Fran Braga Meininger
We're More Than Skin Deep
I’ve been working on my social media presence. Not something I would normally devote time and energy to, but it’s apparently what a writer is supposed to do these days. So, I’m building up my Facebook page, my Instagram account and my Pinterest presence which means following the right people and being followed. It’s all about clicks, searches and traffic.
But, in the process, I’ve made a few discoveries that interest me and some that downright annoy me.
As a writer of personal narrative and essays, my audience is mostly women of a certain era. I am my own demographic and I write from personal experience about exploring options and deciding what we want at this stage, now that we have a little more time and freedom. I write about how to determine what interests us and how to pursue it, how to live life fully and with purpose, engaging in what moves us and ignites a fire within. I also write about what is inevitable and how to embrace it.
But curious things appear when you google words like mature women, women of a certain age, aging women, etc. Some things that get my ire up.
Here’s the thing. I feel very strongly that living well is not about appearance, hairstyles and what we should and shouldn’t wear after 50, or 60, or beyond. It’s not about skincare and elective procedures to trim away the effects of living a long life. It’s not about how we look to men, or other women. It’s not even really about how we look to ourselves. It’s more than that, much more.
Living fully into an era when we can focus on our own life, after sacrificing and taking care of all those around us, shouldn’t be about standing in a mirror analyzing each new wrinkle, waddle and jiggle.
The constant struggle to remain young can ruin this time for us. Denying our true selves, pretending to be a different age, deprives us of being fully alive at the age we are now.
But how do we resist the temptation to focus on the outside rather than the power and potential that lies within? Shouldn’t we go deeper, looking beyond to what’s underneath, to our hearts, passion and intellect?
Here are a few thoughts that presented themselves as I pondered these questions.
Turn It Off – Tune It Out
We need to censor what we watch, witness and are exposed to. Dump the magazines, online ads, Facebook pages and other influencers hawking all the latest “anti-aging” products. Skip the headlines about how we should look young, dress young etc. We’ve earned the freedom to look and dress however we choose.
Go for Substance
We need to seek out articles that highlight women of our era who are living vibrant lives, pursuing creative endeavors, starting new careers, embracing their passion, finding love and satisfaction in their everyday lives, any topic that inspires us. Then, support and promote the sources that feature these articles. Help them go viral and get the attention they deserve. Lift them up above the din of superfluous yammer.
Spend Time with Those We Wish to Emulate
It’s essential to associate with people we admire. We naturally imitate those who surround us. So keeping company with women who are happy and enthusiastic helps us have a brighter outlook. We benefit from investing ourselves in social circles with women of shared interest. Choosing an activity, hobby, interest that intrigues us and reaching out to those women engaged in it can help us realize our true potential.
Staying engaged and busy is a great antidote for the doldrums of aging. We won’t have time to scrutinize our appearance while on your way to something more fulfilling. Stepping out of ourselves and into the world can lead us to incredible possibilities.
Shift the Focus
Focusing on our health instead of our appearance changes everything. Making good dietary choices and exercising regularly to have more energy, feel stronger and be more able bodied, shifts our perspective so we look more to how we feel rather than how we think we look.
Making these changes takes initiative and discipline. But it’s not that hard once we start paying attention and set the stage for a new way of seeing ourselves and each other.
We need to do this, not just for us but for the women coming up behind us. Shifting how we are seen, how we are valued and remembered can change not only the present but the future, and may well be our generation’s legacy to the next. Wouldn’t that be something of which we could be proud?
So, the next time you catch yourself gazing too long, or making some disparaging remark about your appearance, why not stop, shift and be the change.
(This essay was originally published on SixtyandMe.com to which I am a regular contributor.)