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Thursday, April 9, 2015

how to feel beautiful ….. part 2

 

 

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I recently wrote a blog post about feeling beautiful while you age.

You can read Part One HERE.

I was inspired to write about this topic after hearing a story from a vibrant, attractive fifty-something-year-old woman who had a door slammed in her face by a stranger, a “gentleman” who was rushing ahead of her. Outraged, she confronted him about his rudeness, but afterwards she reflected on the experience, and the sting of feeling invisible that she felt.

Of course my instant reaction was to join her in her anger. What a rude man. He did what? Yes, you go-girl!

Although part of my bristling was focused elsewhere. Instead of wasting my energy on this faceless man and his thoughtless behavior—I kept coming back to the feelings his actions had triggered. The painful reactions beneath this woman’s anger that so many women will grapple with as we grow older.

The self doubt.

The sudden awareness of our changing looks that can trigger regret or loss.

The feeling of being overlooked in certain situations.

And the discomfort of feeling less relevant in a world that is expected to spend $291.9 billion on anti-aging products by 2015. (Global Industry Analysts,)

Did you hear that?  That’s $291.9 billion dollars on anti-aging products. Which in case you don’t realize, is a whole lot of messing with our minds. (Okay advertising world we-get-it, aging is bad).

Although this helps explains my next reaction.

Because instead of using this man’s behavior as reason for us to re-examine our looks and our wardrobe, so next time we can be more visible, I think we should be asking ourselves this more compelling question:

 

“When are we going to stop letting other people tell us our value?”

 

Really.

I don’t know about you, but when I lather my face with luxurious night cream, or visit my favorite hair colorist or head out for a run at the beach I want to do these things because it feels like self-care. I care about my health. I like my Self and I want my choices to reflect this.

What I don’t want is to choose my exercise program or plan my wardrobe out of some frantic hope that I’m warding off time. Yes, I want to look my best but I don’t want to feel like I’m at war with the natural changes happening to my face or my body.

This is what I reject. I reject making choices out of Fear.

Sure, there are mornings when I glance at the mirror and feel surprised. When I see how much longer it takes for my eyes to wake up after a bad sleep. And oh yes, I miss my long, smooth neck of my twenties and thirties.

But there are gifts that comes with aging well. An intangible wisdom and that mysterious feeling of being comfortable in your own skin.

Gone are the days when I would walk into a big party or room of strangers and scan their outfits to reassure myself I’m dressed ok.  Because today I could care less. I don’t mean that in a defiant way but as a simple matter-of-fact. Now I choose my clothing for me. I don’t read tips on what I should wear at my age because honestly, I don’t use them.

I prefer to wear whatever makes me feel confident and expresses my mood in the moment. Sexy, fun, serious, casual.  I spend zero time worrying about being judged by what I wear.

Saturday night I wore jeans and heels on a dance floor. I still wear my hair way below my shoulders.

My personal experience of aging can be described as a gradual awakening. There’s a freedom to be Me and to be enough, which is light years away from my twenties when I was on a frenetic mission to prove myself—and my worth-- through my academics and my career. 

Of course the irony is that the more you need this kind of approval, the more elusive it becomes. But these are things you have to work out for yourself.

What I find fascinating about growing older as a woman, is while you’re losing some of your physical self—your smooth forehead, tight jawline, small waist—you’re expanding in other ways. And as my feelings about my Self and my definition of beauty have changed so have my feelings about other women.

Whereas I once I felt confused and alienated by the kind of femaleness expressed through social ‘cliques’ and exclusionism, now my view is much keener. I see insecurities where once I saw mean girls. I see pain where once I saw petty gossip.

Seeing other women through my older eyes helps me realize that we are more alike than not. We are bonded through the rawness of caretaking. Through our struggles with loving and worrying and letting go. We can connect through our wounds. This is the realness that can be found behind a woman’s expensive outfit or impressive job title or even her plastic surgery.

Personally I want you look fabulous and to feel damn confident.

