Here comes another one of those subjects I’ve resisted talking about. I’m nervous about what the smartest, most articulate way to approach it might be. What if I receive criticism for it? I’ve let this lack of perfection and fear of ridicule stop me from broaching the topic all together. No more.
During my formative years, how I looked represented the whole of who I was. I was never satisfied or okay with the way I looked. I never regarded appearance as just ONE part of who I was; it completely defined me.
As I’ve gotten older and matured, both physically and in my head and heart, appearance has faded into the background being replaced by other more meaningful qualities…or so I thought. It resurfaced, however, when I started to avoid doing video blog posts. Did you see the coming attraction of this blog post? It was sheer torture for me to do it.
What makes people feel attractive or unattractive? What makes us feel like keeping our head down or standing in the back of the room? For every one of us who feels insecure in our appearance, there are equal numbers of people like my friend, Marilyn. Marilyn is 5’10” and weighs 230. She is 60 years old and newly single. Marilyn has, for her entire life, had the attention of men and a large group of loving women friends. Now that she is single again, she is enjoying the company of smart, fun loving men who appreciate the way she is in the world. What is the difference between her and me, for instance, when newly widowed nearly three years ago, I was happy to ‘close up shop,’ feeling less than in the looks department?
The difference is in her beliefs. Marilyn believes in her attractiveness and that she has a variety of qualities to offer others. I don’t know if Marilyn sees a gorgeous woman when she looks in the mirror or, more likely, whether she has internalized the belief that attractiveness is not just physical appearance. It doesn’t really matter because she is comfortable with herself and that shows through in a relationship.
Me … and You?
My beliefs about the way I looked were first created at home, where I was seen as an extension of my mother, who sent me to charm school to learn to mask any undesirable physical attributes. The second strongest influence on how I felt about my appearance came from the media. No one doubts the overwhelmingly out-of-whack perception that results from our acceptance of the media’s standards of beauty. It’s easy, after years and years, to believe those unrelenting messages if we are not enlightened otherwise. Over time I have accepted this negative input hook, line and sinker. And the message, until the recent past anyway, was loud and clear: you’re just weren’t as smart, articulate, witty or interesting unless you were attractive as well. Forget about how you felt inside or how developed your self-esteem was.
Did you also experience any of this skewed perception on your worth based on the way you looked? Or did you always feel secure in your appearance as merely one aspect of the wonderfulness of you? And how do you feel about the way you look today?
Oh, I wish I could say I was well on my way to improving my beliefs, but I’m not there yet. I know that the following would help change my perspective:
-realize that looks change; look inside to see what
you have without your looks
-realize appearance is only one aspect of who you are
-expand the definition of appearance to include the
outward parts as a reflection of the goodness
-work with affirmations such as, “My outside reflects
the goodness and joy inside my heart and soul.”
Contact Antonia at Antonia@TheJoyofAgingGratefully.com of