Last week was my 39th birthday and like many people who are approaching the big 4-0, I’ve been thinking about aging lately. I like how I’m aging on the inside, but I’d love to get to the point of completely accepting what aging means on the outside.
I admit it. I pluck my gray hairs. And now that they are appearing more often and in higher quantity, I know my plucking days should be done. But I will not dye my hair to cover the gray. Mainstream hair dyes have way too many nasty and dangerous chemicals for this green girl, and even though I could find a safer alternative at Whole Foods, this is where I draw the line. No hair dye. All natural I choose to be. But ack! The time has come! Pretty soon my gray hair will be on display for the world to see (and judge). The thought of entering that new territory scares me. And being ‘scared’ by the thought of showing my gray hair has me upset. Once I get past my insecurity, I find my courage. That’s when I say,
So what if my hair is gray? It’s just hair on my head. Am I not as good of a wife/friend/mother/sister/neighbor if my hair is gray?
How did we get to be a society that places such emphasis on external beauty and looks? How can we get back to valuing wisdom and experience? Compassion, kindness, courage, and all other qualities that we embody as women?
It can be hard to accept the changes in our body after we have children or as we age. It’s hard when we are bombarded with media images and ads and products that focus on external beauty. (So this is how everyone should look?) I once bought anti-wrinkle eye cream at Whole Foods with the hope that my many wrinkles would magically disappear. They didn’t. Waste of $20.
And it’s not just the media. Comments about our changing looks can come from those nearest and dearest to us – our friends and family. Perhaps those are the ones that are hardest to get past.
“You’ve really aged.”
“You need to pluck those [gray hairs].”
“He’s gained weight.”
“She needs to do something about all her gray hair.”
Why are we talking like this to others and about others?
Our body is a house for our soul while it’s here on Earth. Worrying about our physical appearance is a distraction from the job we are here to do.
If I have a “perfect” body (whatever that means – big breasts, slim figure, no gray, no wrinkles, etc.) will I be a better wife? Mom? Woman? Sister?
Is looking young and beautiful all there is to our value as a person? Of course not. But judging by our society you would think that it’s true.
How much time and effort (and money and stress) do we spend on “turning back the clock”, defying age, chasing some ideal of external beauty that we have in our heads?
By contrast, how much time do we work on our inner beauty? Our inner life?
What if we love ourselves as we are? And as we age? I like to imagine the world if we all (especially woman) valued our physical bodies as a temple to house our soul.
How would we treat ourselves? Would we be kinder to ourselves? Would we eat healthier? Choose a positive mindset?
Where would we spend all that free time, energy, and money now that we weren’t worrying about our external looks?
Would we be helping each other? Would there be more compassion, tolerance, and love in the world?
Just think of all the businesses that would go broke (botox, breast augmentation, face lifts, tummy tucks, liposuction, hair dye, face creams, wrinkle creams, age-defying creams, etc.) if we suddenly decided that we are fine with our bodies just as they are, thank you very much.
Just think if we all stopped worrying about our body’s external appearance (and how that doesn’t matter) and got busy with our work here on earth – which is what matters.
What work could be done if we worried more about beautifying our insides? Yes, it’s so much harder than external work. But think of the strides forward our planet could take.
With happy, beautiful insides we can create the art that the world needs, in whatever form that takes.
What if we were inspired by others’ inner beauty, their good deeds, their good qualities – instead of being inspired to look “beautiful” on the outside as they do?
I challenge you to find people who inspire you by their positive work, their peace, their kind way with people, their inner joy. (Hint: This may mean not watching reality TV anymore.)
I have several friends who do not dye their hair to hide grays and I am so inspired by them. Look how confident they are! Having gray hair doesn’t seem to matter to them, why should it matter to me? It does help me be a little braver in my own quest to come to terms with an aging body.
It is a conscious choice to work on being happy with our body, but one that we need to do.
And I’m working on it.
Grateful for the Gift of Aging, Gift of a Body
Maybe we can start thinking of aging as a gift, a privilege. One that is denied to many. And start thinking of our body as a house for our soul.
Gratitude and affirmations help me re-frame my thinking from negative to positive. Let’s try creating some gratitude affirmations (maybe we can call them “graffirmations”?) to help us love our bodies for what they can do (instead of how they look). Maybe start easy, being grateful for certain parts of our body that may not be an issue for us, and then move on to areas where we are maybe insecure, and trying to be grateful for those areas, too.
Here’s how mine might look:
I am grateful for my arms, which carry food into the house, hold my children when they need comfort, and hug my friends after they have a baby.
I am grateful for my legs, which can climb on the playground with my kids, dance with my husband, and run in races.
I am grateful for the wrinkles around my eyes, which say that I have laughed much in my life.
I am grateful for the dark circles under my eyes, which definitely say I have two children (who just happen to not know how to sleep through the night until well past their 2nd birthdays).
I am grateful for my small breasts, which nursed two children for 2 1/2 years each.
I am grateful for the extra weight around my tummy, which means I have plenty of food on my table.
I am grateful for the gray hairs on my head, which mean I have lived long enough to earn them.
Of course I struggle with feeling 100% grateful for some of the areas I am self-conscious about, but I am trying to “fake it ’til I make it”. Reading my list over and over does put me in a more positive mindset about my body. That’s the point of affirmations. Once you start saying a positive statement over and over, you will start to believe it.
How would your gratitude affirmations look? How does saying them make you feel?
What Can We Do?
I think we all need to do this together. Just think, if we all agreed to stop dying our hair wouldn’t it be easier to walk around with gray hair? Look at all of us 40 year olds with gray hair – amazing! 😉
Let’s collectively agree that we are fine just as we are, wrinkles and all.
Let’s stop commenting on others’ external looks, especially if it’s something negative.
Let’s work on finding each other’s inner beauty – and then mirroring it back.
How will you light the way with your inner beauty?
Let’s find out what we can do – together.
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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