I want you to know that beauty is not perfect teeth and fake boobs and young skin.

I want you to know that beauty is a certain je ne sais quoi. 

That beauty is seen in the sense of security that oozes from a woman after she’s learned how to set limits and say “No” without guilt.

Beauty is the confidence that comes from falling down and getting back up, over and over again. And from knowing one’s strength and one’s flaws.

Beauty is the courage to show on the outside what you feel on the inside.

And beauty is the face of gratitude you feel for the ordinary moments. And for the mere chance to wake up each morning and start again.

I’m still learning how to age well. I certainly don’t have any magic answers. But I do believe that growing ourselves from within is the path I want to stay on.

Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I find empowering. Maybe you can relate.

 

 

Stop going back to an empty well

 

I love this line. It’s so crystal clear.

In the session room this was a phrase used to describe our tendency to keep going back to the same withholding, insensitive people for our emotional needs. For whatever reason these are people in our life who are incapable of giving us what we desperately want. Only we never learn. We keep going back. And we keep feeling bad afterwards.

An empty well can be a person or a situation but we can recognize them because they deplete us.

They make us question ourselves.

They ‘hook’ us with the hope that “if only…blank….then I would feel…blank…..” 

(you fill in the blanks)

One of the most hurtful dynamics about going to an empty well is that we unconsciously put someone else in charge of our value. For example, the man that rushes by you without holding the door. The universe is full of situations like that. What’s important is not him. And what he thinks of you, it’s what you tell yourself about the experience.

Maybe it’s happened to me too. Honestly? I don’t know. Because I’m not the type to notice. Or to personalize it and attribute it to my age or my looks or whatever I wore that day.

I guess I have a different view, one that’s emerged from my awareness of my many flaws, but when it comes to rude strangers with bad behavior, I realize that most of the time it’s about them.

It’s not about ME. 

Try saying that the next time you’re frustrated with someone. It’s so liberating. Like a peaceful mantra, but it’s so true.

Most of the time it’s just not about you. It’s about the other person. And where they are on their own life journey. To me this means when I see overt rudeness it’s most likely someone being distracted by their struggles. Their own suffering. On a tough day.

If we want to age gracefully, we need to identify these empty wells that keep draining us of our good feelings and let go. We need to recognize when we’re insisting that someone make us feel worthy.  And this includes people in our lives that we love, whom might not be ‘ready’ to change in the ways we hope.

The more self acceptance and compassion we have for ourselves, the less approval we will require from others.

Can you identify an empty well in your own life?

 

The one empty well in our daily lives

Because I’m going to tell you about one now.

Ready? Here it is. When it comes to feeling beautiful the mirror is your empty well.

The mirror will never give you what you really long for and need, which is to be full seen in your glorious wholeness.

Your kindness,

your impeccable cooking,

your goofy laugh,

your astute sensitivity.

Everything about you that is deliciously quirky and special will be instantly distorted when you look in the mirror.

Why?  Because the reflection you see in the mirror is always filtered through your emotions and your mood at a particular moment.

You know the guy at the street corner with the wolf whistle, the one who looks at you like a pair of boobs and nice legs and could care less about your great personality?  The mirror is like that guy but worse. Because the mirror causes a sneaky shift in your own perspective.

You can think of it as an optical illusion; the longer you gaze at yourself in the mirror the harder it becomes to see yourself as a whole person. At the worse you see yourself as a collection of parts that shrink or become inflated depending on your level of scrutiny and your mood at that moment.

I’m not saying the mirror can’t reflect our good stuff. I’m just saying we have be wary of it as we get older.

There is an abundance of research on how we develop our body image that’s outside the scope of this little post, but the message to take away is a simple one.

You will never find your self worth in a mirror. Never. 

 

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candice3

 

“Except for the dying part, getting older is so fabulous, I love it…everyone I know is getting older. They are more relaxed, they are mellow, they are more alert as friends, they have a confidence. You really do acquire a kind of “I don’t give a damn” what people think, which is so liberating. I love this age now.”

