After much discussion, their conversation ended with a little humor and some frustration as one friend commented, “Forget this! I earned every single one these wrinkles. I can’t be bothered thinking about how to look better; I’m just trying to deal with getting older.”
Not long after overhearing this conversation, I looked in the mirror and saw a few wrinkles and my chin drooping a little. Nothing to panic about. Yes, I agree! I’ve earned all of this.
Our looks change as we age. That’s no surprise. Each of us deals with our changing looks in different ways. Some accept the change, while others desire to change those looks and turn back the clock. I applaud women who have the courage to change their physical appearance to feel better about themselves. No judgement here!
The book, Psycho-Cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, influenced me to look inward for my success – set goals and create a vision for my life. I read it in 1978, a critical time in my life, when I was trying to survive a difficult divorce. I was struggling with my self image.
Dr. Maltz spoke to me through his book. In Psycho-Cybernetics, Dr. Maltz states, “Success is from the inside out, not the outside in.” This resonated with me. As a plastic surgeon, Dr. Maltz, was helping people change their looks. He had many success cases where individuals felt much better about themselves once the surgery had been completed. However, there were still those who had undergone surgery and changed the physical, but were still unhappy. This puzzled Dr. Maltz which led him to investigate this mystery. He writes, “The mystery inspired me: If the scalpel was magic, why did some people who acquired new faces go right on wearing their old personalities?” (Dr. Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics). His quest was to help people change their self-image and with techniques based on neuroscience. He began having people look at the inside and not just the outside.
I began doing my inner work to change my self-image along with discovering my authentic self. I knew I was more than my roles as a mother, wife, friend, teacher and my looks. I was on a quest to focus on my inner self and not fret over my aging body. However, as I started this journey, I discovered that I was not alone in my discomfort with my aging body. I found that body image issues and aging are in fact very common. Not only common, but also quite distressing for many.
A staggering statistic states that “Only 12 percent of women reported being satisfied with their body size” (Rachel Walden, Our Bodies, Our Selves, “What Percentage of Older Women are Satisfied with their Body Image? Survey Says…”). This includes aging women too. Women of all ages spend a considerable amount of time thinking about their body, their weight, and their dissatisfaction with the way they look. We live in a world where thin and young are the ideal. How do we deal with this as we age? How do we not buy into the lie that thin and young are the standard for beauty?
Today the cosmetic surgery options are endless: face lifts, implants, Botox, fillers, and the list goes on. However, is the money and risk spent on these surgeries worth it? I would say a hearty, “NO! Aging is normal and beautiful.”
If you are at the stage where you want to change how you look to turn back the clock. I stay “STOP” for a minute. Let’s shift gears and focus on our inner self. Let’s devote time to discovering a more authentic, peaceful, self accepting you. Physical looks are fleeting. Our heart, soul, and mind are eternal. Shouldn’t they be the focus?
How can you learn to embrace aging and focus on your inner, authentic self:
- Avoid comparing yourself to the women portrayed in the media. It’s just simply not reality.
- Focus on being healthy and not thin. Exercise and make wise decisions to keep your body strong and healthy.
- Talk to other close friends about your body image issues. You are not alone in this. You will find that others are struggling with their changing bodies too.
- Focus on the blessings of aging and the joys of getting older. You are much wiser than you were when you were 30!
- Work on your inner soul – read books, attend seminars and workshops.
- Surround yourself with others who build you up and not tear you down.
Diahann Carroll reflects on her aging beauty secret and offers us wise, doable advice. “Taking care of your skin is not a secret, but it’s very important. What you eat is the most important thing that I can say about remaining attractive and healthy” (Essence Magazine, “Women Aging Gracefully”).
What did people do before cosmetic surgeries were a reality? They embraced aging, revered the elderly, and respected the circle of life. Even the famous actors and actresses of our time struggle with the aging dilemma.