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?”
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 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.
“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.”
Julia Louise-Dreyfus and Katie Couric talking about aging (love these gals)
Can you relate to this post?
I’m sharing this post with friends at:
Part Three: how to feel beautiful series