Last time you looked in the mirror what did you see? More importantly, did you like the face and body looking back at you? Was the look you gave your reflection a cursory “that’ll do” glance or a self-satisfied “not bad”? Is the mirror, perhaps like the bathroom scales, a tool to torture yourself with or an opportunity for celebration? Overall how’s your relationship with the mirror?
I’ve heard of midlife women who rid themselves of the mirrors in their homes and just choose not to look at themselves. Some of us adopt the same approach with the scales. But both the mirror and the scales are simply inanimate objects; it’s the stories we tell ourselves about the information they’re offering that gets us into trouble!
As our faces and bodies change and ripen at midlife, it’s easy to get in the habit of focusing on what we don’t like when we look at ourselves: the increasing number and depth of the lines on our faces, the broadening and sagging of parts of our bodies that were once leaner and tighter.
But when we berate ourselves or turn away from our reflections, when we chose not to see ourselves for who we are in this moment, we are missing an opportunity to look with love on a face and body that have carried us so willingly through our lives.
As a midlife woman, there are plenty of things I’d like to be different about my physical appearance. But what I see when I look in the mirror is the sum of my life experience. Had I taken better care of myself to this point, perhaps I may look somewhat different: thinner, more toned, less lined. But I know in my heart of hearts that any sacrifices I’ve made at the altar of self-care have not been because I’ve been lolling about taking it easy and feasting on bonbons. I’ve sacrificed self-care in deference to keeping the commitments I’d made to others and taking care of their needs before my own.
I suspect if you asked most midlife women they’d say the same thing. For all the advice about the importance of taking care of ourselves first, there are few among us who have managed to practice this religiously in the midst of full and frenetic lives. Even in those bursts when we’ve managed to put ourselves first, we’ve usually slipped quickly back to old ways. I’d wager mostly that’s because our emotional states hadn’t matured enough to support our new choices.
But here, at midlife, we have this beautiful opportunity to treat ourselves with the loving kindness we’ve probably denied ourselves. Now that there is no point beating ourselves up for not looking like the young models who adorn magazine covers, we can begin to ease into the faces and bodies we see looking back at us.
For those of us who are single and worried about what prospective partners might think, we should console ourselves with the fact that it’s unlikely they’ll be a spring chicken either. Let’s face it, we all know that there is nothing as sexy, beautiful or attractive as a woman utterly at home in her own skin.
The important thing to remember, is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when you’re looking in the mirror, the beholder is you. So the question becomes, when you look in the mirror, are you looking for that beauty: the crows feet that attest to laughter and days with eyes screwed up against the sun, the deep grooves in our faces from worries borne and challenges overcome, the spreading body from children carried and time spent sitting and working, the eyes staring back at us that have been constant witnesses to our lives?
Learning to interpret the information offered, with kindness and compassion, is the key to accepting not only what we look like now, but the journey that has brought us thus far.
Ripenist’s Reflection: Next time you’re looking in the mirror, could it be time to give yourself more than a cursory glance?
Share the Wisdom – is there someone you know who has been struggling with how they see themselves recently? Maybe sharing what you took from this for yourself might be a kindness?