When I was 16, my mother caught me fussing in the mirror worrying about finding my first grey hair and she sat me down and gave me some stupendously simple advice:
“Take a step away from the mirror, girl. For goodness sakes, look at your bigger picture: how smart and kind you are.”
Then, it appears, I promptly forgot said sage advice and funnily, even she doesn’t remember telling me.
Through circumstance in these recent years, it’s surfaced back to the forefront of my brain and become my mantra of sorts. It’s helped me to not only accept the aging process, but to embrace it.
When did the need to edit yourself into something other than what you were meant to be begin? For those my age, was it somehow made easier when analogue marched forward to embrace the digital age? Or for those born in the digital age, has the pressure always been there? The pressure to compare yourself to everyone else’s carefully cultivated showreel.
I mean really, given the enhanced digital media and youthful bias in the advertising imagery we’re bombarded with, it’s not a wonder we long for perfection, to defy age instead of embrace – and look! here are the tools both physical and digital at our disposal.
So back to my 16 year old self. Why did I forget this brilliant piece of advice? Quite simply, I think it’s a matter of left-side right-side of the brain. Sometimes, we’re taught things we know to be true. Yet invariably, the other side of our brain makes us forget – until we need to remember.
Why did I remember? Timing! I was in my mid 40s and spending a forced period of time off work after a debilitating accident. I was an inch away from the mirror focusing on all my perceived myriad imperfections. I had tried Botox a few times and wondered to myself if it was a slippery slope. Where would I stop? Did I want to edit myself? Could I afford to? What did I fear? Why did I worry about what other people thought so much?
It was then that I decided I would accept the aging process; that I could stop comparing myself to my former self and to others. I would make an effort to not focus on the things I disliked about myself, but rather see and acknowledge all the good things about myself. I simply stopped and marched away from the mirror to admire myself from that distance. My mum’s words finally tinkling back to the forefront of my brain.
Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’m not telling you to not cosmetically address the particular areas that have always concerned you. I know the opportunities to edit ourselves physically are here to stay and I totally understand this may give you the self-confidence you need to walk out the door in the morning. I’m sharing this insight because it seems it can be easy to go that little bit too far. First a little, then, a lot. Voila! You’re off and you’re away on your path to perfection… but, are you beginning to not look like you anymore? Who are you? What’s important to you? Ask yourself, does changing the outside make your feel better about your insides?
So humour me? This is where I ask you to stop for a moment. Be your own advocate. Think about it then TAKE A STEP AWAY FROM THE MIRROR… and then, every few birthdays please be kind to yourself and take another step. Take a long look at the bigger picture that is you. Try to stop dwelling on your external imperfections. Stop being so damn hard on yourself.
Are you kind to others? Yes? Then think about being kind to yourself. Are you smart? Are you really? Then think about the road you’re going down; what you do could affect the way you look for the rest of your life.
And, though people say life is short, it’s actually not. What if the more we toy with ourselves, the less likely we are to be happy? What if the more we try to hold back the years the more we are sending the message we’re displeased with ourselves, that we lack confidence.
And I can tell you I know now, without doubt the most attractive thing about anyone at any age is confidence.
So, when you wake up tomorrow I’m begging you, do me the favour of taking a step away from the mirror. Look in the mirror to do what you have to do, then walk away. Look in the mirror to make sure you’re put together nicely, smile at yourself, and then walk away. Make a promise to yourself not to randomly look in the mirror a dozen times during the day and chide yourself on one thing or another. If you can’t help yourself and you do look in the mirror… be kind to yourself and if you do decide you want to tweak your imperfections, then please seek the services of a professional who cares about your end result and won’t allow you to go too far. Someone who isn’t just interested in your money and how many dollar signs you are worth to them on a yearly basis.
Try and send a message to your sisters to your daughters and to your friends that you simply do not care about others judgment.
That other people’s negative opinions of our appearance are none of our business.
Send the message that you embrace yourself and that your imperfections make you perfect. They make you human, they make you loveable, and they make you, unique!
Thank you to my dearest mum, Margaret, who made me! I’m blessed to know she thinks I’m her greatest achievement. She sees beyond my veneer, to my ageless spirit beneath.
Be kind to yourself and to others.
Featured images courtesy of Prue Aja Photography.
Mel Brady, 55, is a senior Australian based product and interiors stylist with over 30 years experience in the advertising industry. A few years ago, her silver hair led her to take a confident stand in front of the camera to show that embracing age naturally is more liberating than trying to hold back the years.