Vanity is something no woman is immune to, even if it’s on a very small scale. We all want to look our best, and we have our individual standards for what that means. And all of us are familiar with the historic barrage of media, advertisements, miracle cures, and false promises. Wear this over 50! Don’t wear this over 40! Over 40? Try this miracle wrinkle remover and recapture your youth! Erase those fine lines! Look how amazing this 70-year-old woman looks! Between the lines of all this: you aren’t good enough. You’ve lost your glow. Old women: time for you to just fade away into the background. Well, as you can imagine, we DO NOT endorse any of this! And this is NOT just another “accept who you are and embrace your inner beauty” post.
Old Ladies Society is a judgment-free zone. We won’t judge anyone who is living her authentic life, and we encourage all women to figure out what that means to them and live it wholeheartedly. If you want Botox, or to get a little work done, that’s fine! If you don’t, that’s fine, too! But this article is about accepting your SELF, and that self is not defined by procedures or lack thereof.
We’re our own worst enemies.
Coco Chanel once said, “I don’t care what you think about me. I don’t think about you at all.” That sounds harsh, but the message we can take away from this is that honestly, most people are not thinking about us in the way that we think they are. In fact, they probably are not thinking about us at all, at least not in a negative way.
One thought that has begun occurring to me is that I really, really hate pictures of myself. I’ve never been a huge fan, honestly, and there have only been a handful of pictures taken of me throughout my entire life that I *sincerely* like. But lately, I just pick myself apart. My neck is sagging. My wrinkles are deepening. My teeth are shifting. One thing I have always been rather vain about is my feet; even THEY are changing! I scrutinize every photo of myself as if I’m a beauty editor in a magazine, and I definitely would not hire me. This thought process continues into the mirror, which is even worse: I’m constantly over-analyzing my skin and the changes that are staring back at me in my reflection. Is this a result of media’s unrelenting assault on women’s appearances? I don’t really think so. I mean, I’m sure it’s there subconsciously; it’s hard to escape. But I think the truth is:
Our physical picture doesn’t always add up to our mental picture.
Aye, there’s the rub. It’s a shame that our brains and bodies are seldom in sync. My grandmother once said to me, very poignantly, that her body was 82 and her mind was 28. Our brains and experience don’t make us feel any older now than we did 20 or 30 years ago, but our bodies are telling us otherwise.
I know so many women who won’t wear shorts because they have varicose and spider veins. Won’t wear a swimsuit because they feel too cellulite-y or chunky. Won’t be seen without makeup. We all have our physical appearance’s Achilles Heel, and often more than one.
We retreat; we deny ourselves of activities and joy because of vanity.
I am realizing this is a problem with me, and I’m pledging right now to stop it. Our Old Ladies Society Instagram (@oldladiessociety) is filled with beautiful women who follow us and vice versa, and I am inspired by them every day. There are fashionistas and writers and artists and vintage sellers and influencers, and everyday women who are making a difference just by being their true selves. We have to accept the fact that our bodies are changing because we are aging, and just because they are changing, doesn’t mean that beauty and self-confidence has flown the coop.
Some challenges (I’m doing these, too)
- Instead of picking yourself apart and focusing on all the things that are “wrong” with you, think about what’s right, and tell yourself these things, repeatedly. I’m not going to give examples here, because every woman is so different. But really think about it. Pick yourself up instead of apart.
- Compliment other women. This is something that I do regularly. I love looking at someone and giving them a quick compliment. “I just love your hair,” “That necklace is to die for,” etc. It’s very easy to take a quick look at someone and find something amazing about them, and then just SAY so. The other day, I was in a thrift store, and a woman was holding up a dress against herself in the mirror as I walked by. I said, “If that fits you, you must buy it. That color is divine for you!” Her face lit up and she dashed into the dressing room. I hope it fit her. When you give others compliments, it frees your mind to give them to yourself, too.
- Please stop overanalyzing photos of yourself. So what if you don’t look 30 anymore? You aren’t!
- Put the 10x or 12x magnifying mirror away. You only need it to pluck evil chin hairs. No one needs to constantly see themselves in that much detail.
- Consider doing something clothing-wise that you normally hate for reasons of vanity, i.e. wearing a swimsuit or shorts. Say you really like swimming pools but won’t be caught dead in a swimsuit. There really are some great swimsuits out there that are cute and flattering. Take a look at our collection. Trust us, we know swimsuits are the bane of our existence (right up there with the nonexistent perfect pair of jeans). Find a swimsuit that doesn’t make you want to hurl and plan a pool day with some friends. Wear a caftan over your swimsuit and build up your confidence. It just takes practice! Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of doing something because you’re afraid of how you’ll look.
- Accentuate the positive. Do you absolutely hate your neck? Wear fabulous, large necklaces! Throw a colorful neck scarf on! Or just let it show. I’m starting to actually appreciate my neck sags. I’ve earned them.
- If you feel like it (and can afford it), get some work done. I believe this is a personal choice, and not one that ANYONE can tell you to do or not to do. Me, personally? I have flirted with the idea of Botox because I hate my forehead wrinkles; but I can’t really afford it, so I have gone with what I call “Nature’s Botox”: bangs. Bangs foreva!
- Modify your personal dress code. Defining your personal style is a lifelong adventure. Maybe you can’t pull off the outfits you’ve worn in the past; maybe you can. It’s up to you to decide that, and maybe even completely reinvent yourself. It takes time. Just roll with it and start now! I’ve been gradually evolving my wardrobe for the past 5 years…weeding out pieces that don’t reflect ME. That’s a good place to start. You will hear a lot more about this topic on OLS.
- Now is the perfect time in your life to try something new and different. Are you a person that normally wears neutral colors? Try incorporating a bright blouse or dress into your routine. Not a jewelry person? Try a wild necklace. Hate going out alone? Grab a book and go to a coffee shop or have a meal. Treat yourself to a bold handbag. Carry a parasol when you go out in the sun. There are myriad small ways that you can crack open your shell; you just have to start pecking away.
- Compliment yourself. It sounds weird and new age-y, but really; just do it. When you’re looking in the mirror, give yourself a quick compliment: “My hair came out great today,” or “This necklace looks fantastic with this dress,” or maybe just a simple, “Damn, I look good today!” Anything along those lines. With some practice, this will become normal. And it’s way more fun that telling yourself you look drab or saggy today, or “damn, where did these bags under my eyes come from?”
We simply can’t fix all our “problem” areas.
Acceptance is a big part of getting older. Even with all the plastic surgery and wrinkle removers and finest wardrobe in the world, we can’t get our twenties back (and really, who wants to, anyway?). Learning to accept ourselves — and the inevitable changes that are happening to our bodies — is a process, and it can’t happen overnight. But we shouldn’t rob ourselves of joy and fun because of these changes. And it doesn’t mean we just have to let time ravage us as it will and give up. We don’t have to live up to society’s standards of what makes a woman attractive; we only have to answer to ourselves.
We still sparkle: just differently, now. And it’s up to each of us to keep that sparkle alive.
by Stacie Herndon
Stacie is a writer, graphic designer, and web developer. Legend has it that she was born old. She has always loved outrageous older ladies, often befriending them over people her own age. She is a devoted Francophile, loves a good Sauvignon Blanc and can mix a mean cocktail. She will have red hair until the day she departs this earth.