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Issue 6 June 2005

More Than Just A Pretty Face

“I’m kind of amazed when I hear my women friends complain about getting wrinkles and gray hair. I want to scream, I hope I live long enough to be able experience these things,” a 51-year-old cancer survivor told me. Few women appreciate how fortunate they are to have their health until they either have a brush with death or experience an illness. Suddenly, they realize how much they rely on their body. Even if you have been spared illness or the loss of a loved one, it’s essential that you reconsider the place appearance plays in your life: in the larger scheme of things it’s relatively insignificant.

Perhaps it’s time to cultivate an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for how well your body has served you, for your health and all that you have. When you go for a walk, give thanks for the legs that carry you, for the body that so perfectly houses your spirit and makes life possible. When you look into the face of someone you love, say a silent thank you. When you walk through your front door, be grateful for your home, your pets and the comfort they provide. When you look in the mirror, be thankful for the years you have lived and the experiences that are still to come. Your wrinkles are badges of distinction. You’ve earned them. They’re a reminder of the life you have lived and the experiences that have made you who you are today. Get into the habit of saying thank you for the little things in life, the unrecognized blessings. Gratitude makes us aware of the richness of life. It’s an act of remembrance.

It isn’t that middle-aged women no longer care how they look, they do. Think about the last time someone told you you looked good. Admit it, you lit up. We all do. Appearance is still important, but there has to be something in between letting yourself go and being overly concerned with your looks.

Each woman has to discover what’s right for her, what makes her feel attractive. Then she needs to spend enough time so that she’s comfortable, confident, and relaxed with her appearance. My friend Valerie wouldn’t think of starting her day before her morning ritual. She blow dries her hair, puts on some eye liner, a tinted sunscreen, lipstick, and concealer. She does this even when she’s home alone. She does it for herself because it makes her feel good. As she says, “I just give mother nature a hand.”

Most of us have spent years asking ourselves, “How do I look?” waiting for that magical voice to tell us that we’re the fairest in the land. The next time you look in the mirror ask, “How do I feel?” I know it might seem a bit strange, but how you feel about yourself effects your appearance more than how well you’re put together.

If you recall the times in your life when you felt the most attractive, you’ll discover that they were about more than just your physical appearance. When I think of the times in my own life when I’ve felt the most beautiful, they were: on my wedding day; when I gave birth to my daughter; at her graduations from highschool and college; the day I received my masters degree; the day we surprised my mother with a 75th birthday party; when I crossed the finish line after having ridden my bike fifty miles. Love, passion, joy and self-confidence are powerful beauty potions. What they say is “I know who I am, I like who I am, and I’m going to celebrate it regardless of what Madison Avenue or anyone else thinks.”

The fashion industry is more concerned with conformity than with individuality. But your appearance is an expression of your uniqueness. The poet e.e. cummings said, "To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting." Become discerning about the pressures of advertisers and the media and intervene before their messages make you feel unattractive and inadequate. Remember, they want to sell beauty products so they have a vested interest in keeping you insecure.