Throughout my career I’ve emphasized one thing to women: We cannot separate who we are on the inside from who we are on the outside. So if it took losing 30 pounds to lift my heart, body and spirit, then excellent.
It’s been exactly a year since my last blog post. You can check. As I gained weight, I became unsure of my ability to help other women with their appearance issues. Dealing with trends and fashion was a piece of cake. I love fashion and talking about it. My skepticism about writing was rooted in my own ambivalence about how I looked and felt. After all, if I couldn’t get a handle on my body and appearance, how could I help anyone else understand theirs? In losing the weight I regained my trust in my knowledge and expertise. I feel good about being a role model for others, and I can interact with other professional fashion and appearance specialists in order to offer women the very best advice.
As we age, everything about our appearance and the way we relate to it changes. At each juncture, we’re forced to make choices about how we want to handle them. The only rule I hold forth is that we can’t go back in time. Despite our best efforts, we will not and cannot actually look like we did when we were in our 30’s, 40′, 50’s, or 60’s. Those who stubbornly try are bound to fail sooner or later.
Native Americans and other indigenous people believe that when our blood cycles cease, we start to gain wisdom. There’s truth in this. Among social animals, such as lions and elephants, older females become matriarchs of the extended families, leading the group to food and water, watching for danger and helping younger females. Freud protegee Carl Jung spent his career researching the aging process and concluded that during the second half of life we move from being externally driven to internally driven. We began to see ourselves as having a purpose much different from when we were younger. It makes sense that because we’re connected externally and internally. It makes sense that aging impacts how we view our bodies and appearance.
Does this mean we give up caring about how we look? Absolutely not! Far from it. It’s that our youthful desire for beauty and a fab appearance changes. Unless we get stuck back in one of our earlier decades, we mature into a more integrated and comfortable relationship with our appearance.
What does this mean?
My research shows that our confidence in our appearance increases as we age. The younger the woman, the less confidence she has. Magazines such as Elle, Marie Claire and Glamour cater to their insecurities about everything from the bedroom to dressing for interviews. It’s no wonder that mid-life is fraught with self-doubt. Visible evidence points to us “losing it”–that we’re no longer worthy. No wonder they fight aging.
But as we grow past our mid years we develop a deeper understanding of who we are. We should take measures to maintain our appearance, but we’re happier with the result because:
- We wear what makes us feel good about ourselves. The book When I’m an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple nails it.
- We express who we really are through our appearance. Younger women’s efforts generally go into putting on a socially dictated facade. They want to fit in and be liked. Older women are secure enough to be ourselves, hoping that others accept us, but not fretting over it.
- We are freer to choose what we want to do to our appearance to make us feel good about it.
- We’re less impacted by media celebrities and. We pick and choose what we want to buy each season.
- We allow other women to express themselves sans the critical eye of youth. Younger women are as hard or harder on others as they are on themselves. At our age to we have preferences for how other women look? Yes! Might we prefer to be around women who dress similar to us? Yes! But we know that what we think of others bears little impact on either how they dress or their worth as women.
So, when I left the 30 pounds at the foot of my scales I gained much more than I lost. For the mother-load of the process is the emotional, psychological and social payoffs of my diet. I like the way I look. I like getting dressed in the morning. I like shopping for new clothes and makeup. I like reaching a difficult goal. I like feeling more in control. I like being healthier. I like exercising again. I like feeling more like me. Most of all, I like writing for YOU!
Up next: How to create an image that satisfies both our desire to look good and express ourselves as we age. Stay tuned!