Embracing our aging faces and bodies isn’t always easy–but it’s necessary

self-image, aging, anti-ageist, embracing our aging

Embracing our aging faces and bodies isn’t always easy–but it’s necessary

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.

 

12 Comments
  • Reba Linker
    Posted at 09:56h, 19 May Reply

    As the host of a Youtube show, I can so relate to this. I agree that it is time to look at ourselves with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation. It is a heroic challenge, really, in the face of our culture’s biases. So glad you are walking the journey, as am I, and ‘taking back our narrative” as you so rightly put it!

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:28h, 20 May Reply

      Thanks Reba, It is a bit of a challenge but something that rewards not only us but the generation coming behind us!!

  • Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com
    Posted at 11:39h, 19 May Reply

    Hi Walker! I so agree with the sentiment in this post. And regardless of what happens with your casting call you have garnered a real gift from the process. I love your quote “WHEN I GET IN CRITICAL MODE I AM DISTRACTED FROM THE JOY OF LIVING AND CREATING THE KIND OF DAILY EXISTENCE I DESIRE.” It says what I think it the most important thing any of us can do regardless of our age. Thanks for all the great reminders and you know all of your “fans” are waiting to hear what comes from your interview! ~Kathy

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:29h, 20 May Reply

      Thank you Kathy. It’s a real life shifter to may attention to those things that get in the way of the life I want to create. The blessing for me has come in being able to pay attention to that.
      Thoughts on the photo shoot to come!!

  • womenoffacebook
    Posted at 22:21h, 19 May Reply

    Hi Walker, This is such a great article. Today I went shopping for a dress. On my way to to the dress department I walked through the lingerie area and decided to try on a bra first. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror. I also didn’t like how the bra was fitting and so, I put it back and didn’t even get to look at dresses. I went straight to the sportswear department and purchase two workout tops. I told myself; I better walk and come back to try bras and a pretty dress in a month when my stomach is a little more flat. It’s amazing all the negative chatter that goes on in our mind in the matter of minutes. Your video experience really spoke to me. I relate very much to all of the emotions you describe! Thank you for sharing and thank you for shining some lights on what we can do to be less critical of our appearance. I love what you said: “WHEN I GET IN CRITICAL MODE I AM DISTRACTED FROM THE JOY OF LIVING AND CREATING THE KIND OF DAILY EXISTENCE I DESIRE.”

    Great share!

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:30h, 20 May Reply

      Natalie–I’ve let myself be decimated by a look in the mirror more than once! These days I still look, but I hold my body a little more erect, say a few positive words to myself and move on!!

  • heraldmarty
    Posted at 04:34h, 20 May Reply

    Good for you for stepping out like that! This is a great topic for me at the moment. For years I’ve struggled to cover an annoying gray streak in my hair. I used to be able to joke about it as the reward for a life well-lived, but now I’m a little nervous about what I might find if I stop covering it up. Just how much gray is under there now? I find myself looking at women who have let their hair go natural and I wonder if I have the courage to do it when the time comes. The funny thing is my best friend is decades older than me at 85 and she is the most remarkable woman. She works, volunteers and will gladly debate anyone on politics – she is my hero – and yes, she’s got the most beautiful white hair. Hum. You’ve definitely given me something to think about. Thanks!

    • Walker
      Posted at 07:32h, 20 May Reply

      Marquita, glad I could provide a gentle nudge. I didn’t start dying my hair so that hasn’t been an issue–and I’m loving the gray. It amazes me actually. Like you I have a prominent gray streak in front and less in back. Kinda fun. Hair is not the place, for me, where I worry about how age shows up.

  • Suzie Cheel
    Posted at 16:55h, 20 May Reply

    I know this feeling the more you look in the mirror and know you are love and loved the easier it gets. I am in my late 60s and living it xxxx

    • Walker
      Posted at 20:50h, 20 May Reply

      Thanks Suzie. It does get easier I think…and the idea that loving ourselves is the key is just perfect! Thank you.

  • barbarashallue
    Posted at 21:30h, 21 May Reply

    That is awesome, Walker! I’m not surprised you were called, though. I’ve noticed a big difference in my face and body in just the last few years, but I’m learning to silence that voice by remembering how old I am and stop comparing myself to anyone, much less anyone decades younger than me. Keep us posted on the interview!

    • Walker
      Posted at 11:36h, 25 May Reply

      Barbara,
      I think the comparing and thinking about aging is part of what gets us bogged down. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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