"At our age, we really need to stop trying new things."
As my former work colleague, a good seven years younger than me, said this during a recent dinner, my reaction was mixed. Since turning 50, I have tried out many new things: riding a horse in Patagonia, descending some of the world's highest and longest zip lines in Costa Rica, flying through the air on a trapeze in Punta Cana -- I even took up running five times a week, at the age of 49, four years ago.
So I wanted to say, "Are you crazy? If not now, when?" but then I recalled a situation from just a few days before when I declined to join some younger moms on a trampoline during a media event. Anyone who has had children, or is in menopause would, I presume, have a similar fear.
What is it that holds us back? Sometimes it's something quite practical -- like the two herniated disks in my lower back -- or the fact that I've had four children and even a sneeze can result in something embarrassing. But sometimes it's not wanting to get out of our comfort zone. The last thing that should be holding us back is not having the confidence to try something new because our bodies aren't what they used to be.
Linda Edgecombe is a change resilience strategist and motivational speaker who focuses on making others feel more confident. One of her key suggestions is actually to get out and do something new. "By trying something new on a continual basis you can lessen your fears and live a life with less barriers," she advises. This can often mean facing a fear, which is not easy, but essential to move forward.
Speaking of moving, moving your body is another way to build confidence. "Regular exercise improves your energy levels and produces endorphins that put you in a more positive state," she says. Having the right equipment, getting some expert guidance if starting a new sport or exercise, and, for women, facing the fears of bladder leakage (common for women in menopause) and managing it with the right products are key. "If bladder leakage is stopping you, try wearing Fit-Flex underwear, which is designed specifically with exercise in mind," she suggests.
Other suggestions for building confidence include changing your environment, or spending time with more confident people, versus those who don't want to try new things, and being good to yourself. "Catch yourself when you start having that negative conversation in your head," she says. Be kind to yourself, and when you're feeling really low, do something you love, whether it's cooking or going to a movie.
I know some women who feel that it's not "worth it" to get dressed up or to present themselves in a more polished way if it's not a special occasion, but Edgecombe finds that putting on a favourite outfit or doing your hair and makeup just for yourself is a great way to boost your own confidence. Just as importantly, it can make you feel more in control of your life, which also breeds confidence.
I recently convinced a good friend, years younger than myself, to take up running as part of her weekly routine. She had sworn that she would only run if she were on fire, but really she didn't know where to start, so I started it with and for her. Doing something for someone else is also a confidence booster and it's just a good thing to do. She's got her husband running now, too. Neither of them are actually on fire -- they just took a little push.
Lastly, just do it, she says. "If there's something you've always wanted to do, but have been putting it off, stop procrastinating and start it now," she advises. The benefit goes beyond the one activity. "Not only will you feel more confident for finally taking the plunge, you'll also get excited about the new things you'll be learning."
You can follow Kathy Buckworth's travel adventures and fitness fun at www.kathybuckworth.com She still runs five times a week, when she's not napping, which ironically is a new activity for her.
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