Candice Bergen

 

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Julia Louise-Dreyfus and Katie Couric talking about aging (love these gals)

 

 

 

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Can you relate to this post?

 

xo

Leslie

 

I’m sharing this post with friends at:

French Country Cottage

 

Part One: how to be beautiful series….

Part Three:  how to feel beautiful series 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 comments:

Something Nice and Pretty said...

Sure can! I turned 64 Tuesday and I'm trying to just be thankful and blessed! I think being beautiful has to come from the inside too with kindness being number one.
I agree also with you to wear what you like gone are the days when women were old at 45!I wear jeans and heels too!
Love reading your posts, you should write a book!

Kathy said...

I so agree with Something Nice and Pretty. I am 62 and lost my sister when she was 47. I was turning 50 that year and without thinking said, ohhh I can't believe I will be 50 tomorrow. With tears in her eyes, she said You are so lucky Kathy. So I have never regretted every year I age.

Leslie said...

Great interview. I like the comment .. "it's like everyone is looking in the magnifying glass with you". THAT'S what we do. We are SO hypercritical of ourselves. Leslie, you know I've been working in the medical field (with predominately women) for nearly 23 years. This subject is always at the forefront of my mind and one that I address daily. The most important part here is to make yourself feel pretty for YOURSELF and not out of desperateness or fear. Extreme procedures excluded, there are many things women can do that can help make us feel pretty at ANY age. These things include exercise, eating well, and taking care to do little things to the skin and hair that help keep us fresh. I use that word a lot in the office .. FRESHENING. It DOES get more difficult as we reach a certain age .. and that will vary depending on our history. Even women that choose to augment their face via botox, fillers, and the like, are STILL aging and feel the same on the inside. THAT is why having confidence and loving yourself is so important.
It's important to push the antiaging rhetoric aside and just do something. Do SOMETHING (have purpose) with the last half of your life.

xxL

Cathi said...

I will be 58 this year and I am really enjoying my older years, I have to say. You definitely become more unfiltered than you've ever been. Haha I've never been one to really care much about what others think of me and how I look, as long as I'm comfortable in my own skin that's all that matters. More than looking young, I just want to keep my body and mind healthy and stay curious about life. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to age (as a lot of my friends did not get that same opportunity) and so what if I have a few wrinkles - hey I've earned them and I will wear them like a badge of honor! Smiling and laughing and enjoying life are the best anti agers ever! Wonderful article!! xxoo

sweet violets said...

Oh, I so relate to this post, esp. the part of looking in the mirror!!! I'm turning the corner to 70 and still wear my jeans and heels too....a product of the 60's I'll never lose!!! Thanks for this inspiring post.....

La Contessa said...

YEP, YOU NAILED IT!!!
BRAVA!

Catherine Robinson said...

Oh, yes, Leslie...I can relate to your wonderful post...how I'd love to sit and talk to you, I agree with your every word...hey, of course there are days when I look in the mirror and would love to see the younger me looking back at me but I really am beginning to embrace the '55 year old me' and liking me too. I love what you say about the mirror as an empty well in our lives...I'd never looked at it like that before, I'll definitely remember that!
It's not that I don't give a damn about what people think but it just doesn't concern me in the same way it use too. I like what Andie MacDowell says about ageing..."Our culture is so driven that beauty is all about youth and that's just a fallacy it's not true - we're beautiful at all ages, there's no one time of beauty - I would say that beauty is an action, it's about being beautiful, it's how you act, how you treat people, how you feel about yourself, your self esteem, feeling your value and your worth, I think that's all beauty but it's not a number."
You, lovely Leslie have beauty in abundance!
Happy Weekend xx

Karen said...

Leslie,
This is the perfect post for me right now. It's funny how you can go along and not let anyone bother you, then whether it be your mood or whatever, you feel like you've been diminished by someone. I will print this and re-read it when days like that occur. The mirror hasn't bothered me as much as pictures family members have taken lately, I wonder who is that in that picture...the wrinkled one?! :-)
xo,
Karen

Cynthia said...

