Years ago, I learned a life-changing lesson from Anthony Robbins's book, "Awaken the Giant Within": that transformation begins when you can no longer dwell in a place of pain. I was going through menopause and everything that came with that -- hourly hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, aging skin, a declining libido and unpredictable irritability. Feeling miserable both physically and emotionally, I was on the verge of an emotional meltdown.
Anthony Robins was right, it took being in a "place of pain" before I realized that going through menopause was the first time something that I took for granted, my youth, was fading. My self-esteem and confidence disappeared leaving me in a pathetic puddle of self-pity.
Tired of blaming this natural transition for my misery, I took action. I realized that if I treated this midlife madness like I managed other challenges in my life, I could regain control of my health and happiness. I had to identify the areas in my life that needed attention: menopause symptoms, nutrition, fitness, beauty and emotions. I decided to make changes!
I set goals and took action to create the life I wanted while embracing the changes that were happening in my life. Once I had a plan, I took control of my health and beauty during menopause allowing me to celebrate my uniqueness, and that fueled my confidence.
Here's what I did:
First, I had to manage my menopause symptoms. I realized that there was no magic pill to fix my collection of complaints, and I began to work with my health care provider to find a solution. We reviewed my personal and family history, and discussed my personal preferences so we could create a plan that worked for me. A big menopause message for all: we are all different, and no one recipe fits all.
Next, I needed to stop comparing myself to my younger self and other younger women. This bad habit of fantasizing about my youthful past while simultaneously worrying about my future was sabotaging my efforts to live in the present.
I had to make quiet time, in order to tap into my spirit. I asked big questions: Who am I? What is my purpose? I started embracing the unknown. As Joseph Campbell says, "We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us."
Staring at an older version of myself, I had to redefine what beauty was to me, not what the media dictated. The lack of support from society left me feeling insecure and struggling with the natural aging process. It is no surprise women lie about their age and run to the nearest dermatologist for age-defying Botox injections. Knowing I could never win this battle against age, I decided to see the beauty in my smile lines, and made peace with the personal history etched in my face. This helped opened the door to acceptance.
I could no longer ignore my unhealthy eating habits. In less than a year I put on 30 pounds. Weight gain is almost inevitable with menopause, and I was no exception. Nourishing my body with healthy food choices and exercising most days of the week was the path to my ideal weight. I saw the benefits of exercise in my complexion, muscle tone and waistline. Being healthy led to feeling good, and feeling good was the ticket to looking good. I started to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Living outside my comfort zone creating changes required a support system to keep me on track. I began to surround myself with compassionate friends and new friends who were also going through menopause. Having a nurturing group of friends to call when I was having a tough day kept me sane when things were insane.
Perhaps the most important thing I did was in many ways the easiest. Practicing a positive attitude was my midlife secret weapon. I had to see the positive in daily challenges so I could make changes. Once I was able to acknowledge that my weight gain was a wake-up call to start eating better and exercising, I could make the necessary changes. Once I discovered my uniqueness was not defined by youth, my confidence started to grow again.
When I felt better physically and emotionally I was able to start doing the things I'd always dreamed of -- sailing, flying and traveling. Although these incredible adventures were exciting, it was being able to celebrate who I was that brought me peace.
Menopause was a rough road, but it ended up being the bridge to accepting myself. I did not want to be defined by appearances, but by substance. And once I got control of my health and beauty during menopause I realized, "I've Still Got It!"
September is National Menopause Awareness Month. As many of us struggle with troublesome menopause symptoms and fight the unattainable victory against aging, take a moment today and celebrate your uniqueness -- it will nurture your confidence. And when it does, I want to hear your "I've Still Got It!" story.