Aging in our society can be tough. Especially if you’re a woman. With 14-year-old models on the cover of Vogue, it’s generally well recognized that our culture is disinclined to promote confidence in women over 50. Beauty in America is largely defined by youth. Firm thighs, perky (preferably large) breasts, toned underarms, and smooth skin from head to toe. If you were gifted with long blonde hair and legs like a giraffe, you don’t even have to be intelligent. By the time we get to 50, 60, or beyond, it gets harder and harder to feel good about ourselves or our bodies.
But every now and then, we come across a 50+ woman who seems to be genuinely confident about herself. She’s often not even what we’ve been taught is traditionally beautiful, yet she radiates a certain something that makes her seem so. Upon closer inspection, she’s got lines around her eyes, her legs are short, her boobs have obviously tangled with gravity, and is that cellulite on her thighs?? How is it that she’s got everyone talking about how gorgeous she is?
Glad you asked.
Personality studies have reported that one of the most important traits in confident women is that they don’t look to outside sources to validate their fabulousness. They instill it in themselves. They have lists of easy tips and habits that they’re overwhelmingly delighted to share. They aren’t threatened by the rest of us. The prevailing attitude is “C’mon in. The water’s fine.” I love these women.
- Just once, get your photo taken by a Photoshop pro. Photoshop can lighten, tighten, and reconfigure every part of your body. (Do you really think those fashion models look like that in real life?) It can smooth the skin, eliminate facial lines, narrow the waist, perk up your boobs, and even make your legs look longer. Put that photo up on Facebook. Use it as your profile picture on all of your social media sites. Send a framed copy to your mother, your best friend, and your ex (take that, jackass).
- Surround yourself with positive, happy people who love you and tell you how amazing you are. “Oh, you shaved your head during that last stint in rehab? You look gorgeous!” “You’re quitting your job at the law firm to build yurts? What a great idea!” These are the people who make us feel instantly better about ourselves. We like these people. Invite them over. A lot. And give them wine.
- Dump everyone else. Critical, judgmental, snarky people who constantly belittle you or demean your achievements, and generally make you feel like crap after five minutes in the same room together. It doesn’t matter if you two were college roommates in 1980, or you were the maid of honor at her wedding 24 years ago, or even if you share DNA. “You’re going to screw this up. You always do.” “Aren’t you a little old to take that risk?” “Oh, you self-published your book? Couldn’t find a real publisher, huh?” These kinds of comments can smithereen your confidence, because obviously you’re stupid and your ideas are stupid, and you just need to sit in the corner with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s until you get realistic about your shortcomings. Oh hell, no. Get rid of these people. Do it today.
- Throw out your bathroom scale. Starting every day stepping on your scale, looking down and announcing “Yep, I’m still fat,” is virtually guaranteed to make you feel ugly or unworthy for the rest of the day. This one is so important, if you want to stop reading and go do it now, we’ll wait.
- If you can’t bring yourself to toss it, set it back 3-5 pounds. Trust me, this works. In a couple of weeks, you’ll forget that it’s light, but you’ll be five pounds nicer to yourself.
- Say something positive to yourself in the mirror every morning. Positive self-talk or affirmations have been around for decades because they work. The brain believes what it’s been told. Go goofy here. Nobody will hear it but you. “Damn, I’m sexy.” “Good morning, Gorgeous!” “I’ve got me a fabulous boo-tay!” Whatever makes you laugh. Do this for 21 straight days, and I promise, you’ll be rocking your rebel self all day long. (No weight loss or Botox required.)
- Cancel your subscriptions to magazines geared toward girls significantly younger than you. You know, the ones that feature genetically anorexic, Photoshopped child models who’ve never reproduced or eaten a cheeseburger, modeling clothes we couldn’t get into if we soaped ourselves up first. If we’re going to compare ourselves to other women, let’s at least give ourselves a fighting chance by picking women in our own age bracket.
- Laugh. As much as you can. You can’t feel bad about yourself when you’re laughing. It’s not possible. Besides, you’re a lot more fun to be around when you’re happy, which attracts all of your positive, happy friends (see #2). So laugh. Do it often. And learn to laugh at yourself. Most of us will never run out of material.
- Stand up straight. This is a small, but empowering change you can make right now. Slouching pushes out the tummy, shortens our torso, and droops our boobs down closer to our navels. It says “Don’t notice me. Just pretend I’m not here.” There’s something about shoulders back, head up, and boobs forward that makes you feel like “I got this.”
- Find the best candid picture of you ever taken. Put it where you can see it regularly. Tape a copy to your bathroom mirror. That’s how your positive, happy friends see you. To us, you’re beautiful.
- Put it in perspective. I’ve never heard anyone say at a funeral, “Agnes was such a wonderful person, and we all loved her. But none of us could figure out why she couldn’t bang off those last 15 pounds.” People. Don’t. Care. If you care, do something about it. If you don’t, don’t. It truly only matters to you. The positive people in your life love you in any shape or form you come in, because you’re…well, you.