Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ageless Beauty—Part I

Written in the late ’90s when I was in my late 30s, the following is as true for me today as it was when I wrote it and included it at the end of Timeless Skin—the last (and my favorite) chapter of my first book. Because it is a long piece, I have divided it into two articles. Also, the first few paragraphs are found in a previous post, MYTH: Aging is bad.

Although each part of this book is valuable, this last chapter is in many ways the most important. Discussing care of your skin from the outside is pretty straightforward. When you adopt a particular suggestion, there will be a probable outcome. But skin care in regard to aging is not purely topical. I cannot separate the importance of taking care of your skin from the inside (both inside your body and your mind) and topical care. Talking about healing from deep within becomes a bit complex, and that is what this chapter is all about.

I truly believe aging is not the terrible thing it is represented to be in the consciousness of this country. Aging is inevitable, and it is the most natural process in life—one to be heralded, not condemned. A pervasive perception in our society today is that there is something inherently wrong with getting older. Yes, it can be disheartening to see the lines start to form or get deeper. Slowing down, losing your 20/20 vision, and waking up to stiff joints are not what you would choose for yourself. Although degenerating is the part of the process that is perhaps the hardest to take, what about what you gain with age?

The big question is “What is wrong with aging?” If you spend your whole life fighting the aging process, are you really living? What are you comparing old to? How will you grow old? Do you know older people who seem young? People who haven’t caved in to some society-driven illusion of how “old is bad.” The adage about wine getting better with time—isn’t this true for people as well?

Aging with grace is what I’m striving for in my own life, and it is what I discuss with my clients. You can struggle with what is happening and put up a big fight, but the bottom line is the aging of your body will occur anyway. There are no miracles to be found in a jar of cream, nor is there a Fountain of Youth at the doctor’s office. You are your own living miracle, and how your body functions is the daily affirmation, the absolute proof. The Fountain of Youth is inside you.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? I’d like to think you see a beautiful soul living each day to the fullest, doing the best you can in any given situation. In other words, you see your humanness. I have a feeling, however, some of you see something completely different. Maybe you see someone you wish you weren’t. Perhaps you are comparing yourself to your skinny neighbor or your friends with flawless skin. When you look in the mirror, do you see your true self or only someone in comparison to someone else?

It’s a simple matter of “compare and despair.” If you are constantly comparing yourself to other people (who, by the way, are comparing themselves to their ideal), you will never be happy or satisfied with the way you look. How could you possibly compare? They are “ideal,” “perfect,” “without flaws.” It’s as though there is something wrong with feeling OK about the way you look!

How you see yourself is relative. It’s relative to how you feel. It’s relative to what you want to look like in comparison to what you do look like. When have you ever looked in the mirror on a day you felt horrible and said, “I look great today!”? Probably never! But conversely, haven’t you looked in the mirror on a day when everything was going your way and said, “Hey, I look pretty good!”? Well, these days can occur back to back, one after the other. One day you’re up; the next you’re down. And so too is how you see yourself. But physically, your body (your face) doesn’t change overnight. Rarely do significant changes occur, even over a short period of time. It’s all in your attitude and how you feel that gets projected onto the image you see in the mirror.

The funny thing about worrying over how we look is that everyone else (almost everyone) has similar feelings about themselves. A client came to me years ago, distraught about a “huge” pimple on her face. (Huge to her was not huge to me.) She was going to a black tie affair and was so worried about what everyone would think about her blemish. As I worked on her skin, I reminded her that more than likely everyone would be worried about themselves, totally missing her “big zit.” Perhaps they might have spilled something on their clothes on the way to the party or couldn’t get their hair to do the right thing. It would be doubtful that other people would be focusing on something wrong with my client. More than likely, they would be worried about something in their own appearances.
Call me crazy, but in my perfect world people aren’t worried about what they look like so much as who they are. How you present yourself to the world is measured (in my mind) by your character. The question I ask myself is, “Am I a good person?” not “Am I good-looking?”

I think if we lived in a world without mirrors we would think differently about who we are. We wouldn’t be able to look in the mirror and pick ourselves apart, condemning what nature or our parents gave us. We would accept our looks because we wouldn’t be able to compare them to anyone else’s. And certainly there would be no comparisons to supermodels gracing the pages of fashion magazines and TV commercials.

What you get out of life tends to be measured by what you put into it. (In physics it’s known as the law of cause and effect.) Regarding aging, genetics start things off. But if you are blessed with good genes and consistently don’t take care of your body, history will eventually tell the real story by your state of health. This is true for your skin as well. If you do all the right things, you will most likely receive the payoff. The tough realization is youth will not come from a single bottle, a magic potion, and in my opinion not even through cosmetic surgery.

What causes you to age is not just the natural degeneration of your cells, but your inner thoughts as well. Choosing how you age, acknowledging your inner beauty, accepting the process, and deciding to age with grace are internal factors that can have a positive impact on how you feel about aging (on the inside), which affects how you will age (on the outside).

For a few more articles on the aging process, see: