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Friday, March 13, 2015

how to feel beautiful and relevant no matter what your age part 1

 

 

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There’s a pivotal scene in the movie Avatar when the character of Jake looks at Neytiri and utters the words,

“I ...see… You...”

Only in the film these three words aren’t referring to ordinary seeing, but are expressing a deeper kind of recognition. “I see you,” means I see the essence of who you are. 

The deepest part of me sees the deepest part of you, and you are so much more than what I initially saw with my physical eyes.

Sometimes movies give us moments that stay with us because they convey something meaningful about real life. Not long after we saw that film my husband said those words to me in the middle of a hectic moment, totally unexpected and most likely when I was without a stitch of make-up. Despite his lightness, he was being serious and in that brief, startled second I saw my best self reflected back to me in the twinkle of his eyes.

It was powerful.

It’s been awhile since I’ve thought about this kind of seeing and what it truly means.

But recently I read THIS thought provoking post by Jennifer, where she shares some honest thoughts about aging and how invisible she’s felt in certain situations.

And I thought it was an important topic that needs to be talked about.

 

a certain kind of seeing

When I hear stories about feeling invisible it makes me think of Heinz Kohut, an American psychoanalyst who developed the concept of mirroring.

Kohut believed the need to have one’s unique specialness “mirrored” back was as vital to one’s development as food or water. And although his version of mirroring is a complex dynamic that surfaces in therapy, it’s also a sensation we can detect when we’re with others.

You probably notice how some people leave you feeling depleted and exhausted, while   there are others --similar to my experience with my husband—in whose presence you feel lighter and more confident. And wonderfully understood.

Looking in someone’s eyes and having our whole self beamed back to us with warm acceptance is a powerful experience when we’re adults, but when we’re children it’s formative.

Our experiences with early mirroring—seeing the wonder of ourselves reflected back to us in our mother’s eyes—become the seeds of our own self image.

And it’s believed that the consistency of this gaze from others –in which our whole self is seen and responded to and not just the parts that others need us to be-- forms the basis of our authentic true self.  (Winnicott)

I tell you this because there’s a difference between being looked at and being seen. 

 

Peeling back the layers

 

Growing older in a youth-worshipping culture, one that bombards us at every turn with digitally altered images of perfect looking women that don’t actually exist, is the opposite of having our best selves mirrored back.

In fact, it’s the kind distorted feedback that can be wounding no matter what our age.

Coming from a background in the eating disorder field means I’ve known a whole lot of young, attractive women over the years-- and I’m here to tell you that physical beauty and self esteem do not come together in a package.

Having a young, wrinkle-free face does not guarantee a depth of self confidence or a strong sense of self. And believe me, women with tight abs and a toned neck still struggle painfully with not feeling good enough.

As a twenty-nine year old bulimic once told me when she was asking my help in pleading her case to the insurance company.

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“Leslie you have to tell them. I’ve weighed 96 pounds and I’ve weighed 130 pounds and it never changes how I feel inside. This isn’t about how I look. Tell them this. Please.”

I still remember hearing her sum it up like that. The number on the scale part, the finally getting there and realizing there is no automatic flip switch for our deep-seated self esteem. Sigh. And I wish I could say that her insight led her to immediate wellness, but intellectual knowledge does not mean emotional learning and that’s what’s needed for real changes to happen inside us.

I guess I’m telling you this because it’s easy for a 40 or 50 or 60 plus year old woman who is struggling with the lines on her face, to assume that the remedy for these feelings is simply to have her young, pretty face back.

 

beneath the surface

But as I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize from my own experience as a woman--- that whatever your age is, feeling beautiful and relevant ultimately happens beneath the surface.

I’m learning that aging can be a process of peeling away the layers to our deeper self; it takes us along a path that is a continual lesson on letting go.

Aging is the wise teacher that keeps reminding us that everything is always changing. Our kids leave home. Our parents become frail. Our family dog dies. Our jobs change and neighbors move away.

