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

 

Alicia de Guatemala

What was the importance of beauty for you when you were in your 20s?

Life was beautiful because one was young. Instead, today I am old. I remember I was very beautiful because I went to dances and there were many men who sought me out and also boyfriends. But everything has changed. I thought a lot about dressing and makeup. I put on beautiful dresses and golden bracelets and necklaces which I liked at that time. I went to the hairdresser often. I lived in Guatemala but not in the capital. I lived in a small town. I did not come here to the US until I became a widow. But I married when I was 19 at my most beautiful age. I had 5 children: two girls and three boys.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now I am not beautiful anymore. [But] I always like to primp up. I always think of beauty. The most important thing for me now is that every day I have things to sign up for and come here to the center and meet my girlfriends. I never like not taking care of my appearance.

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

Because everything changes [over time]. One is not the same as when young. One likes more things.

I am not that interested in primping up but I always do it a little. I have the pleasure of taking daily baths and looking at myself in the mirror. I was never one of putting on lots of makeup and jewelry.

¿Qué significó para Ud. la belleza cuando tenía 20-29 años?

Era muy bonita la vida porque estaba uno joven. En cambio, ya hoy estoy grande. Me recuerdo que yo era muy bonita porque yo salía a los bailes y había muchos pretendientes y novios. Pero todo ha cambiado. Yo pensaba mucho en el vestido y arreglo. Me ponía bonitos vestidos y las cadenas de oro que me gustaba en este tiempo. Me he arreglado el pelo. Yo vivía ya en Guatemala pero no en la capital. Vivía en un pueblo. Vine aquí en los Estados Unidos hasta que yo me quede viuda. Pero yo me casé de 19 años en la edad mas bonita. Tuve 5 hijos: 2 hembras y 3 varones.

¿Qué significa para Ud. la belleza ahora?

Ahora ya no estoy belleza. Siempre me gusta el arreglo. Siempre pienso en la belleza. Lo mas importante a mi ahorita es que todos los días tengo cosas a de alistarme para venir aquí al centro y encontrarme con mis amigas. Siempre no me gusta estar desarreglada.

Si es diferente, ¿por qué han cambiado con los años sus ideas sobre la belleza?

Porque cambia todo. Uno ya vino y no es igual que cuando era joven. Uno tiene gusto de todo.

No tengo mucho deseo de arreglarme pero siempre aunque sea un poquito si. Tengo el gusto a todos los días bañarme y en el espejo verme cuando vengo. Nunca fui de usar muchos adornos ni de maquillarme.

 

Alicia, 86

San Francisco

Taille fine

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

Having lived in different countries, I have noticed how the sense of beauty varies in the different cultures. Some cultures emphasize different parts of the body (France: the size / weight (“taille fine”… thin waist); China: the nose and eyes, USA: teeth and hair, Holland and Nordic countries: the healthy/sporty look etc…)

Growing up in Europe, meant that the outward appearance wasn’t as important as it would be in the US for instance. So, the inner beauty has always been more important to me. I have never worn make-up, but I did watch my waist! (in my 20’s)

What does beauty mean to you now?

Now, in my 50’s, beauty is still what is in the inside of a person. (although I don’t think there isn’t one person in her 50’s who wouldn’t secretly wish to look 10 years younger!!!)

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

no difference

Mireille, 53

Grace and Stamina: Eva

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

I was in my 20’s from 1973 to 1983. During those years I had two very separate views of beauty.  One was physical beauty and the other was individual beauty.  Physical beauty is very fleeting and belongs to the young.  Back then I thought physical beauty was tall and slender with the hair, nails, and clothing always fresh.  It was my lofty goal.  I was always on a diet and looking for the perfect haircut.  When I finally got there at age 23 it felt great.  I loved it.  The attention was nice and I really liked looking in the mirror.

Then the cruel reality of disease and aging descended upon me.  I learned to accept that the physical beauty of youth fades quickly and we live much longer without it than with it.  Individual beauty is the aging process.  It is the ability to acknowledge and accept beauty in all its forms and ages.

What does beauty mean to you now?

Beauty now still means about the same except I am now on the other side of time and have the wisdom to see beauty through experience.  It is still the same; I am simply no longer in my 20’s. Remaining balanced about the aging process and viewing physical beauty as a small piece of the individual allows me to survive aging with grace and stamina.

Eva P. Balek, 56

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