Is it just me, or do you ever read a magazine and then feel totally depressed about yourself? Or peruse social media and have a sudden sense of inadequacy?
I love fashion, so I like to buy magazines and peruse the ads and pictures for style inspiration. I love make-up too, and I should probably confess that I am a skin cream-a-holic. I have a whole drawer dedicated to my cream “graveyard” of products that I bought but didn’t like.
Why then did I buy them…well for starters I am vain. It has always been a flaw of mine. Not the “I think I am beautiful” kind of vain, more the “I am never beautiful enough” kind of vanity. I have never considered myself particularly attractive, I am, however, the type who would never run out of the house without my concealer and mascara on. If I was stuck on a desert island I would take my concealer and mascara before food and water, because I would rather die looking good than live long enough without make-up to be rescued. Sad and embarrassing yet true!
So now that I have admitted my vanity, time to open the closet door on my hypocrisy too. I am getting older and I love aging. I have never felt better or been happier with myself, but I hate looking older most days and while I have never resorted to cosmetic procedures to fix my face, I probably would if I could afford it. I despise myself for feeling this way. I am aware intrinsically that my worth is not tied to my youth or my looks and I value other aspects of myself so much more than looks; yet I still look at myself and see the signs of aging as negative.
This feeling that looking old is not acceptable is heightened by the fact I never see women who look old in magazines, advertisements or even on social media anymore. Women I know to be my age or older look 20 years younger and even they do not look young enough in many eyes. Then there is the dichotomy of looking too young or too cosmetically enhanced. You know those people we see that have obviously overdone the Botox, and those joker lips…how does that happen?? Okay I don’t ever want to be that person. I want to get old and still look like me. The best me a vain me can be, but me…wrinkles and all. Besides, if I am being totally honest my eyes are droopy enough, throw a little Botox in there and my eyelids will end up at my chin!
Advertisements for women in my age group are filled with teenagers and twenty-something’s who have not got a single wrinkle. Yet somehow they are the image shown with the anti-wrinkle miracle creams, as though this is what I should look like. And if they do happen to use a woman of an older age group the image is so photo-shopped, they might as well have used the teenager. No wonder we have this warped sense of what we should look like or what is beautiful. We are only ever shown one side of the beauty coin. There is no miracle cure or cream for aging, unless of course you count death. Just great marketing aimed at robbing our wallets and self-esteem.
Add to this imagery the photo-shopped bodies and surgically-enhanced images that are purposed as real women and you are left with a recipe for poor self-esteem. Well, frankly, I am sick of this imagery. When did getting old become a proverbial albatross. Aging is a privilege that is not given to us all. It is the time in our lives when we come into our own emotionally and when we women hit our sexual prime. We have gained wisdom, strength and fortitude that comes with aging and life experiences. We are the most beautiful we have ever been, inside and out.
Every wrinkle, sag and bag has been earned. We have lived, loved, lost and grown. We have learned endless lessons and become our best selves, and yet we have no value according to various forms of media. Even the young are not truly good enough, their butts are not big enough, or they are too big, they are not thin enough, or they are too thin…the criticisms are endless. The cycle is never ending and it is sending the message to our youth that young women will never be good enough and old women are worthless.
Have you looked at social media lately? I have seen pictures of people that I vaguely know, and have not even recognized them. I thought they had plastic surgery or another drastic procedure, only to see them in real life circumstances and they look the same as before the picture. The selfies are so orchestrated and doctored that no one actually looks like themselves anymore. We have become obsessed with image and forgotten substance. We have created images that are not realistic or achievable and presented them as the ideal. We have created an environment that guarantees our failure. All based on image.
This is not what I want for myself or for my daughter. I want my daughter to understand her worth as a person. I want her to respect diversity, intelligence, kindness and resilience. I want her to see beauty in every face not just the photo-shopped Barbie images. I don’t want her to be afraid of or disappointed in her image.
Now the question is how do we change this image oriented monstrosity. I don’t know the answer to this, and I am only one voice, but this is where I begin. There is no monster under my bed…there is just me.