And yes, what we see in the mirror keeps changing.

Growing older shines a light on where we get our feelings of worth and value and particularly for women, aging exposes how much our identity has been silently invested in looking a certain way.

Any of these can be experienced as little ruptures in our lives, transitions that can jolt us. Suddenly we find ourselves re-examining the parts of our lives that once felt rock solid. Roles that gave us our sense of identity have changed, maybe they’re gone. Leaving us with questions we haven’t had to answer in a long time.

Who are we when we aren’t being someone’s wife or daughter or mother?

Graceful aging requires honesty. Grieve whatever feels like loss. If something was once there and now it’s not, that’s loss. And it’s natural to feel many things, sadness, vulnerability, even anger. Allowing ourselves to know our shadowy feelings is the way that we grow beyond them.

The Buddha tells us that it’s not the letting go that brings us suffering, but the clinging. The trying to hold on, the clutching and denying of life’s truth which is that, nothing stays the same.

This is the path of graceful aging and the way we remain beautiful and relevant; this how we take ownership of our lives and discover our next adventure.

We let go. We deal with the feelings. And then we look forward.

We understand that there’s a certain wisdom and perspective that can only come with age. And we own it.

 

 

 

forget

 

 

 

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Sharon Stone on deciding how she wanted to age

 

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Rosamund Pike on how it felt to be an older woman 

 

 

tom ford

 

 

Can you relate to this post?

I always tell everyone I have the best readers. So damn smart and insightful. And I always love to hear your thoughts.

If you agree this is a topic that matters, please share this post so we can keep the conversation going.

I’ll be back with Part 2 when I talk about three choices that matter.

 

happy weekend!

xo

Leslie

aka Gwen Moss

 

 

26 comments:

sweet violets said...

This was very meaningful to me and you are a beautiful writer. Thank you for this. I'm very happy with the real me and very comfortable with myself.......just wish I had the energy that comes with being young!!!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...

Leslie,

This is such a beautifully written post and something that has been on my mind as of late.

For the first time this week I felt old. And the reason why is a little laughable when I think about it. I cracked my tooth in December and this week I had to get a crown, as I was driving home I started to think that because I do not have all of my original teeth I am now old and I pictured my grandmothers dentures in a little cup on the bathroom sink. When I mentioned this to my husband we had quite a laugh.

I also realized recently something that you eluded to in this post. The number on the scale does not instantly equate to feeling better and an increase n your self esteem.

I have struggled with "the magic number" on the scales my entire life, as if weighing a certain weight was going to magically make my life better and me happier. And it all began with one comment a guy made when I was 13...I hear his voice each and every time I try something on and I am now 47!

I have been blessed with an hour glass figure, small waist and bigger hips and thighs. consequently I had a J-lo butt before it was in. Looking back at photos now, I really did not have a big butt, however because of one comment I had it ingrained almost like a tatoo in my mind that I did. Since then I have strived to get rid of that butt and achieve the "perfect" figure. Until this year when after a long, stressful and difficult year it became crystal clear to me that a number on a scale or the perception of others means nothing to me. I have been living for other people for my entire life, now it is time to live for me.

All that matters to me is how I feel about myself! IF I do not feel good about myself then I have to make myself a priority! With age comes wisdom and this year the lessons that life taught me clarified all of that.

At the end of everyday when I look in the mirror can I say that I was kind, did I help someone, did I bring a smile to someones face? Did I make someone feel better? Am I grateful for my family and friends? Do I live the life that I can be proud of?

When I stand before God at the end of my life will he see me as I see me?

Thank you Leslie for ALWAYS giving me something to think about!

Have a wonderful weekend.





Lynne (lynnesgiftsfromtheheart) said...

