Growing older gracefully

In certain cultures, as women age they are revered for their wisdom, loved for their life experiences and adored for their maturity.

Sophia Loren

Sophia Loren – gorgeous at 80!

But in our Western society, I’m increasingly worried that the opposite seems to be the case.

Our fixation with youth is making women feel obliged to try to look younger using dermal fillers, lifts, tucks, implants, dental facelifts, dermabrasion, Botox…the list goes on.

In her book ‘How To Be A Woman’, Caitlin Moran discusses the lengths women go to in order to consider themselves ‘date ready’. The depilation, the styling, the make up, the treatments… it all adds up to a very lengthy and expensive process.

I completely support a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body but I feel that should include the right NOT to engage in any of the above.

A media onslaught

The illusion of choice is being mainlined into our homes via TV, magazines and internet advertising, so perhaps it’s time to take a step back and ask what we really need and why we should spend so much of our time and disposable incomes conforming to a synthetic stereotype that owes nothing to who we are and what we can achieve.

Websites are frequently filled with pictures of starlets who, as a result of badly advised treatments are either unrecognisable or sadly disfigured caricatures of themselves. Beauty should not be measured by the cost of its acquisition.

I work with women of all ages who buy into the assumption that because cosmetic marketing says they must cleanse, tone and moisturise, that one size fits all, and that size is the cost of three bottles, possibly bolstered by a serum, a night cream, a once-a-week treatment or scrub… again the list goes on.

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I am filled with further resolve to step away from the collagen when the political statements of an intelligent woman in government are three paragraphs below the questions on where she buys her clothes or has her hair styled.

The still-gorgeous screen siren

Sophia Loren, at 80, is still beautiful and talking about her life points out that she always refused cosmetic surgery. Even her husband Carlo Ponti tried to persuade her to shave a bit off the end of that aquiline nose.

She said her face would have been very different. “At that time, they used to do noses like a French nose with a little tip at the end – they liked that,” she shared, “Can you imagine me with a nose like that?”

Whatever makes you happy

Life is a pretty short affair. Style your hair if it’s what makes you feel good. Use cosmetics to make the best of what you have but don’t let anyone make you feel that being older makes you less valuable.

At 18 you may have wonderful skin but you have much to learn about the world. Oddly, in my 40s I have better skin than I did in my teens but that’s beside the point.

I am far more self assured and comfortable with myself and I’ve learned much about the world. One thing I now know is that the people who love me won’t love me any more because I got rid of a few of the lines round my eyes.

A woman I know who works at senior level in banking had Botox because she felt she was being passed over for more attractive, younger-looking colleagues. However, once she had her expensive, newly smoother skin she noticed no practical difference in how others responded to her.

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On the other hand when she had a haircut everyone told her how well she looked. She’s still earning a six-figure salary, but not because of her beauty routine.

Her wage relates to her huge experience and unique qualifications in the industry, which, coupled with her softer management style, means she brings in projects on time which costs her employers less.

What she has are experience and wisdom.

A change in attitudes

Time was when a woman reached the third stage of her life, passed from child bearing and rearing and stepped into maturity, her wisdom was venerated. Her experiences were respected by younger folk in the community.

As I mentioned earlier, in some cultures this is still the case – but sadly not in all.

Instead, women are being encouraged to fill up the wrinkles and simper like children.

Women who have moved on from rearing families or simply stepped past it are self possessed, they understand their bodies better, they enjoy sex more. And partners tell us that self assurance is tremendously alluring!

We like a pair of improbable shoes but are confident enough to step out of them later in the evening so that we can enjoy ourselves rather than going home in pain.

It’s high time we remembered that those qualities are hard won. You can’t go to a salon and have wisdom injected into your butt. A younger person cannot have an experience implant. The only way you develop those qualities is to live your life well and accept the lessons life has to teach you.

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By all means use every tool at your disposal but remember… youth is all very well but experience, in my experience, trumps it every time.

About Katherine Bellchambers-Wilson

Passionate about looking good and feeling great, I’m a BSc qualified herbalist who won’t make you give up your chocolate, coffee or alcohol (unless you have a stomach ulcer and then only for a while). I believe a little of what you fancy does you good and that all work and no play just spoils a perfectly good Sunday. Herbal medicine harnesses the power of plants to help nudge your body into balance so you can get on with doing what’s important. BSc MNIMH