As we age we’re increasingly drawn to examine our past, and appearance often plays a major role in women’s memories. All it takes is a glance in the mirror and we’re brought face-to-face with how we have changed over the years. The pain of what we see can be excruciating. We who believe that we didn’t measure up to society’s version of beauty in our early years may mourn the lost opportunity of having been admired for our appearance. At the other end of the spectrum are those women for whom beauty has been their greatest asset, and they find that they no longer know themselves. Most of us lie somewhere between the two extremes. Regardless of where we stand, at some point we all look into the mirror and see the sands of time running out on our appearance.
Unless we gain some perspective on our shifting appearance, we may feel that there is no hope for us from now on. But that’s not true! It’s just that our beauty is different from that of our youthful appearance. To develop this new way of thinking about ourselves we must learn to deal with our aging bodies. The payoff? Once we learn to love and appreciate our changing appearance, life opens up in ways we never imagined in our earlier days.
Unfortunately, it’s not easy gain this new perspective. To lessen the sting of the mirror, many women try to dodge the issue rather than face it. Our society encourages this approach–buy this product, go on this diet, have surgery. While nothing is wrong with any of these measures in and of themselves, the best they can do is to buy time. If used without this understanding, they hamper our growth into maturity. When I talk with women’s groups, I often use the example of Lot’s wife, who was told not to look back as she traveled away from her home in Sodom. Yet, she did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. She was preserved in time and unable to go forward to her new home in a better place than her old one.
The first step in coming to terms with our aging looks is to understand the pitfalls that can hinder us.
- Alcohol/drugs/over shopping/repeated surgeries. Addictions might take away the immediate pain of having to deal with our aging bodies and give us short-lived relief, but they fail us in the end. Nothing can hold nature back. At some point those who try these means will be forced to realize that they’ve damaged, not helped, themselves.
- Blaming yourself or others for negative feelings about your appearance. Even if you’ve been hurt badly in the past, you must stop blaming and start healing. This is one of the most painful processes that anyone can go through. But dwelling on blame short-circuits our journey to wholeness in our second half.
- Use products and cosmetic surgery judiciously. Nothing you can do to your body can fix your life. It can’t and won’t cure depression, mend broken relationships, relieve the issue of not feeling worthy, take away the what-if’s of your earlier life or make you look like you did when you were 30.
To get on track, you need to take some positive steps to change your way of thinking.
- Come to terms with the hard truth that society has never and likely will never support women’s positive feelings about our looks, that society’s image of female beauty is skewed toward youthful beauty and that society’s perception of perfect female appearance is unrealistic. In addition, our society sets women against women when it comes to fashion and beauty. Whew! That’s a tall order. But once we get it deep into our minds that we have been set up for failure from the get-go, it becomes easier to accept both who we were in our younger years and who we are becoming as we age.
- Forgive yourself for past errors. We all committed errors regarding our bodies/appearance in our early years. That’s just part of growing up. When you start harping at yourself for less-than-stellar past behavior, remember that nothing can be done now to correct most transgressions. If there is, then make amends, forgive and move on.
- Stop judging yourself so harshly. Yes, sometimes we don’t look our best. Bad hair days happen! But when you don’t feel that you look your best, pat yourself, lift your head and go on. Most likely, you are the only one who knows that you aren’t up to par that day. And if someone notices, so what?
- Stop putting other women down because of how they look. Being negative about others doesn’t hurt them. But it sure eats a hole in our feelings of self worth.
- Start appreciating how you and others look. In the same way that putting others down damages our self esteem, building them up strengthens our opinion about ourselves.
This is a lot to deal with at one time. However, getting it all on the table now sets up future, in-depth conversations. Right now it’s good enough to merely open the door.
As always, please let me hear from you.