I’m 35 and I wouldn’t call that old, but I am aging. That’s how it works right? You’re born and you start aging. In the beginning, you’re excited to hit new numbers, like the children who are so excited about getting to hold up 5 fingers instead of 4. Somewhere along the line that changes, for me, I feel it changing now. This week I heard that when you hit 35 if you have children you’re considered a high-risk pregnancy. I would never have thought a healthy woman’s eggs are old at 35, I keep wondering if that’s propaganda perpetuated by insurance companies to make more money or if research not sponsored by big pharma would actually back it up (if you can’t tell I’m a skeptical one). I’m nowhere near considering having children, I think at this point in my life it would be a miracle if I ended up having kids. Not a physical miracle, but a mental miracle because it would mean I’d had a complete shift in mindset, a shift in priorities. But I’m getting off track. Today I wanted to talk about what no one seems to talk about, that’s aging.
My 93-year-old grandmother would remind me that age is just a number and that she doesn’t feel her age. She’s my role model not just for aging but for life in general, but recently I’ve seen some photos and videos that remind me my body is in fact aging. I’m thicker around the middle than I’ve ever been. There are more silver-grey hairs sprouting from my head than I can count. My face is beginning to take the shape of my mom and my aunt’s. A hint of the "Chadwick jowls" (as my mom would call them) are forming. I’m noticing stronger lines settling into my forehead, deeper lines like parenthesis around my mouth and little crow’s feet next to my eyes. They are baby lines, maybe you wouldn’t notice them, but I’m watching the youth leave my face little-by-little and in exchange, an older version of myself is replacing it. When I slow down and listen to my self-talk, I’m more than surprised to notice that I’m not being kind to myself with these changes. I had always promised myself I'd embrace the aging process, that's easier to say when you're in your late 20's. Watching a beautiful commercial yesterday that included me I was horrified at how I looked. I could see the extra pounds and the age creeping up, but it’s the second thought that bothered me more. Is it because I’m actually horrified or because I’m buying into what society tells me beauty is?
Looking at my friends who are also aging, I see so much beauty and youth in all of them, in fact, so many of them seem to get more and more beautiful to me as they age, and I wonder why I can’t see that in myself? I would never call the aging process bad, there's the quote about how aging is a privilege denied to so many and I’m grateful that I’m aging for that reason and so many more. Much good does come with age. I care (mostly) less and less of what others think, I’ve learned that I can, and do, get back up after I fall down, I’ve learned so much about myself, others and the world. I'm much wiser than I was 10 years ago.
It bothers me that so much brain space is pre-occupied with the idea of staying impossibly thin forever. Especially because I think that’s way more about what society has told me I should want than what I actually do want! This is a narrative I’m working on changing. Meditation and slowing down is helping but I wonder how else I can change the narrative in my head? I will not be someone who pursues holding onto my youth at all costs. I want to age with class and grace, I’ll let my hair turn grey proudly and naturally. When I was younger I starved myself on the regular to keep my weight down (I believe the clinical term these days would be disordered eating). Now I eat until I’m full and I enjoy what I eat. I wouldn’t say it’s too excess, but the tradeoff is that I’m no longer thin in comparison to the body I had. I’ve traded thin for strong and solid. Bucking trends and bucking society is normally something I savor and enjoy, but allowing self-love for a body that doesn’t seem beautiful by “societies impossible standards” is such a harder pill to swallow.
Then I get mad at myself for conforming to that bullshit. Why do I even care? I would love to tell you I don't ever think about this superficial crap, but I do. I’m not writing this article because I want to you say “Oh but Alisha you’re beautiful”. I’m writing this because I wonder how many women out there are as uncomfortable in their own skin as I am? I have a sad feeling that most women feel like I do on some level. talking to girlfriends about this over the years, I can’t speak for the whole U.S. Female population but I would bet a lot of women feel like I do. The really horrible part is that when I was 10 pounds lighter I wasn’t any more comfortable in my own skin than I am now, I just liked the pictures I saw of myself better. I’m not sure that tradeoff is worth it.
This is just the beginning for me of looking in the mirror and seeing age. As I write this I think “you should write yourself a note, stick it on your mirror and remind yourself that aging is a privilege denied to many. That’s a start to changing your thoughts!” So excuse me, I need to go write myself a note…
Do you need to write yourself a note for your bathroom mirror too? If so, what would it say? What do you do to change the narrative of negative self-talk about your looks? What steps do you take to make sure you don’t buy into the “societal definition” of beauty?