When Vanity Impacts Your Ability to Age Gracefully

Steven Lasry - Unsplash

When Vanity Impacts Your Ability to Age Gracefully: There are times when watching a cooking show instructing you how to prepare an oven-roasted chicken and life seem to coincide. I watched the progression of steps taken to prepare the chicken. First rinse, then pat dry with a paper towel. The chef quickly tied the legs and wings with twine to ensure the chicken holds a nice shape as it bakes. He placed it on a baking rack inside of a roasting pan. It was essential to rub the skin with luscious garlic herb butter to impart flavor and ensure crispy skin. And the final step of basting every 30-minutes with an oaky white wine as it bakes slowly in the oven, ensuring that the chicken would be moist and tender. It looked absolutely delicious.

At times beauty, aging, and keeping up your appearance can feel this way. Much like the trussed chicken on the cooking show. We faithfully wash our faces, gently pat our faces dry, apply serum, moisturizer, masks, and sometimes as a treat, get facials. But as we get a little older, that’s when the serious commando tactics are pulled out of our defense bag. We then employ filler, Botox, and plastic surgery to keep our outsides looking as young as we feel on the inside. But how much twine and wine would be necessary for our personal outcome? 

In a society that is obsessed with youth and unrealistic expectations, when is it okay just to be you, throughout the ages of your life? Why is it preferable to cut, pull and iron out wrinkles to erase the lines on your face? Only to reveal a face that looks like a plastic, doll-like version of you? Effectively erasing all of the stories of your life. Maybe it’s the narcissistic tendencies that prevail. After all, evidence of life’s traumas on your face may cause pangs of guilt for the perspective onlooker. 

When you peruse social media, you see multitudes of women showing the beauty products they use. They model their workout outfits and demonstrate their exercise routine to achieve extraordinary results. Leaving a trail of women feeling less than okay about themselves in the process, at any age. Yet we continue to follow and like their posts and diligently leave a heart emoji to show our admiration of achieving the impossible and offer our support to other women. 

Aging gracefully is a term that you see frequently, but few really subscribe to its true meaning. On any given day, you will see someone touting the praises of “growing older” and being authentic, and in the next breath, talking about their latest plastic surgery or how they are skydiving. There seems to be a running theme of age phobia in our youth-obsessed society. Growing older, for some, leads to desperate measures of overcompensation and not truly celebrating the very gifts that are very uniquely you—embracing all the changes of you as a person evolving and growing. 

Perhaps as we were growing up, seeing all of the advertisements that one views throughout a lifetime contributed to this thought process. The premeditated, carefully orchestrated images shown on commercials and ads almost become like flashcards teaching a child. Those images make a solid impression and are then firmly placed in your subconscious mind, even though you can’t consciously remember them. Over time they build the parameters of opinions of yourself and others. Advertisements consistently promote the desire for youth, staying relevant, and if you don’t measure up… shame on you if you don’t prescribe to this thinking. There is almost a mantra for women that you are “letting yourself go” if you age naturally. The only way to stay relevant is looking like you are perpetually 30, and that is the only acceptable way to exist in our eternally youth-obsessed society. This lifestyle naturally is unattainable and tiresome, and depressing for most people. 

“Forty is the last age a woman can be photographed in a wedding dress without

the unintended Diane Arbus subtext.”

 

Candice Bergen 

For myself, there are times when I wonder which side of the fence I’m on today. One day I feel confident and accepting of the fact of having a few wrinkles. After all, I earned them, and they are uniquely mine. I consider them lines of credibility. I am not a 20-year old, and I’m perfectly fine with that. Then there are other days when I vacillate to…why not have a little filler or Botox or even a mini facelift. Why not make my outside look as young, vibrant, and energetic as my inside? Why not look and feel my very best? Why not? 

“There is a certain age when a woman must be beautiful to be loved, and then there comes a time when she must be loved to be beautiful.”

 

Françoise Sagan

It’s interesting to observe my daughter and her journey as a young woman and getting another year older. Her feelings are quite interesting. As my daughter approaches her 30th birthday in a little more than six months, she has moments of disbelief, “How did I get this old?” to then “Mom, I am getting old.” then “I don’t feel grown up yet. I thought I would feel more adult. I still feel the same as when I was in my teens.” As she said this to me, I wondered how the years went by so quickly. For me, I still picture her as a little girl or a teen. But I do realize I’m not sure if any of us ever grow up completely. 

“Time marches on and sooner or later you realize it is marching across your face.”

 

Dolly Parton 

But the truth is, aging for women can be a bit of a tight rope that you have to navigate and balance. What’s right for one woman can be devastatingly wrong for another. And plastic surgery and other helpful measures may be the right choice for some people and not so much for others. But how can we navigate past these rather unrealistic norms of society? After all, the youths of today will one day be older and wrinklier too. Time does not stop for anyone. Instead of viewing aging as something to avoid at all costs, perhaps celebrating the life people have lived to the fullest and contributing so many positive kindnesses, wisdom, faith, and knowledge at any age is the answer to aging gracefully.