How do you feel when you take a long deep look at yourself in the mirror?
Or while making a video? I have more hangups about my image than I realized. Last week I made a short video using my iPhone. I was able to watch myself as I recorded–and that’s where it got challenging. I spent a good bit of time preparing. I wrote a loose script to keep from rambling. I moved to various locations trying to avoid unappealing visual backdrops. I fussed with natural lighting and fussed about what to wear and how the blemish on my chest would look. Settled on a bandaid.
Making the video I got totally caught up in the minute details of my face. My neck has a new sag; there is a bit of cheek jowl that didn’t used to be there… I’ve been told to smile more lately (another story…) so I was conscious of my mouth’s downward curve and the lack of symmetry when I talk. It is hard to watch oneself in this way, and remain objective particularly if you have a strong internal critic. Of course, each time a critical thought appeared, or I tried to look less ‘stern’ I fumbled my message. Stop, hit delete, and start again. At least 10 times.
My inner critic had a field day with this.
I got so *bleeping* caught up in the superficial aspects of my video that it became torturous. But it’s done and live (here’s the link) and I survived.
Much of my struggle was about aging–though it didn’t seem that way initially. I was judging myself in general, but subtle thoughts of how aging might affect other people’s perception of me rolled in.
If we still see our younger self in the mirror and are confronted with the current, aging version we have to reconcile the two. It accentuates the struggle many women have in accepting the visible signs of aging. What we fail to realize is that no one else is seeing us the way we see ourselves. I let the critic roll in and in that self-defeating mode I subjected myself to unnecessary anxiety and self-doubt. I’m not alone.
We’re subjected on a daily basis to images of women, always young, thin, perfection. It’s smoke and mirrors—a trick of good photography and generous photoshopping. After decades of exposure to media images of the ideal woman we look in the mirror and our aging face doesn’t measure up. It’s not supposed to. What makes us fabulous and and engaging and appealing is who we are. How we show up every day is not based on our skin elasticity, clothing, or hair color.
If we buy into the “youth is better than old” myth I guarantee you will feel less valuable and “old”.
The answer? Is it as simple as no longer reading the magazines and buying into the anti-aging hype?
I think it lies, in part, in examining ourselves with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. Listing the positives, not the negatives. Focusing on the contribution we are to our family and friends and the world around us. All of which are not restricted to a certain age.
We must take back the narrative.
No longer allowing ourselves to be defined by popular culture. We call out ageist tactics when they appear and we decide how we want to live.
In videoing myself–and looking at myself speaking and moving and thinking and trying to engage with an unseen audience I had the privilege of seeing myself in real time. And I discovered a few things.
Yes, a light foundation evens out skin tones.
It is possible to appear without mascara.
I have a pretty smile.
Bandaids that match my skin tone can disappear in front of a camera.
And, I conveyed my message–with a few um’s and a imperfect delivery. And it was just great.
The critic shows up more often than I’d like. Yet way less often than it used to.
When I get in critical mode I am distracted from the joy of living and creating the kind of daily existence I desire.
It is the gateway to anxiety and then to self-doubt and then to feelings of worthlessness. That merry-go-round disappears, or lessens, when we begin to accept what we see in the mirror. When we start to remember all that’s good about being who we are.
It starts with a willingness to take a hard long look and to see the beauty there. To remind ourselves of the value and beauty we bring to our daily world. And go on about our business. Right? Speaking up, making adjustments, embracing opportunities, and not letting ourselves be limited by ageist attitudes.
It’s a tough reality for some of us. But we only have two choices. We keep getting older. Or we die.
What decision will you make? I’m opting to embrace the life I have, the face and the body.
Awkward, glorious, complicated, and oh so much fun.
*I wrote about embracing our aging back in 2013 and, in reviewing it I see that my personal story still feels right.
*Note: on a whim I applied for a casting call for women, age 40 to 75, who embrace aging naturally. They wanted women who would appear with little to no makeup and who were comfortable with wrinkles, freckles and all that comes with age. So I sent my selfie with no makeup and did an impromptu video on my phone–and I got invited for the first round of interviews. Even if I get no further I’m thrilled. I put myself out there. I acknowledge that being 62 is just fine. It was much easier than that damned video I made for you. The photo shoot is Tuesday in NYC. Details to follow.