Love, Always

Earning Every Wrinkle: How I Learned To Love My (Slightly-Older) Body.

When I was nine years old, my mom got a job selling cosmetics door-to-door.

Soon after, she earned her credentials as a cosmetologist.

And after that, she opened her own beauty salon, The Face Place, which she operated successfully for many years.

The point of this story is not to tout my mom’s entrepreneurial skills (which helped to shape my own career — thanks, mom!) but to explain why I’ve been using fancy face creams, day and night, since I was about nine years old.

My mother was a great lover of beauty, who from whom I learned that looking “ageless” and “smooth” and “wrinkle-free” was something to be admired.

Yup. That was big in my home, when I was growing up.

Fast forward about forty years.

I’m no longer a nine year old girl, sampling beauty products in my mother’s salon.

Instead, I’m a middle-aged woman, recuperating after a serious illness — and finally getting back into my exercise regime after a stint in a hospital bed.

I glance in the mirror as I’m changing, after a work out, and I’m shocked by what I see. Saggy skin. Age spots. Wrinkles … on my legs?! A face that looks wearier than usual. Like, oh, I don’t know … someone who’s just been released from a hospital.

I freaked out.

Despite decades of personal growth and inner work — and professional training as a psychologist and life coach — I couldn’t stop the angry, hurtful voices from flooding into my mind.

“You’re unattractive.”

“Don’t smile, you look more wrinkled.”

“Cover up your body so your saggy skin won’t show.”

“You need plastic surgery for your face — they won’t want you to appear on TV any more. You look too old.”

And so on, and so on.

For a while, I believed those voices. I tried to cover up my body & hide my wrinkles with make-up. I avoided looking in the mirror. I just couldn’t deal with it.

More then a few painful days passed.

But slowly, I found myself again.

My values … my beliefs … my standards for how I live my life.

My definition of self-love and respect.

Whenever those merciless voices would trash my appearance, I’d lovingly fight back with a different set of words:

“I love you, unconditionally.”

“You are beautiful, inside and out.” 

“Body, you are a miracle. I honor you. I love you. I respect you.”

“You’ve earned every one of those wrinkles. I love you & I’m proud of you.”

“You’ve spent many years doing valuable work — helping people to feel great.”

“Your life matters just as much today as it did when you had fewer birthday candles on your cake.”

It took patience and extreme gentleness to bring myself back to my values — to my truth.

Even today, years later, I occasionally find myself mesmerized by a photoshopped celebrity on a glossy magazine cover, wistfully thinking, “Why can’t that be me…?”

For the most part, though, my attitude towards my body and my life is one of gratitude and appreciation.

I still use face creams, exercise regularly, and indulge in a new tube of red lipstick from time to time.

The difference is that, now, I do these things because I like myself and enjoy looking & feeling my best — not because I hate myself and want to reverse time and stop feeling like a mess.

I’ve learned that happiness doesn’t come from “fighting back” the aging process, but rather from “fighting back” the cruel inner voices that tell you that aging is wrong.

When I am totally anchored in self-love and I look in the mirror, aging is a non-issue.

I don’t see wrinkles. I just see someone that I love.

. . .

PS. Introducing: The Life Guide on Aging with Grace. (Because “growing older” can mean… whatever YOU want it to mean.)