My raging inner critic.
I was recently reminded of how things are, not how we perceive them. Ten years ago, a round of professional photographs taken by my sister pulled into sharp focus (in my opinion) my facial ageing. My struggle for self-acceptance roared into view, and my inner critic was on fire. My sister silently looked on, unsure what the problem was. Of course, she was right to think that. What was the problem?
It took ten years to get perspective.
I viewed these photos again recently. What was I worried about? Why did I recoil from those images? The truth is, I looked pretty good; despite my lines and wrinkles.
At the time of that photo shoot, I was emerging from two years of full-time care for my mum during her battle with dementia.
I was in a moment of transition, the events of the last two years still very much on my mind; so while I looked back with reflection, I also had my eye on the future, wondering how I would find my way back to my old life.
It was a time of unknowing; when you lose a parent or a loved one, there is a perceptible shift underfoot. The path seems less certain than it once did.
You can never go home.
I wanted my life to be as it was before my mum’s dementia diagnosis.
Those photos told me another story. The world had continued to turn, and the idea of fitting back into the world I’d left behind two or more years earlier felt distant. The world had changed, and so had I.
I was older and wiser, but mostly all I could see was an older version of myself, and I didn’t like it one little bit.
Why couldn’t I accept myself and the changes in my facial appearance? Why did I only focus on what I perceived as negative aspects of my appearance? Why had self-acceptance forsaken me only to be replaced by the shame of ageing? Yes, sadly, it’s shame.
Ten years on, I can look at those photos with fresh eyes and view them with more kindness and compassion. I can even look back with humour at my vanity and fragile ego.
I know I’m not alone in having an unreasonable view of my appearance. Our collective inner critic has created an aesthetic industry that is now a booming billion-dollar behemoth.
But wait, it’s 2022!
I am not supposed to feel the fear of ageing. Society is evolving. We’re all about pro-ageing, anti ageing is so last decade!
You are no longer invisible when you reach the golden age of 60.
You no longer have permission to suffer the societal shame of the ageing face.
We rejoice with each passing year, and we refuse to go quietly. We have reached the nirvana of self-acceptance.
Accept we haven’t. Not at all. But it all sounds good.
Who’s story is this?
I’d find it easier to agree with the pro-ageing movement if I was, let’s say, a mere 30 years of age. Of course, at 30, I can embrace age; it’s aeons away. When you’re 30, ageing is something that happens to other people.
Watching a 30-something embrace the pro-ageing movement while seeking out every possible anti-ageing solution is a contradiction, or is that just me?
And in 20 years, scientists will present those of us who care about all this with the fountain of youth because in 2042, the climate crisis is sorted, and those clever scientists have time on their hands. Phew!
Believe me; I applaud the strong, confident older woman who fronts up on her Instagram feed celebrating her grey hair as she dances around her living room. Thanks to the internet and social media, we’re becoming far more visible for longer; those who are prepared to brave the internet tell us that it’s okay to get older and you can look pretty good doing it. And while I agree wholeheartedly, on the flip side, it puts a lot of pressure on the rest of us. I can’t help but feel the pro-ageing movement is telling us you can age as long as you look damn fine doing it.
In the meantime, we all dim the lights, wait for science to catch up and make the best of what we have.
Living in the moment?
At the time of my photo shoot, I was 53, and there was no reason not to feel positive about my appearance. Except I couldn’t see it. But, as I look once more at those images after nearly ten years, I have been given a valuable lesson.
And it’s this. We can live in the moment, which, let’s face it, is tricky, or we can find a calm place, accept ourselves and remind ourselves to love the moment we’re in.
Loving the moment you’re in?
Did those images represent the passing of time I wasn’t ready to accept? I was doing my best to maintain the health of my skin, and after caring for a loved one with dementia for two years, I was ready to find my way back to my old life even though I no longer recognised the person I once was.
Of course, we can never go back, no matter how we try; all we can do is move forward. If we can do it with a positive, healthy mindset, all the better.
So next time you’re feeling the struggle for self-acceptance, remind yourself to love the moment you’re in because when you look back, I promise, like me, you’ll wonder why you were so worried.
And, if we’re lucky enough, life keeps marching on and loving this moment might be the best goal you can have.
At 53, I had lines across my face, but so what! Generally, my skin was healthy. That’s a win. Now, at 62, I still have lines on my face. Laugh lines that keep getting a little longer with each passing year. Do I like them? No.
But here’s the thing. I’ll keep doing all the things to slow down ageing because no matter where I am in life, I want to know I tried. I continue to do what makes me feel better about ageing. Inside and out. I’ll take those wrinkles with a side of glowing skin and a healthy lifespan.
In the ten years since my image was taken at 53, I have worked again in the aesthetic industry. And, I’ve certainly spent more time actively minimising the signs of visible ageing with Environ skincare, chemical peels, medical micro-needling, and home devices such as LED light therapy, radio frequency and low-frequency sonophoresis.
Do all these interventions help? Perhaps it’s subjective, but I believe a combination of good skincare and specific treatments do make a difference.
Despite my own concerns, I believe it’s important to approach what you do with a realistic approach and a balanced perspective.
And while I do my best to remain optimistic about ageing, it’s a good idea from time to time to consider the alternative. Right?
And now you?
By 2030 the last of the baby boomer generation will be turning 65. As for the millennials? They’ve been hitting the milestone of 40 over the last couple of years, so they’ve got the yet-to-be-invented fountain of youth pill to look forward to.
In the meantime, you can take steps to feel better about yourself, in whatever shape that takes for you. You can do the things that make you feel good about your appearance while remembering to love this moment.
See you next time,