This sure hit home this a.m. The past few years I've dealt with a lot of trauma in my life, the worst being the loss of my husband.
The stress has left it's ugly marks in so many ways. The lines deep in my face shine like new pennies. All sorts of products haven't taken those away, the confidence level was scared along with the marks left in the face and yes the neck. At times I feel as though I've earned those deeps lines and the look of constant fatigue and other times I ask myself why me?
As you said feeling invisible is a constant factor. The hurt of those forgetting you leaves a hurt that also shows on the face. Feeling beautiful and relevant is a road not traveled for me right now.
Your constant posts always give me something to think about, ponder over and over again.
So, I'll think about the positive things today, and hopefully come a little closer to feeling relevant.

Sarah said...

Leslie, you never fail to write the most helpful and insightful posts. You tackle the tough topics with ease and grace. I truly get the "seeing" part. It's important to see or "get" who one really is, not the physical, but the person within. " Pretty is as pretty does", is still a valuable saying for one to live by. My husband sees the one within. I'm forever grateful for his love and friendship. We are lucky women!

alittlecape said...

Ha - aging! I have been dealing with it so very much this year. Both the physical (can't move furniture like I used to), to the realization it's happening and I can feel it. Acceptance of it (let my hair go completely grey) to realizing the wrinkles are here to stay. It's been a tough year since the big move but the best thing to do is wear a smile. No matter what your age a smile is universal, I use it as much as possible, best face lift ever! I refuse to be invisible as I age. xo Patty/NS

Patty said...

Thank you, Gwen. I definitely need to hear more of this. I just turned 53--which is young in some women's eyes!

Marilyn said...

Another insightful and thought provoking post!

Do we degrade a beautiful, finely made piece of antique furniture that has withstood time or a fine bottle of aged wine? Why then do we degrade the human aging process?

What I personally find "aging" are harsh, unyielding attitudes, negativity, a closed mind, and the unwillingness to adapt and accept change.

I hope that I will always be open minded and appreciative of life. To continue to grow and to learn. To stay positive. To be the kind of person that people want to be around.

Marilyn (in Dallas)

Karen said...

Leslie,
As a 60-something woman I began to notice what I call a "marginalization" by some of the young and not so young people in the company I work for. At first I was irritated, then the wisdom that comes with age, allowed me to let it go. I'm happy with my life, family and friends, I'm okay by taking a quiet roll in my job and letting the others command the helm. Like you, my husband of 42 years is supportive and sees me as the little red haired young woman he married. I knew as I got older that the women older than me that I admired were women who aged authentically and gracefully. That is who I want to be.
I loved this post and the post from Jennifer. It's always reassuring to read those enlightened posts that confirm one's frame of mind.
Thank you, as always for such great ideas to think about and remember the next time you're ignored. :-)
xo,
Karen

Carla from The River said...

Self Confidence....I was told I was ugly over and over by a boy in my 8th grade class.
I did not have all the boys chase me, like they chased my best friends Dana and Karen.
It can hurt and stick with you for SO long.
As I grow older, I have been thankful for all that I have learned. And am so blessed with a wonderful husband and two amazing boys.
Yet, that voice from way back in 8th grade can haunt me.

Thank you again, for another great post.
Carla

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

Great post, Leslie. My birthday was last week and I have been feeling a lot of this, especially being "invisible". Please write more.
xx,
Sherry

Art and Sand said...

I absolutely HATE getting old and I have never hated any age before this. I HATE that my legs are stiff in the morning when I first get up and try to rush to the bathroom on legs that don't want to move. I totally HATE that I can't move the way I used to and that I am slowing down.

But, after a well lived life, I completely LOVE retirement and that I have the leisure to move slowly in the morning. I really LOVE that Steve and I can take Lulu for a 6 mile walk every single day and that time is not an issue. We can stop for lunch if we feel like it. I LOVE that I can putter around the house, work in the garden, and basically do whatever I feel like every single day.

I LOVE that people wave to us as they drive by us when we are walking down the boulevard and it's okay with me that they probably are saying, "there goes that sweet little old couple - they walk together every single day".

