Do you ever pass a mirror, catch a glimpse and find yourself having a visceral reaction to whatever you see there?
I remember hearing a story about a woman who screamed every morning at herself because the image in her head didn’t match up with the aged image in the mirror.
It hasn’t gotten that bad for me, but my reaction to seeing my face the other day has got me thinking about how our culture views aging and beauty and perfection and how we cause our own suffering because we believe all the lies surrounding these ideals.
I saw myself the other day and cringed. I lost 60 lbs last year, rapidly and the skin under my chin is fairly loose because of this AND because I’m forty-four years old. The skin just doesn’t have its former elasticity. It’s never really bothered me much and I only notice it in photos sometimes..and you know…it makes me look soft. I like that.
Well! There must have been something about the light and angle or maybe I was feeling a bit insecure that day because I immediately spiraled down into that yucky place of self-hatred. “Ugh! You need to fix that!”
Ha, as if I was super handy with a scalpel and have the means to perform a restorative surgery on the fly.
Luckily for me, I am mindful-thank you meditation-and so I let the nasty thoughts come and go and once the mud cleared, I stood there and really had a good look at my face.
I even took a photo.
The funny thing was, when I did that. When I was brave and faced the reality of the thoughts,when I confronted my image and really examined it, those thoughts faded away to nothing. I reminded myself that I was forty-forty! -not twenty-four -and I went on with my day.
Until the next time it happened a few days later, when I caught sight of myself again in my front camera. Fucking front camera!
Yet again, when I faced the reality of my thoughts…my face..the thoughts faded away and I can clearly see that what my mind was trying to get me to hate about me, to fear..is not all that bad. It’s just fucking skin. Its nothing more than proof that I lost sixty lbs quickly and I’m in my forties. Its just my face.
That’s it. That’s all.
I know the fear and disgust will come back again. And I know I’ll confront them again. And again. For as many times as I need to. For I am neither perfect or youthful and we live in a society that is always striving for perfection and absolutely adores and worships youth.
Why? Well, I don’t have all the answers but two things that are very clear to me are this:
Perfectionism is just anxiety. The fear of not doing or being right. We are social beings, and there is this fear that if we’re not doing all the right things or not meeting the group standards then maybe we don’t deserve to be in whatever special group we want to belong to and we’ll be seen as less than. Nobody wants to be less than. There are consequences for this grave infraction! Usually, the loss of whatever need is being met by our special groups.
Our obsession with youth comes straight from our denial of impermance.Its almost as if we think that by looking young, we`re cheating death. Like the grim reaper will pass us by and think “Nope. That one looks like she’s 20. Too young for me! I only take the ones with loose skin under their chins”
It would be hilarious if this way of thinking didn’t cause so much suffering!
We are ALL going to die. Staying youthful looking is not going to make a shit tonne of difference when it comes to that. You can apply all the skin creams in the world, have all the plastic surgery you want, hell, have that mid-life crisis…leave your wife for someone younger… You are ALL still going to die.
Youth doesn`t even save the young from dying! Kids die ALL THE TIME. Men and women in their twenties,thirties and forties die. With great regularity. This is not a new thing! This has been going on since life began. In fact, this is the one sure thing in life.
The one permanent thing, strangely enough is,impermanence.
If you are reading this today, regardless of what is going on in your life right now…you have horseshoes up your butt to have made it this far when so many of us have not.
My childhood friend who was shot and killed, along with her brother by their dad, when she was eight years old.
My best friend who died from depression when she was fifteen years old.
My friend who got drunk one night down by the river, fell in and drowned. He was twenty-four years old.
You get my point.
So you know, instead of hating ourselves and spending precious time fearing something we have no control over anyway, I suggest we embrace the signs of our aging.
Every time we glimpse something in the mirror that makes us cringe , let it be a reminder of how lucky we are to have made it this far. All these years on a planet that is doing nothing but try to kill us and we are still here!
What a gift! All these years of experiences and wisdom. All these years of growth.
Every time we wake up again in the morning, we’re getting one more kick at the can. ONe more chance to live another day.
I, for one am not going to spend much more of my precious time hating my body for being itself. \Ive got important Lael shit to do!
How do you want to spend your day? What do you want to do with that chance?