At any age, women can feel pressure to conform to Hollywood standards of beauty – but as actresses like Demi Moore and Heather Locklear have demonstrated, that pressure seems to intensify as we get older.
In The Motherhood today, Dr. Vivian Diller, Ph.D. and author of “Face It: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change,” led us through a fascinating exploration of aging and midlife beauty.
As Jamie of Blonde Mom Blog said, “Beauty and confidence really do come from within. Our society just places so much value on looks and being beautiful – meaning, being ‘youthful.’ I think it’s up to all of us to dispel that myth!”
Your Self-Image Matters
Rising above the cultural insistence that youth = beauty doesn’t mean women should write off their emotions about their changing physical appearance. Dr. Diller pointed out, “Too many women dismiss their complicated feelings about the issue of an aging appearance as irrelevant, silly or superficial.”
She noted that as we live longer – and outlive our historical role to “attract a mate and procreate” – “We are trying to redefine what it means to be attractive, vital women in our 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond. There are few role models.”
Finding Older Beauty Role Models
Aging gracefully doesn’t have to mean giving up on maintaining your health. “My mom is in her 70s and does yoga daily…she is a testament to taking care of yourself and the benefits of exercise,” said Jamie of Blonde Mom Blog.
And then there’s 90-year-old Iris Apfel, who just signed on for an ad campaign with MAC Cosmetics.
“I recently wrote a story about Iris Apfel for a beauty website and spent scads of time combing through images of her and loving every minute of it. She is such an inspiration!” said Victoria of The Mummy Chronicles.
Taking More Drastic Steps
Above and beyond maintaining your health to maintain beauty, more and more often, women are turning to Botox, plastic surgery, drugs and other products and procedures.
Most of the group agreed that they have no objections to cosmetic procedures done for a person’s own self-confidence. “I think if someone wants to have Botox or injections to feel better about themselves they should definitely do it,” noted Aracely of Daytripping Mom.
But Victoria of The Mummy Chronicles pointed out that she would examine the underlying reasons for seeking surgery. “I wouldn’t say that I would not consider it and I can understand how actresses feel pressured to look a certain way and/or age. However, I think the extreme measures are a sign of that lack of confidence. You are insecure about something if you are going to extremes in surgery.”
Agreed Beth of Anti-Supermom, “I hope that Botox and plastic surgery are done with only you in mind and with you feeling beautiful. Not beautiful in others’ eyes.”
“The reason why I go out to talk to women is to provide them information about what they may be feeling, underneath the defensiveness and fear about this subject,” responded Dr. Diller.
Be Honest with Yourself
It can be jarring, as Emily said, to look in the mirror as you get older and see a face you don’t recognize. Dr. Diller pointed out, “We all have to mourn our youthful appearance – it’s about letting go of a self image that does change over time, no matter what we do. Unless we do that, we get caught in the fear of loss. When we mourn, we make room for something else to move in its place.”
She went on to note that not everyone has a positive attitude about aging. “Why would 11 billion dollars be spent on anti-aging cosmetics? Why would there be a steep rise in the number of women under 30 getting cosmetic surgery? Sometimes I have to remember that the stats don’t line up with what I hear women say. That concerns me. It’s why I want to keep the conversation going toward why this whole issue seems so hard for some.”
Remember Who’s Watching
As tough as it might be for you, remember to watch what you say aloud. Beauty messages bombard our daughters from all angles, and they absorb everything they see and hear from us.
“Before this talk, one of my readers brought up the discussion of airbrushing for magazines,” said Leigh of Hines Sight Blog. “It would be nice if we could see a little more reality. I know stars look good, but the magazines make them look really good, sometimes too good. It really starts to impact a girl’s thoughts at a young age. Too much perfection.”
Agreed Jamie of Blonde Mom Blog, “I showed my girls a recent video (I believe it was from Dove) showing a model getting totally made over in Photoshop. We had a good discussion about how what they see in magazines is NOT real. These images are not what women really look like.”
“As a mom to 3 girls I have toted them all to the gym with me since they were 8 weeks and they know when I’m about to go running,” said Victoria of The Mummy Chronicles. “I always tell them that I do it so I can be there for them and keep up with them. ‘Mommy wants to be healthy and strong!’ I try to never make it a weight/looks issue.”
Cooper added, “I was recently at an event where an expert said that for every one ‘you’re pretty,’ our daughters hear from us, they should hear three messages about strength, character, brains etc.”
Keep Learning about Midlife Beauty
Dr. Diller will appear on the TODAY Show this Thursday, March 15, at 8:09 a.m. ET to talk about “Ageless Beauty” and authenticity.