I´m grateful to be in my forties

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

In my twenties, I think I took my beauty for granted. In fact, I didn’t give it much thought. Who needs to when your skin is glowing, your boobs are chin-height, and everyone tells you how beautiful you are? I definitely had my insecurities and in fact, feel like my 20-something body and face were somehow ‘wasted’ on me because I didn’t appreciate them back then. When it came to how I looked, I was incessantly critical and hard on myself for being too short, too dark, too curvy, and the list went on. When I look back at pictures of myself in my twenties now, I feel sad that I didn’t appreciate how lovely and beautiful I actually was. Now I truly understand what George Bernard Shaw meant when he proclaimed, “Youth is wasted on the young”.

Also, in my twenties, I was engrossed in university studies and managed to obtain two degrees during those years. I like the fact that my looks didn’t help me in any way with getting good grades or becoming a good therapist. In fact, I had to rely on my brain more than anything and that, in retrospect, is a very good thing. I learned at a very young age that I was first and foremost, intelligent and being smart and using my abilities to think critically was what was most encouraged in my family. I’m glad my family had those values, otherwise I would have been in deep trouble. I feel so much for those young women out there who are valued mostly for how they look, not for who they are. Models and pop singers come to mind. I always look at them and think, “What’s going to happen to your self-concept and self-worth when your looks are gone and you’re no longer considered “hot”?”

What does beauty mean to you now? If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

My concept of beauty has definitely changed over the years, especially since I turned forty recently. As I said before, I was always considered attractive, even beautiful, by some, so I didn’t obsess over my looks too much. I just thought they would ‘do’ and went on with my life. However, once I reached 35, I started to notice huge changes in the way my body and face looked, and for the first time in my life, really had to face how I felt about looks and the ageing process. Having recently turned 40, however, I have some extra body image concerns to add:

* graying hair

* wrinkling skin

* downward pointing breasts

* unexpected weight gain

All of these have come as a major shock as somehow, I guess I had thought I would be immune to all of the side effects of ageing. But no, Mother Nature would have me learn otherwise. And while I am working really hard at growing older without plastic surgery, botox, or other toxic attempts to extend my youthful appearance, the weight gain has been a real doozy.

However, I have managed to lose most of that weight over the past year and a bit through common sense eating and regular exercise. But my size and shape are definitely different from when I was in my twenties- a fact of life that I have resigned myself to as it’s better than the alternative- having no body at all.

I guess I’m becoming a more spiritual person as a result of facing these facts about my body and the ageing process, which in my opinion, is a good thing. I mean, who couldn’t use a bit more spirituality in their life? Plus, I’m starting to change my view of what is considered “beautiful” which is providing a great sense of peace and well-being. I’m really starting to appreciate the beauty in women who are 40+. I’m starting to realize that confidence, wisdom gained through life experience, and knowing oneself, is incredibly beautiful, and even sexy!

Sure, I really appreciate the smooth skin and gorgeous physiques of women in their twenties, but instead of comparing myself to them, I silently say “bless you sister-it’s your turn now” and make a mental list of reasons I’m grateful to be in my forties. This always helps me feel better and centers me back into myself and the reality of the wonderful life I have now. It’s definitely not the same life I had when I was in my twenties, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that I like the life I have now SO MUCH MORE…

 

Esther Kane, MSW, (www.estherkane.com) is a psychotherapist, author and women’s emotional well-being expert. As a respected speaker on women’s issues, she has written and published three self-help books for women including What Your Mama Can’t or Won’t Teach You: Grown Women’s Stories of Their Teen Years; Dump That Chump: A Ten-Step Plan for Ending Bad Relationships and Attracting the Fabulous Partner You Deserve, and It’s Not About The Food: A Woman’s Guide To Making Peace with Food and Our Bodies. The book and audioprogram is available to order online at http://www.itsnotaboutthefood.net

 

My Mother’s Compliments

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s and what does it mean to you now?

As a young girl, my mother showered me with compliments. She thought I was absolutely beautiful. She also thought she was the only woman in the world to ever give birth. That was lovely but I always felt shy about it. Now, as I grew older and went on with my life and traveled, I felt in my mind that I was always searching for similar comments. Because of that, I always tried to have everything neatly in place and look as good as I could. Once in a while I’d get a comment, not about beauty but about cuteness, adorableness, attractiveness, well put together.

At this age, I’m actually still searching for that because the mother/daughter relationship…you want to keep that going. I have heard over the years that a lot of mothers, when their daughters become 13 or 15, say “You don’t look very good” or “Can you do your hair differently?”

Not my mother. I was very, very lucky. It kind of made me search  for that repetition. I don’t really know if I’m beautiful or not because it was only really my mother who really thought so

Whatever I came out with, my mother thought was beautiful. The only thing she told me not to do was to wear brown, and that’s pretty small. No criticism. One interesting thing about her that connects the look to the mind was, for example, shopping for a prom dress. She would say, “Bring me your babysitting money and let’s go downtown. I’ll bring an equal amount of money and we will shop for a dress, very reasonable, simple and elegant. Then we’d come home and we’d put a scarf, the pearls, to make it look more ritzy. I couldn’t afford the price of dresses that my peer girls were purchasing, and nobody knew that I got a more reasonable dress because the posture or the pearls…

My mentor and idol was always Grace Kelly because she was elegance and charm.

Did you think of your mother as a beautiful woman?

Well, I thought she was. I am medium height and she was extremely tall. She thought she was too tall, but she could dress and look very attractive. I tried to take her advice and get rid of my nervousness and build my self-esteem.

So beauty to me meant to put on a nice appearance and so doing, to be able to really relax in the event, evening or dinner and hopefully get some kind of “Gee, you look great tonight.” Some kind of compliment. But if I didn’t get the compliment, that was okay.

Have your ideas about beauty changed over the years…your idea of being attractive or beautiful or cute?

Not at all.

Barbara, 69

San Francisco, October 2010

 

Beauty is more inward than outward

What did beauty mean to you when you were in your 20s?

In my twenties I enjoyed wearing clothes that were in style. I liked changes everyday, pretty colors, and things that were unique and made me stand out a little. That  was quite important to me. I wore little make-up; it wasn’t that popular then. I was always rather thin and active. I didn’t have to worry about my weight. I was quite proud that I was thin. But I also was very small busted (almost non-existent) and was neurotic about that fact.  It took my self-esteem down a lot.

What does beauty mean to you now?

 Now beauty is more inward than outward. I’m a little happy that I have my gray hair and don’t have to spend time coloring it, and the Bible says its a good thing. That was all I needed to know. My clothes  are about the same. I  watch my weight and try to stay fit. I realize now that frame is inherited and not to be proud of the fact that I’m thinner than most woman my age. My body image is more normal, and (ideas about) bust more normal too. I wear more make-up too, to accent my eyes. Otherwise my face looks very blah. I still like to look by best.

If different, why have your ideas about beauty changed over the years?

The Bible has influenced my thinking  tremendously. I now believe inner beauty is the real beauty. Kindness and a smile are more beautiful than gold or silver and an expensive outfit. Goodwill (store) here I come!

Mara

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