I have a vivid memory of watching a black and white television show featuring a then very young Pat Boone as a teenager. His mother on the show was a fairly drab looking woman in a frumpy dress; her hair was worn in a bun, and it was gray. Growing up this is what we thought we would look like when we got older. And it wasn’t even remotely attractive.
So, it makes sense that most of us were indoctrinated, from a very early age, with a fear of aging. It also makes sense that we are inundated with ads to help us look younger, feel younger, or in some way slow down the aging process.
Too bad, none of that really stops us from aging.
I do have a remedy, and if it seems counter-intuitive at first, give it a chance. My foolproof remedy for aging is to fall in love. What’s counter-intuitive about it? I’m suggesting you fall in love with yourself!
People who have self-love have an inner glow, an energy, a certain flair for life that belies their age, their outward appearance, and their social status. They are full of life.
In working with women of all ages, I find a common pattern that impedes our ability do this, to be able to free ourselves of this belief that older = worse, or ugly, or unattractive, or undesirable. And reaching age 50 is a turning point for most women, so I urge you to consider breaking this pattern immediately:
Stop Comparing. Stop Competing.
No, you say! I’m not like that! I’ve never been very competitive!
But secretly, we know it’s true. Do you notice what other women are wearing? Do you listen to them talk and either approve or disapprove of what they are saying? And most important, do you look at them, imagine what their lives are like and decide you come up short? Do you imagine they have something better than you? It could be anything: a husband, a boyfriend, a hairstyle, a wardrobe, a job or career, beautiful, successful children, a bigger house, more opportunities…. The list is probably endless!
I’m sure you’ve heard this story: A man looks at a job description and sees 2 out of 10 ways he matches it and goes for the job. A woman looks at the same one, sees 8 out of 10 she matches and self-selects out of the running because she can’t do them all!
We do the same things in our lives! We self-select out of owning our own value, our own wonderfulness, because we don’t believe we measure up to the standards we fantasize are required! So let’s stop doing it!
And a great way to stop it is by self-love. If you don’t love yourself, who will? I ask many women that question, and they seem stymied about how to do it. Here are some tips:
- Make a list of what you like about you instead of continuing to list what’s wrong with you.
- Think back to when you were a little girl. Were you kind, generous, caring? Did you have a sweetness about you? Try to remember how that felt, to just be a child and not judge yourself harshly.
- Write down the many challenges you have faced and overcome to get where you are today. Give yourself credit for those!
- When you catch yourself comparing your qualities to someone else’s and coming up short, ask yourself some questions: If you were actually like her, what would be the drawbacks? Would you be able to live the way you choose? Would your life really be better?
- When you get caught up in thinking something else is “better” than what you have, change the word to “different” and see what happens.
What we’re really talking about is being kinder to yourself. Learning to accept and appreciate who we are rather than criticize and judge who we are.
I’ve had to struggle with appearance issues my whole life. Not because there is anything particularly wrong with how I look. I have 3 sisters, all of whom are 5’2” tall. I was 5’6” and felt like a giant among them. Plus, they were good at teasing me and telling me I was fat and ugly (two of the worst things you could ever be when we were kids!). I believed them. I looked at almost every other girl as if she were a vision of perfection. I wanted thinner legs, I wanted to be shorter, I wanted to be anyone but myself!
What saved me was my interest in life. I got more interested in doing things than caring about how ugly I was. Much to my surprise, I had friends, I had fun, I did things I wanted to do. But deep inside was a niggling self-doubt that I would never really be attractive enough to measure up.
That doubt took years to be assuaged. The benefit of the doubt is that it led me on a journey of self-discovery, personal development, studying metaphysics and cosmology, learning to find a higher purpose in life and not be caught in the downward spiraling of self-imposed despair. It worked. I learned that first of all, appearance is only an expression of what I feel about myself. When people meet me, they meet my energy first—and it colors the way they see the rest of me.
So, when I concentrate on living from the inside out, loving my life, loving the ways I get to contribute and interact with others and my community, it changes my experience from one of fear that I don’t measure up to a joyful appreciation of what life has to offer.
Age doesn’t affect that kind of mindset! I recently met an 85-year-old woman who is vital, energetic and utterly beautiful! She is a widow who has a wonderful life, full of evenings out, appreciation of the arts, great friendships and a sense of fulfillment. She immediately became my role model! Instead of comparing myself to her, I choose to emulate her!
Because of self-love, I find it easy to fall in love with everyone else, create meaningful relationships and wonderful opportunities. And that, my friends, really works.