A New Currency
On most days, when I’m feeling good, I don’t want to waste time, not a second squandered on anything that doesn’t feed my soul. On others, I do waste precious time and energy wishing things were different — if only I could go back in time. Letting go of youth is hard to do in our culture.
It all starts with how we treat ourselves on a daily basis. How many times during the course of a day do you find yourself saying mean things to yourself about your appearance? It may seem innocent: “I look fat in these jeans,” “my skin looks saggy,” “I have a new wrinkle,” “my arms look like wobbly jelly.” But when we say these debasing remarks to ourselves, we feel a constant unease and don’t know why.
It’s no wonder we are so hard on ourselves. Modern reality tells us not to age, that good looks are our currency, our power and what makes us vital in today’s world. We hear how we should be very afraid to lose our youthful appearance by thousands of images and words broadcast, printed, tweeted, portrayed in movies, featured in magazines and blogs, bombarded to us dozens of times a day. We ingest these messages and the battle of time is waged secretly within our own minds and in isolation. We begin to buy into an anxiety-producing culture imperative to look younger than we truly are.
As we age many of us face a paradox: we want to radiate beauty and be admired, yet we long be ourselves and free from the opinion and judgement of others. No one wants to look frumpy, but what about looking and feeling the best we can at the age we are at rather than panicking and fearing the years ahead? What if we buy into a new currency: accepting ourselves, helping others, making the world a better place and developing interests that we have denied ourselves for far too long?
If all our energy is invested in wishing we looked younger, we lose our creativity and opportunity in the moment; we repeat the patterns of the past and cling to ego and the insatiable need for validation from the outside.
I have a young daughter, and only since her appearance in my life have I realized how automatic and frequent that out loud self criticism can be. SO, I have vowed to stop. Not just for my sake, because it IS a waste of time, but because she will face enough challenges in her life, and she won’t learn that one from me.
Funny because what inspired me to write this blog was another writer who is a mother and expressed just what you are saying: She didn’t want her daughters to criticize themselves for not being perfect. Sounds like you are doing the same…go Sara!
So far, my three daughters haven’t bought (or been sold) into the appearance thing that much. They’re more interested in accomplishing things. Terri’s right that women of a certain age are susceptible. Maybe not so much if they’re not in the media industry. That can be brutal, so it takes a strong internal constitution to withstand the pressures of externally imposed standards of beauty.
Good post Terri! I feel the tables starting to turn, little by little. There’s an occasional outcry from celebs and publishers, and the public about photoshopping, excessive thinness of models, etc.
Also, today’s headlines are filled with stories about marriage, monogamy, sex. Those are the messages we can glean realistic imagery from. NOT print ads, that’s for sure! Cuz we all know they can be morphed and edited.
Personally, as I mature I do care less what others think, but I will always care about the presence I display, i.e., like you say, “…a new currency: accepting ourselves, helping others, making the world a better place and developing interests that we have denied ourselves…”
I do think it’s changing a bit, but there’s much work to be done in terms of countering our youth-obsessed culture. I’m glad you’re working on what matters most…your inside changing the outside.