I can relate! Never worried about my age until the last few years when I felt it was really showing on my face and figure. It was a hurdle to overcome, but I am accepting that I am not going to look like I'm 20 or 35 or even 45 again. I'm 58. I try to buy clothes which are flattering to me, because I still like to look "pretty", but I can't wear the clingy clothing any longer (too many love handles-LOL). And I am KEEPING my gray hair long, because it looks good. So I have some wrinkles. . .so what? I feel that I'm finally accepting of my age. And it does take extra effort to look attractive, but I'm NOT obsessing over it any more. Acceptance of what "was" and what "is" has become freeing, and I'm much more relaxed and happy! This was a GREAT post.

helen tilston said...

Hello Leslie

I just discover your blog, thanks to Jeanne Henriques, who mentioned you in her post of today.
I agree with you on this post and what you say in particular about the the empty well and the mirror is a wonderful object to be wary of.
I am looking forward to reading some of your past posts
Have a glorious weekend
Helen

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

This is such a great post, Leslie! At 60, I truly think the type of beauty and strength you write of comes with a great sense of freedom. I worry much more about being healthy than physically beautiful, and the things I do for physical appearance I do for myself, not others. There's no time for empty wells...I don't worry about mirrors and got rid of my scale. There are things I need to do in life...and worrying about beauty just takes up time!

sharon smith said...

Can I relate to this post? Why, yes, I can. Every carefully selected word. I can tell you that I have never had more confidence, forgiveness, and joy than I do now at age 50. Proudly, almost 51. For my sister and friends who have passed at an early age, I am so grateful I am healthy and happy.
Sharon

Cindy Hattersley said...

I let my hair go gray a few years ago and turned the big 60 this year. Loved this post!!!

Heather Lindstrom said...

The empty well...the concept is just crystal clear, Leslie. I hope that resonates loud and clear. This is a profound post, on a topic that resonates with so many of us. We are all aging and to those of us who have lost someone too soon in life, it's better than the alternative, as they say. Confidence, being good to ourselves, taking time for self-care are all essentials for me. Thank you for sharing your gifted perspective. Fun clip and quotes!
xx, Heather

Carol Szafalowicz said...

Accidently found your blog and was so blow away at your words.
Rarely do I take the time to read
every single word ......couldn't stop reading.
I enjoyed your insight so much.
I'm 66 and learning to love the
"new" skin I'm in.
Warmly, Carol from Chicago

Carla from The River said...

Hi Leslie,
Well said! I appreciate your words.
I agree with so many of the comments. When you have a dear one die young, age 40, you really do understand that life is short and we need to enjoy it. Not worry about such petty junk. American media is not as kind about aging. Maybe we can make a difference.
Keep on!!

Lori said...

I am clapping and giving you a standing ovation right now ~ well in my mind anyway because it is really hard to do that and type at the same time. Spending time in front of the mirror ~ worrying about every little wrinkle and crease ~ hair that is growing where it is not supposed to grow... We have to remember that every little line was put there because you laugh and enjoy life ~ the hair can be tweezed and realizing that you ARE enough is a hard lesson to learn ~ but with age it becomes easier to accept. Love this post Leslie xo

Gypsy Heart said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I agree that being older is much more comfortable...it's just the knowledge that we won't last forever. I think of the many years I worried about the "right" dress, shoes, hair style,lipstick, you name it. I dislike the lines & wrinkles, the shifting that happens during the night [you do know that happens at night don't you? :)] and the fact that I still think I can do what I want but physically, I can't. I'd like to climb on a ladder, lift boxes and move furniture but this back says "No!"

I feel so blessed to have the ability to see, to hear, to walk and drive, to be able to cook what I want or go out to eat...so many things that many are not privileged to do.

Having a sense of humor, giving to others, kindness in any form, offering a smile or compliment = beauty.

xo
Pat

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