Friday, October 12, 2012

Striking a Healthy Balance between Aging and Our Changing Looks

      I recently had the opportunity to speak with Villian Diller, Ph.D.  the author of  “Face it: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change” a book about helping women   strike a healthy balance between letting their looks matter and accepting the inevitable fact that their looks will change as they age. As a psychologist myself and as, a middle-aged woman, I was particularly interested in learning how to help today’s women navigate the “ups” and “downs” associated with aging in a youth-obsessed culture that reinforces the notion that our looks are our currency, power, and what makes us ultimately female.
     Although most of us have been taught that beauty is really only skin deep, we may still find ourselves frantically attempting to put “the pause” button on our own aging as soon as our first wrinkle or gray hair appears.  Our own conflicting feelings and the conflicting messages we receive from the media and sometimes from our own family and friends can leave us feeling confused and with a lack of clarity regarding how we should “address” our aging and changing looks. Aging is a difficult process that involves mourning multiple losses-one of which is our youthful appearance and physical vitality.  
     After speaking with Dr. Diller about helping women achieve a healthy perspective about their own aging and changing looks here’s some of what she had to say that I found particularly helpful. I hope you will too:

-HAVE A FLEXIBLE DEFINITION OF BEAUTY. Try not to have only one vision of what you consider to be “the right look” in mind.  When we achieve a flexible image of beauty we develop a kinder inner dialogue as well as a more realistic concept of what “beauty” truly is and means.

-ADMIT TO YOURSELF THAT LOOKS MATTER: Working through feelings of loss and grieving associated with our changing looks and aging helps us achieve a healthy balance between “holding on” and “moving on” and an ability to enjoy our looks at any age.

-MOTHERS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. It is important for mothers to educate their daughters about the myth of beauty created by the media. It is also important for mothers to have conversations with their daughters about the impact the media can have on self-image. Young girls also need to be made aware of the fact that most, if not all, of the images they see in magazines have been photo-shopped or altered.  

-IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO ANTI-AGE. This is my personal favorite “take-away” from my conversation with Dr. Diller. She suggests focusing on caring for your skin and health with the goal of promoting health and vitality for your whole-being and a realistic improvement of appearance.  

-NUTURE YOUR INTELLECT: Although we have been taught that beauty isn’t everything many women still feel that their looks are their currency, power, and what’s makes them truly female.  Letting go of this priority gives us the chance to nurture and develop other aspects of ourselves. 

How do you feel about aging? Are you concerned about looking older? What are your feelings about how the media portrays women and beauty? Do you have other suggestions for how women can better cope with their changing looks and aging?  I would like to hear from you.