Tending Self-respect in Advancing Years

Nature: traits/personality prewired by genetic and other biological factors

Nurture: the influence of external factors after conception, e.g., the product of exposure, life experiences and learning on an individual

Self-image:  the mental images we have of ourselves built up over time

Self-respect: one’s sense of self- worthiness, esteem

Self-respect is a strong but rather quiet element of our being that routinely gets less attention than some of our other qualities.  It is linked to both our nature and nurture. We build our self-respect during the decades of our pre-adulthood. A large and solid research project that followed over 3,500 Americans showed that it grows during the years of adulthood, peaking at the age of 60. Then, self-respect is buffeted by: the changes in our social/work relationships (including retirements, and deaths of those important to us), and the arrival of normal age related changes (ARCs) affecting both appearance and function, overlays of abnormalities which affect both capacities and requirements.

This then is the situation and our personal reality within it. But there is the other very important dimension, our responses to our own situation. Given our nature and nurturance, how are we dealing or going to deal with it.

It has taken me decades and the buffeting of my own aging experience, but I seem to have found some ways to retain/ regain self-respect. It seems to have come from:

  • honestly examining the deterrents in both environment and  life events
  • acknowledging/owning changing capacities as a point of departure. 

In retrospect there was a need to personally ponder on what was possible to best manage individual elements of the  presenting situation. In the beginning (as you could see in these blogs), I looked at capacities in terms of what had been lost and the requirements as uncomfortable hurdles, even threats.  But at some point, after reading about the 100% approach. . .  a different perspective emerged. Capacities were viewed as 100% for that day. Still later requirements emerged as opportunities to exercise my adaptiveness and 100%’s. The perspective shifted to a micro rather than macro approach. What followed was increased acknowledgement that capacities were actually each doing their best with their current 100%. Rickover’s quote, “The devil is in the detail, but so is salvation” became a constant perspective. Details and a valuing of small, even very small seem to be the keys to protecting and even growing the sense self-respect/worth/esteem.

Personal progress report:  At 100, the 100%’s of capacities keep dropping. The requirements in daily living (though much simplified), remain to be managed in one way or another.  Expectations are becomingly increasingly modest. The physical world has never been smaller, but the virtual world has never been larger.  It’s producing a sense of tentative contentment, and a tested but more solid self esteem, with an  expectation of  continued serious testing of it lying ahead in the time that remains.

How are you tending your self-respect?

11 thoughts on “Tending Self-respect in Advancing Years

  1. Any day I can figure out how to log on and get to your site is a great day for me. You have shared how you have learn to reframe living so that we can encourage ourselves and even laugh with and at ourselves with enjoyment. My brain injury was not understood even by my doctors and certainly not by many whose jobs were in the rehabilitation field. They might have meant well, but once I met the threshold of improvement, I was sent out on my own, being told there was nothing more they could do (as my insurance coverage had run out). Nevertheless, my whole being just knew there had to be a way for a person like me to still add value to this world even though hope proved to be elusive. But, I have persevered. And, somehow I found your blog.
    While I am not 100 yet (you are 25 years ahead of me) I am aware that I am decompensating at what seems like a rapid pace. When I read your postings, it seems as if you are touching on the very things my body and brain have been experiencing and thinking about. Your blog is like a precious gift to me. When I read above, “The perspective shifted to a micro rather than macro approach. What followed was increased acknowledgement that capacities were actually each doing their best with their current 100%. ” I smiled. I have been learning this too (but I did not have the vocabulary to express it properly). Thank you my dear, dear friend who I have never met, but I express my gratitude often for having “met” you via your blog. I am now living into the possibility of possibility, even though I am having more and more neuro-degenerative events. They used to be more shocking. Now, with your examples, I am viewing them with amazement!
    Sometimes I feel so “dismissed” by the world, but I am still here (both inside and out). A recent praise is that several days ago while trying to make copies at a Kinko’s I had never been to before, I had a brain blip and I realized I was unable to reply to the clerk who walked up and asked if I needed help with anything. My forearms and hands were profoundly uncharacteristically shaking. When I tried to speak I could open my mouth but there was no sound. She turned away. Eventually I could stammer. A stranger walked up and asked if I needed help. I said, “Please don’t leave.” What I was wishing I could fluently say was: “I do not know what is happening, but I hope this will pass. I don’t have time to be embarrassed. While I am recovering from an injury, this neurological expression is new to me. I wish to meet the new me. Do not be afraid. I plan on being OK. Please stay until my system calms down.” (The stranger apparently could read my mind, and stayed.) The manager said I could stay inside the store until I felt OK enough to continue with my day. The two hours I remained inside the store trying to synthesize what had just happened, you were on my mind. It’s taken me this long to find your blog again. When you wrote, “. . .that capacities were actually each doing their best with their current 100%,” my whole being felt like shouting “Bingo!” When I go to bed tonight, I will be eager for the morrow to come. You are an excellent writer. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

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  2. Oh Doris, Thank you for this wonderful blog. Your insight that “The physical world has never been smaller, but the virtual world has never been larger,” is something I need to be conscious of and not forget. And self-respect is a huge one for me. I am very busy being respectful of everyone else, but I am not paying attention to myself. This is a wonderful reminder that my self-esteem needs attention. That I need to take care of me first!

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  3. Doris,
    A very thoughtful parsing of our life as it is, especially when it comes to living and thriving at 100% of each day’s capacity.

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  4. I, too, love the idea of living each day at 100% Capacity FOR THAT DAY. Every day is different, and we should not compare its tasks and goals with any other day that we have had or will experience. Instead of judging ourselves through the use of our ego—trying unrealistically to attain something and /or PROVE our worth—we should focus on having patience with ourself as we work with the day’s capacities to do the greatest good for ALL concerned!

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  5. Pingback: Maintaining self-esteem in old age — Write Into Life

  6. Tending to self-respect in the 80s requires me to change the metric. Making the football team, doing well in school, succeeding as a professional have given way to striving to be a better listener.

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