"Mirror, Mirror on the wall..." I'm sure you can finish that sentence with ease, but if not, it ends with "who's the fairest one of all?" The only difference between our mirrors and the one in the movie Snow White is, there's no magic in them, just the reality our minds tell us that we see. So what does our reality tell us when we look in the mirror and how does it affect the love we have for ourselves as we continue aging? Love or the lack thereof is the starting point to how we view ourselves and move through the aging experience. Let's go a little deeper and don't worry I'll do my best to keep this short and sweet!
Which One is True?
I don't know about you, but every now and then (sometimes daily), the things I do not like about my body SCREAM at me in the mirror. However, I'm the only one who notices them, while other people say they never paid attention until I mentioned it, or they compliment what I complain about. In situations like that, I'm left trying to process why my outlook about what I see is so different from others, and I always settle with "I am my biggest critic." I feel we can all be our biggest critic, especially when body image and the changes our bodies go through during the aging process are in the picture. The thing is, when it comes to aging everything begins with self: self-love, self-esteem, self-image, and self-awareness. So how do we look in the mirror every time we turn one year older and fall in love with/or continue loving who is looking back at us? Well, the answer to that is we learn how to accept the things we cannot change and gain courage to change the things we can (Reinhold Niebuhr).
Aging Is Not Easy
Our bodies go through changes that are completely out of our control, but how we respond to these changes such as uncontrollable gray hairs or hair thinning, stubborn love handles, fluctuating weight, and wrinkles is the true game changer. I had a chance to participate in a Clubhouse session a few weeks ago with my friends from Old School Info and we talked about beauty and aging. One of the participants made a great point with reference to handling the changes our bodies go through, "give yourself permission to mourn the things that once were." That comment has been in my mind every since. My body doesn't look like it did when I was in my twenties, nor does it move the same way (my body is STIFF). My skin, it continues to freckle up (transparent moment: I'd probably never like my freckles if it never randomly became a popular thing in society *sigh), and I've even noticed wrinkles under my eyes. My body doesn't quickly adjust and lose weight like it once did, I have to work twice as hard. These are just a few of the ways that I silently tear myself apart when nobody is watching. However, just like the participant said, I can mourn what once was and accept the here and now.
Aging and self-love can be challenging, and while one is inevitable (aging) and the other is a choice, they're both possible to achieve. I'm sure you've heard the stories of older adults who talk about how their love for self is stronger than when they were younger. They emphasize that it has a lot to do with acceptance and the determination to continue moving.
The More You Know
Dove completed a study many moons ago and one of their findings was that "only four percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful." So, are the things we dislike about our bodies a true reality, or do they exist because of society's definition of what a "flaw" is? Ageism is all over the place and can play a role in how we view and love our aging bodies. We can embrace our changes, or allow them to control how we move through society. At any rate, as we continue aging, I feel the love we have for ourselves will help us fight against ageism and not give in to the many stereotypes about getting older.