple effect that begins to touch the people in our lives and our society as a whole.
Mindset Shift #1- Going Through Menopause is a 100% Natural Process, and isn’t Something That Needs to be Fixed or Delayed
You know how natural it is for a young woman to start menstruating? Or for a baby to be born? Well, menopause is equally as natural. With the medicalization of menopause, you would hardly know it was a completely natural biological process. The approach of “treating” menopausal symptoms is something that often leads to women thinking there is something wrong with them.
Of course, there can be some very uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms that come along with menopause, and addressing them is so important to support a woman through this time of her life. But rather than viewing menopause as condition that needs to be “treated” or “fixed”, or even worse “delayed” altogether through the use of synthetic hormones, why not view it as an opportunity to normalize this phase of a woman's life. Understanding that every single woman will go through this (because it's as natural as breathing), is a way to start to embrace this change and gently support your body as it goes through it.
During perimenopause and menopause, women have mood disturbances like depression and anxiety come up as really common symptoms. Why is that? Well there may be other factors at play, but if there are thoughts of worthlessness (because older women aren’t as valued in our culture), or fear around what going through menopause will mean for your future, it’s no wonder women feel anxious or down in the dumps. Changing our mindset can make a huge difference in how you experience and go through menopause.
Mindset Shift #2- My Body is a Loyal Friend that Deserves to be Treated with Love and Respect
Ok. Have you ever stopped to think about how incredible your body has been to you? Your heart has pumped 100,000 times A DAY, since the day you were born. All for you! So you can live, breathe, experience, thrive. And have you ever stopped to say thank you to your heart for what it does for you? Man, if I did something nice for a friend 100,000 times a day for like 50 years and they NEVER said thank you, you better believe I’d have questioned if I should keep going. But your heart? It just keeps beating for you. Like a trusted, loyal friend that continually gives unconditionally.
Same goes for your ovaries, your uterus, your fallopian tubes, your whole reproductive system- those powerhouse ladies have rallied for you month after month, year after year! The hormones they’ve pumped out into your body have kept your bones strong, your heart health intact, your menstrual cycle going- they’ve been stealthily keeping things chugging along in the background. If you’ve chosen the route of parenthood, perhaps they’ve given you the opportunity to have your kids!
They’ve done such good work for you, for some 30- 50 odd years and as menopause approaches, it’s time for them to hand over the reigns and rest. They’ve put in their time and they deserve a really good retirement party!
This may sound strange, but taking a minute to thank your body for what it’s done for you for ALL these years, can help you to recognize just how incredibly hard it has worked for you your entire life. When we take a moment to stop and think about our body like a friend, who has done everything in its power to keep us healthy and well with the nutrients and resources we gave it, we’re better able to embrace the changes it’s going through. And offer it a little compassion and grace. We would never treat a dear friend with as much disgust or hatred as we sometimes treat our bodies. Which leads me to the next point.
Let’s talk about weight for a minute. Weight gain is a BIG area where our cultural programming kicks in really strongly. It’s really common to gain weight as your metabolism slows down and your hormones start to change. But, never mind what our bodies are naturally doing, we want to stay as skinny as we possibly can.
Imagine for a second that we lived in a culture that embraced women of all sizes. No one was obsessed with skinniness. We all just ate decently well, got a good amount of exercise, fresh air and whatever our body weight was naturally, well that was fantastic. Would you still be as stressed about what your body looked like? I mean, it’s hard to even fathom.
We think we want to be skinny because of our OWN standards, but if we take away all of the social conditioning, would we really hate our bodies that much? I don’t think so.
We’re taught to dislike our bodies. If we lived in that culture that embraces human beings in all shapes and sizes, naturally gaining a bit of weight as we age wouldn't be so devastating or depressing. We may notice we’re gaining weight as we go through menopause, but if we still continue to live healthy lifestyles and our partners still think we’re as fine as ever (which is often the case), then would we really care?
Interestingly enough, women in cultures around the world experience menopause differently than women do in North America. Some cultures have very few negative symptoms associated with menopause, and one train of thought is that when aging is embraced as a natural part of life, it has a positive effect on how women transition through this important life stage.
Mindset Shift #3- Aging is a Great Privilege to be Grateful for and with Age Comes Personal Power & Freedom.
It’s really sad to think about, but so many people on the planet don’t make it to old age. Their lives are cut short and all of the things one might experience through many years of life, are just gone, like that. Being here, to experience the small miracles of daily life- a hot cup of coffee to sip while watching the sun rise, a hug from a close friend, a grand-child’s giggle, a pet’s excitement when you walk through the door- these aren’t to be taken for granted. It is a privilege to be here. How quickly we forget.
Why not practice gratitude for the opportunity to grow older, to see and experience the world, to still be a part of your loved ones lives every day? These are blessings to feel joyful about and embrace as you move forward in your wonderful life.
As you age, you become more sure of who you are. You know what you want (and definitely what you DON’T want) by now, you’ve gone through the trials and errors of living, and you’ve come out the other side a little more sure. Your bullshit meter is pretty solid, and you just won’t tolerate things, people or situations that don’t feel good anymore.
Menopause is a time of stepping into your personal power, which brings with it freedom. You’re able to detangle yourself a little bit from all of the societal expectations and norms that as a younger woman had you compromising your values to fit in and feel accepted. Now you just don’t care as much what other people think- and thank the good lord for that! You can now do things for YOU, because it’s your dream, your desire, your spirit’s calling, or you just damn well feel like it...and not for any other reason than that. So embrace it! Own it! Make this time your own. Make it a time of personal mastery where you step into your own personal power to say yes to the things that light you up (and no to the things that bring you down). You’ve earned your right to be here, so go on with your bad self and own it!