Updated: Jan 20
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about 2021.
I'm not one to make resolutions. At 53, I've learned they’re not the best strategy for me to make changes.
But I do like the idea of identifying what I'm leaving behind...and what I'm running toward in the new year.
Let me tell you a story of two photos, taken on the same day.
One reinforces who I want to see: an active, adventurous mid-lifer. The other photo feeds my fear that this vision is a lie, that really…I’m an unfit poser.
Last week, I was out with my two great adventure friends, Erica and Kasia. An all-women crew out ice climbing. It was a beautiful, clear day, and we were psyched to be out.
I’d been training for months to get ready for this very moment. I felt strong physically and ended up doing several more climbs than I normally do on the first climb of the season.
When the day was done, Erica sent me the pictures from the day.
Photograph #1 was taken at the top of the cliff at Laclu in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Though I’ve been climbing for a while, I’ve tended to rely on others to set the top rope anchors. .
I had just set my first anchor independently and was preparing to rappel down. I was feeling so happy, pumped and BADA$$.
I saw photograph #1, and my first thought was…
I AM GIANT.
Not, “now there’s a powerful, strong woman who looks ready for anything, including rappelling down a 60 foot cliff of ICE.”
Photograph #2 was taken as I was belaying Kasia on a climb.
Same clothes. Same puffy jacket. Same person. Less than two hours between the shots.
I saw photograph #2 and the voice in my head said, “that woman is cool. Breaking the midlife mold. She looks AWESOME.”
Jackie #1 = GIANT. Out of shape. Uncool. She should NOT be wearing that puffy.
Jackie #2 = Fun. Fit. Cool. She wears that puffy with style.
I would NEVER speak to or judge a friend, family member, or stranger this way.
So why do I allow myself to speak this way TO ME?
Even as I type this, the afternoon of the day we record our first-ever podcast (check out Midlife Mastery podcasts!!), I feel the knots in my stomach. That shrinking-in feeling, that “not-good-enoughness.”
A scan of the research into older adulthood and body image quickly reveals that distortions with how we perceive our body and how we actually ARE is a real issue as we age, both for women and men.
I am not immune. Despite the many wonderful aspects of midlife, body image is a mountain I continue to climb.
My decades-long battle with diet culture is a post for another day, but one thing I’ve learned in midlife is that fear and shame abhor the light.
And voicing them can take away their power.
So, I shine the light here today and shout from the top of that cliff…
Done with the negative self talk.
Done with the worrying about how I look as I do all the cool things.
Done with criticizing the pictures of myself.
In 2022, I'm running toward...
And I'm asking my friends and family to keep me accountable.
I’m 53 years old and my body has carried me through a LOT in this life so far. And I hope it does for a long time yet.
The two MEs in those photos are equally brave, equally cool, equally strong.
It’s really as simple as my friend Erica told me, laughing, as she texted me later that evening.
“Don’t wear a giant puffy for photo shoots!”
Tell me! What are you leaving behind in 2021? What are you running toward in 2022?