If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then behold yourself.
Becoming an artist is a process of learning to see.
As a painter struggles to represent an image, she must remind herself over and over that this painting is but a moment in a lifelong journey of learning to see. Therefore, if you think of yourself as the work of art, the canvas to embellish, that expression begins with learning to see yourself clearly.
Learning to see yourself clearly is as elusive as looking into a pond’s reflection on a breezy day. As we learn to look without judgment, and be present for what is before us, the wind drops and the image becomes clearer and more focused. Who is the shimmering reflection that you see in the surface of a pool? The image wavers and blurs as wind fans ripple across the water. Then in a moment of stillness and calm, there you are, clearer and more visible, seeing this version of yourself as if for the first time.
See Yourself Clearly
“I’m afraid of all of it, of wrinkles and sagging skin, declining hormones, loss of memory. My identity is tied up with my attractiveness, and I’m afraid I am going to lose it. It is freaking me out!” Kim, 47
”I actually think it is easier to love ourselves as we get older, there is more of US, less of what we think we should be.” Jane, 56
“For me, turning sixty is like taking the dark shadow of a mask off my face and letting my true light shine through.” Jerie, 60
“I’ve always been introverted and unsure of myself. Now I have emerged from my cocoon. For the first time, I am comfortable in my own skin. I’m sixty-one, and this is the sexiest I have ever felt. “ Marianne, 61
“I feel good about myself. Someone tells me every single week I am attractive. The struggles in my life and the resulting introspection have made me a stronger person. I know who I am. I know my strengths and shortcomings. I’m not afraid to reveal myself.” Carole, 67
As we grow older, our relationship to our appearance becomes both more challenging and more interesting. Our choices become more pronounced. Being aware of the passage of time heightens our relationship to the present.
Taking time to care for your appearance, and feeling pleased with the results, is important at any age. However, if caring for your appearance means striving to attain perfection, you will find growing older unbearably difficult and painful. There is nothing you can do to stop the aging process. Struggling to hang onto a youthful look has more to do with the past than the present. You need to ask yourself, “What is authentically beautiful to me? What do I value? What is a realistic use of my time and resources?”
What clouds our vision? For some artists, the critical inner voice can be so potent that they give up making art forever. In our culture, feeling critical of our looks is what we wake up to each morning for breakfast. Is it any surprise we can’t see ourselves clearly?
A single beauty standard is pervasive and accepted without question. We are expected to be on an endless quest for an idea of perfection in the form of slim, taut bodies; sculptured, dewy, unlined faces; thick, shiny hair; and eternal youthfulness. Everywhere we turn, we are promised secrets to attaining this level of perfection. No doubt about it, growing older can be a challenge, a cruel form of abuse to our already sensitive egos.
The First Step: No Age Qualifiers
Here is the first step: Strike from your vocabulary these sentences: “You look good for your age.” Or, “l look good for my age.” You look good, period. That’s it: No age qualifiers. Free yourself from the idea that you are a certain age with certain expectations and restrictions. If you don’t feel you look your best, what do you want to do differently? I think it is the ultimate compliment to look at someone and have no idea how old they are. They don’t necessarily look young, but they embody a certain glow and energetic presence.
Whatever birthday you most recently celebrated, don’t let the conversation with yourself or others get too negative. Make a few jokes with your friends about the absurdity of what is happening and then continue on with your pursuit of looking and feeling fabulous. Look around you. Incredible-looking women in their forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond are everywhere.
I was too unsure of myself to be audacious and confident in my twenties, but I am making up for it now. My inner babe is alive and kicking, and I am taking advantage of it by enjoying my mid-life sexiness. It helps that my profession keeps me tuned into the latest styles, and I never think of myself as too old to consider trying something new. Some magazines have a section on how to wear the newest styles depending on your personal decade, but I ignore it. If I like it, and it looks good on me, I go for it, appropriate decade be damned.
“When I read the decade section in Bazaar, sometimes the one that appeals to me most is the one for women in their seventies.” – Lea, 40
Incinerate the Critic with Creative Fire
If you are still a youngster, my advice is to make the most of what you have right now, today. Enjoy this phase of your life to the fullest. If you take care of your appearance as best you can at every age, it is that much easier to move into the next phase of your beauty as you grow older.
Go beyond beauty advice, strengthen your inner life, fill it with a creative fire that incinerates the critic, and allows you to move beyond judgement. When you remove the seeds of self-doubt and shame that are choking your true essence, you will blossom like a tree that is being nurtured and cared for, growing more beautiful with each passing season.
“And the beauty of a woman, with passing years only grows!”