How confident do you remember feeling at 6 years old? What about when you were in middle school? What does your self-esteem look like these days, and what do you think it'll be like when you're in your 50s? You might not realize it, but your self-esteem changes over time: As you get older, you grow, both physically and mentally, making space for more self-assurance and self-love as you discover what your true identity really looks like. According to a new study, though, you might not get in touch with your strongest sense of self until much later in life.
The study, which was recently published in the academic journal Psychological Bulletin, revealed that a person's self-esteem typically "peaks" around age 60 — which kind of sounds like a bummer at first, right? Like, you basically have to live and experience most of your life before you can feel your most confident? Well, it's a bit more complicated than that, so let's break down how exactly this study was done to get a better understanding.
For their paper, researchers from the University of Bern in Switzerland analyzed over 300 different studies on the subject of how self-esteem changes over time, which included data from nearly 165,000 people. Ultimately, the study found that, throughout a person's life, their confidence grows at a relatively steady rate, pauses a bit during the teen years, (ugh, say no more), "increases strongly until age 30," and continues to increase until around age 60, when the researchers argue self-esteem hits its biggest "peak." From there, the study found that self-esteem "remained constant until age 70, declined slightly until age 90," and "declined more strongly until age 94."
Again, it might seem sort of disappointing that your self-esteem doesn't "peak" until you're much older, but think about it this way: This study is basically saying that life — and the many wild things that come with living it — shapes your self-esteem and your ability to feel confident. So, really, a more positive way to interpret these findings is from the perspective that life is, in large part, all about learning how to love yourself — it's just, you know, kind of a long journey, and it has its ups and downs.
But that journey, in and of itself, is very healthy, and according to Deborah Cohan, Ph.D., a professor of sociology at the University of South Carolina-Beaufort, exploring the act of self-love, at any age, is essential for your growth, happiness, resilience, and productivity. "Self-care is a process," Cohan tells Elite Daily over email. "It is not an event like attending a yoga class or getting a massage. Those activities can certainly be part of the journey toward improved self-care, but the point is that this is an evolving and life-long process and journey."
So what does "self-care" really entail, exactly? It's something that's discussed all the time in the wellness space, but what does practicing self-care — and, ultimately, self-love — actually mean?
According to Cohan, self-care involves the ability to say "yes" to what feeds your soul, and "no" to what doesn't serve you. It's about setting intentions, establishing healthy boundaries, and resisting the urge to be "perfect," she explains. "Self-care involves getting more comfortable with oneself, befriending oneself, and this involves solitude and quiet (at least some of the time)," Cohan tells Elite Daily.
Of course, when you think about it that way, self-care is very abstract, and not quite as tangible or as simple as slapping on a face mask. For this reason (and for many others, TBH), it might not be a bad idea to ask a professional for help as you figure out what self-care and self-love really mean to you.
"Self-love and self-esteem come from learning more about ourselves," Christina Tsiripidou, a holistic health coach and nutritional therapist, tells Elite Daily in an email. "Working with a wellness expert, a therapist, [or] a psychologist tends to speed up the process. These experts challenge us, and help us discover the reason behind our actions, behaviors, and habits, which in turn helps us find peace with who we are through understanding and acceptance of self."
According to Tsiripidou, self-love and self-respect come from three places: understanding the reasons behind your actions, behaviors, and habits; understanding and accepting your current situation; and working on becoming better. No wonder it's a life-long process, right? This stuff is heavy.
But, really, practicing self-love on a day-to-day basis doesn't have to feel so heavy and complicated. According to Wendy De Rosa, an intuitive healer and founder of the School of Intuitive Studies in Colorado, there are a few simple ways to ensure you're taking care of yourself, and in turn, strengthen your overall sense of self.
First, ask yourself what you really need, right now, in this very moment. Then, De Rosa says, give it to yourself. "Meet that need by giving love to yourself there," she tells Elite Daily over email. "In other words, love your inner child, who may have a deeper need that needs to be met. If it is an external gift like a massage or walk, then it’s coming from a place of deeply listening to yourself."
De Rosa also recommends finding time and space to breathe and feel your body. Whether you do this through something like meditation, yoga, or even masturbation, the expert says it all counts an act of self-love.
Above all else, though, De Rosa says it's crucial that you don’t override your gut feelings or intuition to meet someone else’s needs in place of your own. She tells Elite Daily that this causes a sort of disconnection from your sense of self and ultimately weakens your capacity for self-love. However, nobody's perfect, so if you do find yourself neglecting your own needs at any point, De Rosa has an admittedly odd, but apparently very effective trick for how to come back to your own needs: Go outside and take a moment for yourself to literally "lean back into your back body, and feel a shower of light flowing down to give love to you," the expert explains. "This is a great tool to use when you feel run-down or have over-given." Sure, it might feel weird at first, but what's the harm in getting outside for a few minutes and doing something solely for yourself?
Bottom line: While you might not be 60 years old just yet, you can still work toward being head over heels in love with yourself at any age — and that work, in and of itself, is truly a revolutionary act.