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