June 08, 2016
This essay was written as part of an empowerment campaign, “Wear Yourself In,” led by eco-luxe skin care company Kari Gran. In response to the beauty industry pushing an impossible idea of flawless youth for years, the campaign encourages women to be kind to themselves, and their skin, as they reflect on beauty, aging, wisdom, and self-acceptance.
Kaia Roman is the author of the upcoming book, The Joy Plan. She teaches Mindfulness to elementary school students in Santa Cruz, California and works as a freelance writer. For everyday mindfulness tips, check out Kaia’s blog at TheJoyPlan.com.
Not long ago, I was sitting in a friend’s hot tub with my family when my 10-year-old daughter looked at the back of my head and said, “Mom, you have a lot of gray hairs back here.”
“Get them out!” I shrieked as if they were something creepy crawly. I ended up paying her two dollars to pluck all the gray hairs from my head.
At the time, this seemed like an economical choice. Two dollars was certainly cheaper than going to the salon. But the experience left me with an unsettled feeling and I wasn’t quite sure why.
A couple of weeks later, while my daughter was getting dressed for school and looking in the mirror, she said, “Sometimes I don’t feel beautiful.” That shook me to my core. She’s too young for this, I thought! And then it hit me, she had learned it from me.
As much as I tell my daughters they are beautiful inside and out, I know it’s my actions — not my words — that actually have the most influence on their own ideas of beauty and self-love.
Thanks to specialized brain cells known as mirror neurons, children are highly influenced by the behaviors of others, especially their parents. Mirror neurons help children imitate, forming new neural pathways in their brains when they observe an action.
How many times had my daughters watched me not only pluck my grays, but refuse to leave the house without covering my sun damaged face in thick foundation, curse my floppy belly, or complain about feeling fat? I may as well have directly installed a “lack of confidence” chip in their brains, as my mother likely did with me, and hers with her, and so on.
It’s no one’s fault, really, just a habit we’ve sort of collectively fallen into as a culture. Advertising, movies, and media bombard us with images of the “perfect” woman – thin, flawless, and young -- and we cringe when we look in the mirror and see quite a different image looking back at us. Or we spend countless dollars and hours trying to fit ourselves into that narrow mold.
But enough is enough.
It’s time for a collective attitude adjustment when it comes to women, aging, and beauty. The belief that aging is something to fight against is not only harmful to us and our daughters, it’s completely futile. If we’re aging, that means we’re alive! And life is a tremendous gift. It’s time to celebrate growing up and growing old, and the scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and grays we collect along the way. We’ve earned each and every one of them.
Experience can’t be fast-tracked. Trial and error, failure and triumph, that’s how we learn. Wisdom is only acquired with time. That wisdom is a thing of beauty, and ought to be revered. And these bodies that have traveled the distance with us, they ought to be revered as well. My body has climbed mountains, birthed babies, undergone surgeries, and survived illnesses. I love it dearly for that. It’s time I started treating it better, with my thoughts as well as my actions.
I think “aging well” is an attitude, one that’s all about facing life with a youthful spirit while “wearing yourself in” like a favorite pair of jeans. It’s an attitude I’m doing my best embrace—not only for my sake, but for my daughters as well. I’m making a concerted effort each day to find new vitality for life, and to be grateful for the gifts I’ve been given.
As I slide into my 40s, instead of counting the lines on my face or the gray hairs on my head, I’m focusing on counting my blessings. I notice that the more I dwell in gratitude, the more joy I feel. Because after all, joy really is the best makeup. And I’m old enough now to finally know that for sure.
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