Recently, I went to a lecture about women, aging and self-esteem. It was disconcerting.
The lecturer, a therapist in her mid-50s, deals frequently with women who are unhappy with how they look, and who feel unprepared for the changes that they are seeing as they get older. The lecturer acknowledged that women in their 50s (and over) are in a "beauty bind." In the past, women (like our grandmothers) aged together. The playing field was level. Very few of them had the option to have any kind of plastic surgery (that was the domain of Hollywood movie stars), so they all aged together.
The problem is when a woman feels that she must look younger to compete for a man, a job, a place in the world without feeling invisible; it's then that she does things that she may not want to do, like plastic surgery. The therapist also pointed out that if a woman feels that she is aging and losing the battle to compete, she can get depressed and engage in unhealthy and counter-productive behaviors like drinking too much, using drugs, and developing eating disorders that are normally associated with much younger women. The statistics were dramatic.
The lecture got me thinking about all the ways the media makes us feel like aging is such a horrible thing, and one to be avoided at all costs. Magazine covers and ads with perfect, young bodies and faces just perpetuate the belief that younger is better. True, it's always been like this, but the means to achieve a more youthful look have never been more accessible than they are now. All you have to do is go to a Botox Party, and voilí , you've turned back the clock (at least for four months).
I decided that this was a kind of wake-up call for all of us, no matter what our ages. In other words: it's time to re-frame how we look at how we look. We can't look 20 when we're 40, and we can't look 30 when we're 50. It simply isn't possible. And, if "looking younger" is your goal, then you may be in for a lot of heartache.
I'm not saying to give up and give in. Far from it! Nor am I telling women to forgo having plastic surgery or other kinds of procedures. But before you start to think about trying to make yourself look younger, ask yourself first whether you've taken steps to make yourself be the most healthy, fit and engaged version of yourself at whatever age you are.
- Stopped sitting in the sun and started using sunscreen?
- Stopped smoking?
- Started a good skin care program?
- Gotten and kept your weight down to where it should be?
- Started an exercise program where you walk (or run) every day?
- Begun a sustainable strength-training program to your body toned and fight osteoporosis?
- Done an honest assessment of hair, clothes and makeup?
- Made a commitment to improve your health by eating the right foods and staying away from the wrong ones?
When I turned 50, I stepped back and assessed every part of my life and saw that I was heading in the wrong direction. The post-menopausal weight was piling on, my muscle tone was gone, and I was starting to look, for lack of a better word, frumpy. Not wanting to continue along that path, I put myself on simple, uncomplicated programs (including what's listed above), which helped me lose the weight, get strong and lean, improve my skin and "fight the frump."
The real message, from one "woman over 50"³ to another is this: Embrace, engage, take control, and live your life. Take care of your body, exercise your mind, be a part of the world, stay connected with people who are supportive, and you'll discover a secret that many women over 50 who are doing these things already know: if you feel good, you look good. And if you feel and look good, age will be the furthest thing from your mind.
I'm the National Osteoporosis Foundation 'Ambassador for Bone Health' and a fierce champion of positive aging. I'd love to meet you! Join the AARP Illinois team and me at the National Osteoporosis Foundation annual event in Chicago on Tuesday, Wednesday, April 17th., where I'll moderate a panel on bone health for life. Click here for details. For more tips on living your best life after 50 (or 60, or 70...) check out "The Best of Everything After 50: The Experts' Guide to Style, Sex, Health, Money and More" and www.bestofeverythingafter50.com. Keep me posted on how you're doing by subscribing to me on Facebook and "tweeting" me on Twitter at @BGrufferman.
(A version of this article appeared earlier on HuffingtonPost.com)
Also of Interest
- Grey Hair Gets Hotter
- To Kill Ticks, Dry Clothes, Then Wash Them
- Join AARP: Savings, resources and news for your well-being
See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more