“Mirror, mirror on the wall, reflecting all you see, if only you’d reflect the one that lives inside of me.”
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, reflecting all you see,
if only you’d reflect the one that lives inside of me.”
All he said was, “I can make you look twenty years younger! It wouldn’t be that difficult really, just make some of those facial wrinkles go away. You’ve still got a beautiful face.” Mark, the man who said this was an old friend I hadn’t seen in over ten years, since we lived in Philadelphia and were triathlon workout buddies. Now, a successful dermatologist, Mark was in town for a surgeon’s conference, which gave us the opportunity to catch up on one another’s lives.
The comment put me on the defense, and I reacted by deflecting it with a reserved, “Oh, really? Well, I’ll give it some thought.”Throughout our visit and even after we said our goodbyes I found myself stuck on those few words Mark uttered, “I can make you look twenty years younger.”When I take the time to think about that statement and to wait for a feeling response, what comes up is the basic fact that I really DON’T want to look twenty years younger!What I want to feel alive in my body now!I want to be the best possible fifty-something me!
Our society has conditioned women to buy into the quick fix, the magic pill, and the instantaneous diet that will allow us to hold on to the hope of youth forever.Media images constantly bombard us with what women “need” to make us look younger, thinner, fitter, sexier and more glamorous than what is currently reflected in the mirror.
What is it that we really need? Sophie Tucker thinks it’s the following:
“From birth to age 18 a girl needs good parents,
from 18-35 she needs good looks,
from 35-55 she needs a good personality,
and from 55 on, Honey, she needs cash.”
I think what women really need is a magic elixir that would instantly clean the house from top to bottom, give us two extra hours a day for ourselves, ban “one size fits all” clothing, and applaud every single effort that a woman makes to age authentically and naturally in a body faced with the real challenges and emotional struggles of everyday life!
Am I anti-appearance enhancement?Not at all, but I don’t think it’s the answer we crave it to be.Much like the quest for the ultimate diet, when an individual puts too much hope in external solutions without any internal focus- you come up empty, deflated and generally feeling worse about yourself.I feel any alteration to the body is a personal choice.Whether it’s a change in hair color, teeth whitening, or investing in a miracle bra; to more dramatic appearance alterations such as liposuction, breast implants, tummy tucks, or face lifts, each is an individual decision.These body adjustments can enhance outward appearance and may improve a woman’s satisfaction with her body.
So, if you are contemplating a nip or a tuck in the future, or have begun to give up feeling good about yourself in your present stage of life, consider another option before selecting the next external fix.Consider an inner body lift.Begin to put faith back in your own artistry – your own development and re-creation of your self from within.I think you’ll find starting from a filled up, nourished inner self will make the reflection on the outside that much more dazzling.
What is currently going on in your life?Are you out of balance in nurturing your physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual self? Commit to investing the time and energy to replenish any of these areas that may be depleted.Because you can’t look good on the outside, unless you feel good on the inside.
I care about my appearance and image as much as any woman, but the need for external validation about my beauty, or my “perceived” beauty plays a lesser role in the equation.My take on beauty now, in my fifties is that it is primarily an internal creation.It is, to a large extent, a combination of attitude, healthy eating, and physical action.I now realize these are aspects of my life that I do have the choice to be in control of.
Twenty years ago I was a much thinner version of me, a part-time model and fitness promoter trying desperately and unsuccessfully to keep my balance in a very competitive business.With each fashion shoot I entered I would hear some version of the following, “You look great, good bone structure, great height, big eyes, but could you lose a few more pounds? You know how the camera makes you look heavier.”Fierce dieting succeeded in giving me the ectomorphic look the camera’s eye sought, but the lack of nutrition and continued seeking of external approval drained me of my self-confidence and whittled away at my spirit.When I was my most perfect for the camera was when I felt the most insecure about myself.
I found this stage of my life boxed in by “shoulds:” What I should look like, how much I should weigh, what color my hair should be, should I worry about another wrinkle or an added curve on my body?In reality, these pieces are a small part of the total package that makes up who I am.
Who am I? I am my spirit, my energy, my compassion, my love of sunsets, hiking, and Siamese cats! I am a physical body that is strong and light and wild!When I concentrate on being alive and active in my body, my spirit soars!When I am alive in my body, it tells me when it needs to exercise, to move more, or to rest.It tells me when it is thirsty, hungry and full. It tells me whether I need to speed up or slow down.When I am alive in my body I feel all my emotions. When I am alive in my body, my thoughts, feelings, and spirit are dancing out my life story.
How does one escape our cultural body image traps?Start by waking up and becoming alive in your body.
Step 1: Value your self.
Becoming alive in your body begins with accepting yourself as the unique, wonderful person that you already are.Valuing yourself can start with befriending yourself and being as kind and gentle with you as you are with your best girlfriends. Let go of judgment and your critical eye and embrace all of the good, amazing strengths that you bring into life.Accept the stage of life that you are in right now and enjoy it. As Brigitte Bardot says,“Every age can be enchanting, provided you live within it.”
Step 2:Be surrounded by positive, supportive people.
Creating and nurturing a positive support system keeps your forward momentum going.Make a list of all the supportive friends in your life. This list could include family, friends, and co-workers.Do you have a plan in place for regularly sharing time with this special support group?Create daily, weekly, and monthly opportunities for connecting on some level.Supportive people give you emotional stimulation, emotional support and emotional challenge to help you be your best. Also, be on the lookout for ways to open yourself up to meeting new friends. Seek out positive, alive people and welcome them into your circle.
Step 3:Cultivate your wildness.
Are you a wild woman? Do you even acknowledge this fabulous part of you?There are many ways to express your wild side: dance, breathe, exercise, move, play, laugh, cry, paint, write, and create! What inspires you? What makes you laugh? What would make your spirit open up to all of the possibilities of life?As long as it’s not illegal, immoral, or fattening, go for it!
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, who wrote Women Who Run With the Wolves says,“There is no “supposed to be” in bodies.The question is not size of shape or years of age, or even having two of everything, for some do not.But the wild issue is, does this body feel, does it have right connection to pleasure, to heart, to soul, to the wild?Does it have happiness, joy?Can it in its own way move, dance, jiggle, sway, and thrust?Nothing else matters!”
Step 4:Mentor other women.
Many women have trouble in valuing the wonderful gifts they have to offer to others.The wonderfully alive artist SARK feels “Mentoring is a way for women to share energy and gifts, to teach rituals and traditions and to assist others in living more succulent lives.”
Reach out and give another woman the value of your experience and outlook on life. By becoming alive in your body, and being attentive to your inner needs you create a solid foundation to grow into your most beautiful self – A self that radiates energy and vitality and enthusiasm for life that any mirror would reflect.
“Years may wrinkle the skin; but to give up faith,
courage, ambition, enthusiasm for the future,
and the spark of continuing growth wrinkles the soul!”
Pacific Crest Outward Bound School, Book of Readings.
Lauve Metcalfe, M.S. is a wellness consultant and on the faculty of the University of Arizona College of Medicine based in Tucson, Arizona.Lauve is the author of Reshaping Your Body, Rethinking Your Mind: a Practical Guide to Enhancing Body Image and Improving Self Esteem and performs a one-women show entitled “Snapshots of Life”. Lauve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.