5 Concepts I’ve Embraced with Age that Have Deeply Impacted My Mental Health
Hello! I'm Maggie Wilhelm, LPCC and Empowerment Coach. I'm here to share a few concepts that I've embraced with age that have deeply impacted my mental health.
Only my opinion about me matters.
In adolescence, we are developmentally wired to care what others think of us –our world revolves around social acceptance. While we all need support & acceptance throughout our lives, this can become unhealthy if our focus becomes pleasing others or obsessing over social acceptance. Cue judgments, gossip, insecurities, & efforts to “Keep up with the Jonses,” (these days, “Keeping up with the Kardashians” is much more accurate). The beauty of aging comes with the wisdom that I am the only person I have to live with 24-7-365. Therefore, my opinion about me is the only one that matters. I am literally the only person in the world in my brain 24-7, so as long as I am living by my values, pursuing my goals, and living my authentic life, everyone else’s opinion is just that, their opinion. As Glennon Doyle says, “Disappoint everyone else so that you aren’t disappointing yourself.”
How I spend my days is how I live my life.
I struggle with this one, especially being the Mama of a one-year old. The minute he’s asleep, I crave nothing but relaxation. I do honor that need, and allow myself the time to do nothing. Before my son was born, though, I lived by this notion, that if I spent my free time watching TV or mindlessly scrolling social media, my days, and therefore my life, would be about false connection, unhealthy comparisons, & Hollywood pretenses. For now, I give myself grace & remember that everything in life is a stage, and right now I am in the season of having young children. So if I need to watch TV and do nothing, that is 100% what I will do, knowing that in my next season, I will aim to dedicate myself to other causes that I am passionate about (while still watching the occasional trash television).
Finding my voice is the most empowering thing I’ve ever done for myself.
As women, we are indoctrinated to believe that we should always be happy, polite, selfless helpers. This belief system does not allow young girls to explore their own thoughts & feelings, and instead leads to pervasive patterns of people-pleasing. For me, this lead to resentment, anger, & depression in my adolescence & young adult years. When I learned that I didn’t have to live for other people, and specifically once I began to CONSCIOUSLY ACT using assertiveness & boundary setting, my life transformed. I was able to make my own choices, embracing this concept that my needs are just as important as everyone else’s (and see #1, the only consequences I have to live with). These years of growth were often painful, but it is by far the most empowering gift I was ever brave enough to endeavor, and that is something I continuously remain proud of.
I’m not crazy. My emotions are valid.
Through the people-pleasing years of anger & confusion, I often thought, “Am I crazy? Am I too much? Why am I so difficult?” This self-judgment kept me stuck in a vicious cycle of negativity, and at times, self-loathing. This radical idea (read with sarcasm, but really, has anyone ever taught you this?) of self-validation changed my life. Instead of judging myself for all the things that were “wrong” with me, what if I looked at my situation, validated what’s real and painful, and honored my emotion. Once I embraced this practice and learned to speak to myself with compassion instead of judgment, I suddenly liked myself a whole lot more, and was then able to work through the problem with clarity, mindfulness and assertiveness as opposed to anger, hurt, sadness, & shame. This change lead to much more desirable outcomes, both internally and externally.
Acceptance v. Change.
My entire therapy approach embodies the DBT concept that life is a dialectic, meaning that two things can be true at the same time. I can love someone deeply, AND have to set boundaries when I know that they aren’t good for me. I can desire connection AND need alone time. I can love being a mom AND need breaks from my kids. I can care about my career while knowing this is not my season to focus on it. DBT states that Acceptance v. Change is the ultimate dialectic. Instead of putting energy into the things that are outside my power and control, I am working to embrace that there are a lot fo things in life that are out of my control, and therefore require letting go. Acceptance. Alternatively, by putting energy into what IS within my power and control, I feel empowered when I see positive change. Put best in the Serenity Prayer: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” Aging is challenging both physically and emotionally, and it provides the perspective and wisdom we didn’t have in our youth. Ladies, may that wisdom only empower us as we age with grace.
Check out this month's collection on Aging here: https://shop.wisewellnessguild.com/collections/aging
Join us on Instagram at @wise_wellness_guild for daily inspiration, community spotlights and wellness resources. We'd love to hear from you!