Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Can You Love Yourself as You Age?


Will people still find you attractive and sexy as you grow older?

My short answer is, it does not matter.

If someone doesn’t find you attractive - then that is their perspective. It does not have to be our own. Don’t give up on me and stop reading…hear me out.  I know there are women reading this who may have been left by their partners for a younger women after years of marriage. I know there are young women reading this who fear their boyfriend left them to be with someone he found more hot. So many of us from teens to mature women struggle with worry that   our romantic prospects are limited by our appearance.

I know this is very hard stuff. That is precisely why advertising builds our insecurity, banks on it, and makes ALOT of money off of our insecurity and succeeds in shifting our ideals. 
I myself am a middle aged single woman.  I do not look the way I did at thirty. I know this issue quite well. Here is the simple truth: there are lots of people who won’t find you attractive. Yep. It’s true. And it does not have to matter. Believe me I have thought hard and long about this as I have approached my middle years. You have a choice to make and I suggest you make the choice to let it matter less.  Way less.

Be you young or older, slim or not so slim -you won’t be attractive to everyone. You will be attractive to some.  And the more you are able to let go of being defined by who or how many people like your looks, the richer your life will be.  I submit that the courage to move beyond the hype will actually make you more attractive.  That is because there is so much more to how you are seen than your weight or your wrinkles – and that is your VITALITY.

Don’t make yourself or your life smaller with too much focus on advertising and shallow values.  One day most of us will be very old - and we will want to have had a life of courage and depth. How will you feel if you look back and realize you chased an image?

So what is really important in aging is to get clear about what does matter. And I assert you need to let go of the need to meet some idealized standard set forth by media which has seeped into your brain of how you should look. I know this may sound annoying and simplistic. I don’t mean it to be insensitive of the reality that we as women live in a society that advertises and promotes youth and slimness.  But we have to choose whether we are going to value this above something more real.

So I am choosing to bring myself back again and again as I slip into wrong thinking; to self directed vitality. Because obsessing over my dress size, counting wrinkles and comparing myself to 27 year olds will not increase my vitality; it will diminish me in too many ways.  I am not suggesting your body doesn’t matter. It does. I am suggesting that we chose to define how it matters by what it can do for us, and how it allows us to experience the world through our physical senses. Not simply on how it looks to others.

How do I practice this? I make a choice to show up with pride, courage and self care. It’s not always easy.
The way I increase my vitality may be different than what fits for you. But here is what I mean by the shift in perspective:

I continue practicing my martial arts:  not to sculpt my body, but to feel energy in my muscles, and broadening of my physical experience.

I put on makeup most days: not to look appealing to men, but because I like what I see when I look a little more polished. I am as likely to wear it for a day in the park with my child as I am if I were going out. (OK. maybe a little more of it when I go out.)

I strength train, mostly at home:  not to lose weight, but to build strong bones and be able to swing my child in the air at the pool!

I challenge my mind: not so I can impress folks at a cocktail party, but so that my mind will be my ally well into my later years.

I (usually) eat healthy: not to lose weight, but because I notice that I feel better when I do. I try to eat as if I am feeding someone I love (because I am).

So with all this self directed perspective said, I will reveal a secret anyway: Most men will be more attracted to the average looking woman who has confidence, energy and self-direction (vitality)  than they will be to the most idealized type of woman who has let herself be diminished by this society’s silliness about age, weight and beauty.  And for those who are more superficial-we don’t need their attention.  

This took me a long time to feel, and I struggle with it continually. However, when I check in with myself I come back to the belief that it doesn't matter what others think of how I look. If I live with it mattering to me very much, I will be unhappy. I will be powerless and I will lose my vitality. I know that it is that life-energy that comes from inside, from confidence, from a bigger perspective, from self care and love and courage to be me – that makes me my most beautiful and radiant self. And that can be powerfully alluring.

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