Nature takes its course, and we should not be thinking of ageing being the worst thing ever. In today’s society, far too much emphasis is often placed on how we look – we are bombarded with images suggesting that to be valued you need to appear young and pretty.
How often do we convince ourselves that our lives will be transformed if we are thinner, prettier, have better skin, fewer wrinkles?
Body image and ageing
I asked Dr Linda Papadopoulos for her thoughts on body image and ageing.
Firstly, says Linda, we should not be thinking of ageing as being a problem. Being less beautiful should not equal lower self esteem. Worrying about how we look is such a waste of energy. We should be embracing the stage we are at. To be attractive to others you need to be the happiest, healthiest you – not the most beautiful you!
It is unfortunate that institutions such as the BBC do not offer enough role models over 50 so that women and ageing can be seen in a more positive light. We need to see more women like Hilary Clinton who are valued for their intelligence and stature, and not their youth! Body image is always subjective – and ideals change.
You are more attractive to others if you are self assured. The world does not revolve around the size of your bum, your nose, or the wrinkles around your eyes. You can impress with your skills and personality. You can only truly value your body when you value what’s inside.
We may reflect on our changing body shape as we age – but remember that if you are embarking on a new relationship, or making new friendships, people like and respect you for the way you are today – they have no idea what you were like when you were younger. The advertising industry might promise that it can slow the ageing process, but in reality there is little we can do to control changes to our bodies, so we need to acknowledge and embrace them.
The reflection in the mirror should not define you
Nobody is suggesting that you shouldn’t enjoy your clothes, or new lip gloss, but you need to feel good about yourself without them. The reflection in the mirror should not define you.
It can be hard to accept that youthful beauty is a fleeting gift – but it ultimately fades. The most successful older women are those who are aware that they have a million other qualities and contributions to offer. They have also learnt to relate to men on equal terms.
Taking up hobbies such as yoga or swimming can help us use our bodies in new ways. Art and photography help us define ourselves as women, rather than sex objects, and help us achieve new, more satisfying goals.
Our body image revolves around us. What we can control is our acceptance. Successful people come in all shapes, sizes and ages. You cannot attribute setbacks to how you look – why put unnecessary obstacles in your way? Base your future on where your passions lie – not on what you look like.
Many thanks to Dr Linda Papadopoulos for taking the time to share some of her thoughts on body image with Fabafterfifty readers. Dr Linda has written an excellent book, Mirror Mirror which goes into a lot more depth and included many exercises to help address body image issues. Personally I believe it makes excellent reading not just for women in our age group, but also for young women starting out in life, where so much emphasis is placed on looking a certain way- fuelled in part by the celebrity culture. I can highly recommend it!
Mirror, Mirror: Dr Linda’s Body Image Revolution (and it’s only 99p on kindle)