By Lisa Duffy
Are you a women who harbors critical, negative feelings about how you look because of your age? If so, you are definitely not alone. Ladies, let's face it - we all want to look fabulous no matter our age. Yet, the world we live in bombards us with such unrealistic beauty standards that can make us feel like we don't measure up, especially as we get older.
It's true, our outward appearance reflects how we feel about ourselves, and definitely how we take care of ourselves, so it’s important to care for our whole person; body, mind, heart, and soul. But, when it comes to judging ourselves based on what other people think, we should stop and reflect on what beauty means for real. As my sixtieth birthday approaches, I’d like to share with you a timeless lesson I’ve learned - taken from a children's story - that has changed my perspective on aging and given me the freedom to be happy with and accept myself exactly as I am.
This advice comes from the book, The Velveteen Rabbit, and it’s a conversation that takes place between two toys, a younger, inexperienced Velveteen Rabbit and the older, wiser, Skin Horse:
“What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day...
“Real isn't how you are made” said the Skin Horse. “It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become Real ….”
The Skin horse goes on to explain what I believe is the best advice for aging women who may have negative feelings about aging:
“Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
You can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.” This last line is my favorite because it really addresses beauty as a person's self-worth, not just wrinkle-free skin.
Keeping It Real
In our twenty-three-year marriage, my husband and I have been through many financial, medical, and spiritual crises, all of which put our relationship through extreme tests. Despite all that stress, we still dance in the kitchen every so often while I'm making dinner, we laugh heartily at our inside jokes, and are still affectionately playful. But,
But at fifty-nine-years-old, I am physically very different than the girl my husband married years ago. I do my best to look attractive for my husband. But over the years, our kids’ needs have oftentimes taken precedence over things like a good mani/pedi at the salon. Even so, my husband says he loves my “cute toes.”
Stepping on the scale can be disappointing for me, but my husband still calls me his "hot wife." I've had four C-sections. I take Centrum "Silver." I hide my gray hair and eyebrows with the coloring expertise of, Luanne, my amazing salon hair specialist. I am relegated to reading glasses. But my husband still loves me. My children still smother me with kisses.
Most of all, when I see the physical imperfections I have because of childbirth or getting older, I know that God is happy with me because I've donated everything I had to my family - heart, mind, soul, and body. I belong to them and they are the ones who have made me real. No doubt the loved ones in your life have made you real, too!
If you're being hard on yourself for the way you look, don't forget that these natural signs of aging are quite often tell-tale of a life well-lived. This is a beautiful truth that hopefully more people will come to understand.
So, don't stress about the natural signs of aging. Your efforts to look and feel your best are important and definitely pay off, but it's okay to embrace the scars and experiences that make you unique. True beauty comes from being authentic and real, not just from makeup and clothes.
Never forget - your imperfections are what make you perfect!