I guess I am learning to wear my badge of old age proudly.

I guess my slower body is the price I pay for the ability to

Gypsy Heart said...

Such an impactful post, Leslie! Is that a word? :) You always write so beautifully.

While growing up, everything was looks and being perfect! :( No one is and it's a horrible position to be in. When I got married my mother told me I'd better not gain weight. If I did, he'd leave me! That's just the tip of the iceberg of what I was told.

I certainly have felt the "invisible" feeling.It was a shock to me and very difficult to move past. I've realized that I truly have earned the lines, the result of gravity with things moving "south" and adverse changes in my physical self. I feel like I've aged tremendously since losing Abby.

I'm so very grateful that I am still here on this beautiful earth, have good health, retired and living a life that includes so much good stuff! I will always want to continue learning, seeing the glass as half full, talking to strangers and performing RAOK's. No, I can't do all the physical things that my mind thinks I can and that's frustrating but there are so many things I can do that many cannot.

I hope that you will continue with this subject! I believe it's vital that those that are younger become comfortable with themselves and not worry about their physical selves. There are *no* perfect women...those that may appear that way are air brushed, have a staff to do their make-up and clothes and the $$$ and time to exercise 4 hrs a day, have massages and facials whenever they wish and most likely a chef to prepare their meals. Of course, when you only eat lettuce, that's easy! :)

Thank you again!
xo
Pat
New email: prutledge15@gmail.com

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Gwen, I came earlier this morning from Bloglovin' and yet was swept away by morning duties with my husband. Then I saw your comment on my post(thank you SO MUCH!) and now I have time to read your post properly. OH how each one of us must deal with this! It takes a lifetime for most people to come around to the truth. Some never get it and fight it. Some question and search and maybe understand. But it seems to me that the surest way to gracefully accept this truth is to know who we are besides this body. I see the body as a shell, housing an even more priceless entity: OUR SOULS. When I see nature, the trees, flowers and plants shed off the old encasement, I see us. Maybe I'm off and just see everything as a poem, but there is something more than what the media or culture tells us. WE ARE MORE! This was a wonderful post. Thank you and again, thank you for your support! Anita

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

Great post, Leslie. I admit I have had thoughts in the past that aging is a slow process to becoming invisible. I also admit that maybe one reason I am more comfortable with aging is that I was never overly comfortable with attention paid to me because of my looks. At 60, I have quite a bit of freedom that comes with not caring so much, and being comfortable in my skin. I do want to matter and be relevant, though...it's why I want to continue to learn and grow, and be present in the moment. Thank you for such a lovely, thoughtful post!

Lori said...

Oh Leslie ~ I am sitting here thinking once again ~ I love it when she makes me think! I hit the "big 5-0" this year and although I know it is only a number ~ I am seeing my mother in the mirror more and more. I went over and read Jennifer's post as well ~ thank you for that. Are we as woman programmed to never be happy with ourselves? We had this discussion at work not too long ago ~ wouldn't it be great to go back 30 years and sit our 20 year old selves down and have a long talk? Now I am just rambling.... xo

Tamera Beardsley said...

I have come to not only to realize the gifts of aging … but I am teaching myself to focus on what is still good … and let go of the other.

As a women who struggled so much of my life with bulimia and self esteem issues I can gladly say, at 56 years of age … I am the most happy with myself as I have ever been. I am no longer young … but never have I felt more beautiful. Self love and self acceptance to me are the building blocks of beauty. I am ever so grateful to be building on them everyday.

Joanne Nauta-Koot said...

After reading your post several times, I still feel the need to re-read it again. Between the observations of yourself, and the readers; there is so much support and power in each comment and remark. I feel like I am "normal" and not alone; with all the feelings, and issues that I have been stumbling around with the last few years. It is a choice to be accepting of what is happening with me. Mentally and physically. Only I can make the best of it, or be angry that I am getting older. Thank you for bringing your thoughts and feelings forward and sharing them with us. This encourages me to grow old gracefully, and with joy.

