Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Why do women fear this stage of their lives?
Women who come to my workshops and classes frequently express a sense of fear of post menopause that is linked to an aversion to aging and a sense of grief at the loss of their identity as a woman. Why is this - and can Post Menopause be reframed by reminding ourselves of our true role in society at this later stage of life?
Women in their post reproductive years have always had a role to play, whether it be as carers for their own families (as grandparents, or for elderly relatives), or carers for society (setting up or working in charities and creating neighbourhood networks that support the whole community). Some remain or become leaders, such as magistrates or members of advisory boards. But women's sense of value as an individual, and sense of purpose in society usually plummets in post menopause.
Aging isn't just a biological process -- it's also very much a cultural one, so your experience of menopause will very much depend on the culture in which you are living.
Historically, post menopausal women were respected as wise women with knowledge to pass down to younger generations. This is still the case in some cultures. However, in modern western cultures, youth and sexuality are feshitised and women are valued for their reproductivity as much as a man's workplace productivity. Aging and Death are closely interlinked and fear of aging has led to a whole cosmetics industry feeding off our insecurity. Cosmetic surgery is now commonplace in our culture. Instead of being viewed as a badge of honour and sign of wisdom, greying hair and wrinkled skin are still to be hidden and there is an underlying sense of shame attached to aging. This may not be our personal view, but it is an unspoken undercurrent of which we are aware.
When I ask women in my workshops for words that describe older women, they say: "Crone", "Old Hag," "Witch," "passed it", "on the heap," "invisible," "worthless," "dried out," "frigid," ...and I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of self-loathing. Where did they learn these words? Who told them that they were worthless?
The evidence is all around us: in the language used in literature from Shakespeare to Shameless; advertising billboards equating youthfulness with love and happiness; the way we are viewed in the workplace and even the manner by which we are treated in shops.
The fear many of us feel in perimenopause as we look into the abyss of post menopause, is largely also due to lack of knowledge and the taboo that still surrounds the M word. Teenagers are taught about puberty and parenthood but are not taught about the other end of their fertile lives - menopause. Did you mother tell you about her menopause? Do you feel prepared?
Purpose is the key to happiness
Psychologists suggest that having a sense of purpose or a role in society, is a key factor in happiness.
Women who have raised children may feel a grief at the loss of their parenting role when their children leave home. Empty nest syndrome can lead to post-menopausal depression.
Feeling outskilled by rapidly changing digital technology in the workplace can lead women to feel valueless. Menopausal brain fog and fatigue lead many women to feel they are underperforming and some may leave their jobs. Rather than recognise the years of experience these women have under their belts, employers are quick to offer redundancy rather than retrain them.
One woman who had been a leading book designer said she was not surprised when her employers made her redundant despite her successful career. "When I was younger, I took the job of an older woman in her 50s who was being replaced. Now it has happened to me."
Her loss of income has impacted the financial resources for her whole family - and her sense of self.
Reframing post menopause and aging
What if we chose not to accept the way our society views us as older women on the scrap heap? What if we created our own roles - starting with supporting each other?!
Menopause Yoga is designed as both a therapeutic style of yoga to help women manage their symptoms, as well as a positive approach to menopause. The women's circles that are an essential part of every class, workshop and training programme, give women an opportunity to come together, share life experiences and support each other with shared wisdom. The Teacher Training programme I developed is designed to create networks of women teachers who support each other and share knowledge all around the world. There are now over 100 qualified MY teachers and the network is growing.
Rather than wait for society to shift its attitude towards us, we need to take charge and change it ourselves. We need to remember that we are women whose life experience and knowledge is of value to others. This isn't something new; instinctively we know this the right.
The Red School, which has recently launched its own Menopause programme, say: "It’s time for menopause to be reclaimed as a high holy moment in a women’s spiritual journey - a time of reckoning and revelation conferring on you Authority, a sense of deep belonging to yourself and deep belonging in the world."
So, instead of viewing yourself or your post menopausal years with fear, reframe it and remember who you truly are: awesome women, with a life of experience, advice and guidance to pass on to others. Own your 'Crone' and become the Wise Woman that you already are. Step into your power. Take up your natural role as leaders not just of your families but of your communities. By supporting other women going through menopause, you can "...be the change that you want to see in the world." (Mahatma Ghandi)