|Chickadee in my yard|
Last summer I wrote an article about what beauty means to me. Its emphasis was on slowing down enough to enjoy the beauty around me, which meant simplifying my routines and, yes, my blogging reading, writing, and spending habits. I felt like life was passing me by in a blur, and that was not beautiful.
My attention has recently been drawn back to what beauty means to me, maybe to you, too, after a brief article I wrote elicited negative reactions based on a word I chose, which some interpreted as derogatory, when I intended no insult. The article started from a place of delight at posting and discussing what a real, unretouched female face looks like at 64, which I found beautiful with all its character, charm, and flaws—its realness—a rarity these days.
We just don't see what real looks like, hardly ever. Given the way advertising, film, and the print media can fill our heads with mental pollution, is it unethical for a beauty blogger to focus on looks? Aren't those of us who are showing the first signs of age interested in our bodies' changing landscape and the no longer-smooth canvas we had once assumed would always be there? No one can appreciate Shaw's famous quote, "Youth is wasted on the young," until you are old enough to get it.
Based on comments in a different article, I empathize with those of you who have had to wade through that pollution, slogging through feelings of shame or unworthiness—all because of what we see in the media, which we know isn't real, but which can still be hard to shed after years of internalizing it. I struggled with feelings of self doubt in my 20s and 30s, comparing myself to the models in the magazines and falling short.
In the late 90s, a new magazine called Mode helped reshape my vision of beauty. Within the pages were models like Kate Dillon and Barbara Brickner, who made me realize that size 12, 14, 16 wasn't just OK, it was glorious.
I am sure the world heard my shrieks of disappointment the day I received notice that Mode was being canceled. Thankfully, I had already begun to reframe my inner world and challenge the negative thoughts than ran through my head on a continuous loop. You don't deserve it. You'll always be fat. You have pores. They're laughing at you. You failure. And so on. It had become a form of self hypnosis that kept feeding off itself, and the more I listened to that inner chatter, the more I did what my head was telling me. Thoughts lead to action, don't they? In one moment, I realized that crap was not only damaging, it wasn't even true! So I made a choice to focus only on the good. I also began to treat myself well in that moment not wait until after I had worked out for n months or lost n pounds or whatever I told myself I needed to do before I allowed myself to feel happy.
It's not easy to smash through years of limiting beliefs, but I keep at it. Mode had already helped me stop comparing myself to the impossible "ideal," by giving me a more realistic image of myself. Rejecting the impossible helped me begin to live a more rewarding and authentic life. The irony is that getting older helps; each year I care less what other people think and more about the thoughts, activities, and people that enhance my life. The happier I am, the more joy radiates out to touch other people and bounce back onto me. It's a completely different kind of cycle than the one I'd experienced before.
I still make mistakes and I have setbacks when I put myself last. As for Hillary and Linda and all the rest of the famous women who are either reviled or tuned into replicas of themselves through photo editing, I believe that since we women are the primary target of these do-little products and completely-fake ads, we can influence the decision makers behind them, and the ads we see will become more real over time ... so that when we see a picture of a 64 year-old woman in print, we'll say to ourselves, "Yes, that's what 64 looks like" and have a much more realistic frame of reference.
Given all the current mental pollution, what do you do to center yourself and feel good about you?