Catherine Robinson said...

Yes, I agree, Leslie...it is a topic that matters and you write about it beautifully. I think the self acceptance of ageing takes awhile but as you say it is about taking ownership and for me living a life with grace and kindness and being honest to yourself...yes, I'd like to be 45 again and not 55...but only because life hurries by so quickly not because I had fewer lines. I love this post...can't wait for part 2...you are simply brilliant!
Sending you lots of love xx

Mary Ann Pickett said...

Beautiful. Leslie, I see YOU. :). I'm at the hair salon getting my gray disguised. I find my wrinkles look better when I smile. That's my beauty secret.

heather gilmour said...

Wonderful post! This topic is really important and no one have to feel invisible no matter how old is.

The way we treat older people is awful and we have to change it.

Carpet cleaners Battersea

michele said...

our culture worships youth relentlessly, yes? it's def fear of death. if there is any revolution i wish to be a part of, it is one to help others find peace with the inevitable end of life. i am actually on good terms with death. i have stared it down so many times. when i look into the mirror and spy more lines, i do get a sinking feeling though since my spirit feels so young. if i am honest, i also think DAMN, IF THE FACE IS GOING, NO FRACKIN WAY I'M LETTING THE BODY GO TOO. it's hard to change faulty cognition when we are reinforced and rewarded for low body weight and non-tired looking faces everywhere we turn. maybe all of us in the western world will eventually wreck our eyesight from screen time so all faces will appear ageless and blurry!!! i think coping with aging for me involves staying centered in nature. it's where i find true beauty and God and am reminded of the value of deep roots...which are the ones i long to grow. peace to you, leslie.

Holly @ Down to Earth Style said...

I relate! It seems our society is obsessed with defying age. This post is so well written and an important message that really should be talked about. Thank you for taking the time to get the words just right. I know blogging takes a lot of time and you always have amazing quality in every post.

Vickie @ Ranger 911 said...

Accepting the changes that come along with aging are difficult. It's not just gray hair and wrinkles, but for me, it's my hands. My once thin straight fingers are becoming bent and arthritic and when I see my parents who both suffer from arthritis, I see where I'm headed. On the other hand, there are much worse things in life, so I need to keep it all in perspective. Thank you for this post, Leslie. I think most women have some issues with self-esteem.

Vickie

Nancy Crowley said...

Hi Leslie,
I have been back and forth to this post a couple of times, and I think because some of the ideas in it hit particularly close to home these days with me, it's been hard to find the words to comment. Invisibility is a good description of how women/girls can sometimes feel. If I am honest, I catch myself thinking that there are far more feelings of being invisible than invincible. I too wish I could turn the clock back, there are so many things I would do differently. Thanks for the post, it was great. xx Nancy

Heather Lindstrom said...

Good morning, Leslie. I caught this post earlier this week (I was unplugged last week;) and wanted to respond when I had a proper moment. Your writing is so insightful. Clearly your years of working in the field have given you a wealth of perspective and understanding. Both your post, and Jennifer's post, raise some excellent questions about our attitudes toward getting older. I'm finding that I appreciate my 50's more than my 40's. I think I've accepted some of the physical changes, and upped my game to turn back the clock on the weight issue, which feels good. My truth is that I don't feel as young, or as beautiful as I once did, yet I still have moments of feeling visible, professionally, with my family and friends. I have moments of feeling vibrant, healthy and even sexy (like when on vacation with my husband). So much of it is in my own mind. If I have energy, curiousity, a warm personality and a bright smile I feel I have something to add to the party. I'll trade that 25 inch waist from my 20's with the wisdom I have earned today. Wonderful post, Leslie.... xx

La Contessa said...

BEAUTIFULLY STATED..........Jeanne sent me!Turning 55 this July and things are dropping,hurting,and changing at GREAT SPEED!

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