Have you ever looked in the mirror and felt horrified by the face looking back at you? Maybe you notice a deep line that wasn't there a week ago, or grey hairs that you swear grew in overnight. On closer inspection, your skin looks dull and your eyes look tired. Then you begin to notice more unattractive things about yourself. The beginning of a double chin. Cellulite. Skin that isn't as firm as it once was. Some of these things are age related, some not. Regardless, they are all things that no one wants to see staring back at them in the mirror. Nora Ephron wrote an entire book about her neck, so needless to say, appearance is important to most people, especially women. We live in a culture that is based on our looks, and it's easy to become a victim of modern beauty standards. I don't know a woman who hasn't been unhappy with some physical trait, at some point in her life. It's hard enough to feel good about yourself and the way you look even if everything is going well in your life. But going through a divorce, especially if it involved infidelity, can really add a final blow to your self-esteem.
Striving For Perfection In All The Wrong Ways
Both of the men my mother married had affairs. After her second (and final) divorce, she went through a very difficult period of low self-esteem, and rightly so. It's hard to accept that not only one, but two people you loved chose someone else. It made her feel ugly, and unwanted. At the time she was in her fifties, which is a fragile age in a woman's life. Your youth is over, and every magazine, billboard, movie and television show screams that women are only desirable in their twenties, and possibly into their thirties. So it didn't help that her last husband cheated with a younger woman. But even if you weren't the victim of infidelity, or you're still young, divorce can still tear down your confidence. After my own divorce I felt extremely unattractive. I don't have any noticeable signs of aging yet (well, maybe a few grey hairs) but I began to scrutinize everything I hated about myself. I was sure I would never be attractive to anyone again, and my ex hadn't even been unfaithful. I just felt ugly. I hated my asymmetrical smile. I hated my thighs. My height. My nose. I hated my stomach, which would never be flat even if I did two workouts a day. I still feel insecure about some of those things. But I have learned a few things about body image since then. For starters, I no longer strive for flat abs. You know why? Almost no woman has flat abs. Fitness models spend hours a day working on it, and unless you have a professional reason, there are probably a lot more constructive things you can be doing with your time other than focusing on body parts. I also learned that while I don't completely love being short, it makes me a very efficient calorie burner. My nose is not perfectly straight, but now I accept that it never will be, because I would never do anything to change it. It's not a perfect nose on a perfect face, but there will never be a nose or a face that looks exactly like mine, or exactly like yours. We're all completely unique, and that alone makes us all beautiful in a way.
Defining Ideal Beauty
I know it sounds corny to say that inner beauty is what matters, but consider this. Aren't the women you admire usually confident, smart, and maybe funny? You are drawn to them because of what they have to offer through their intelligence or talents, not their looks. In fact, people tend to find the people they like or admire more physically attractive than people they don't like, because it's nearly impossible to be objective about the appearance of people we know. There is no true ideal. The only time objectivity works is when we are looking at pictures of strangers. So with that in mind, consider whether or not it bothers you if a total stranger doesn't think you're pretty. Being attractive is a bonus in life, but it shouldn't be the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to be healthy, and live your life in a way that makes you feel good. So if you really can only feel good by getting a face lift, then by all means, go for it. But after you're gone, the people whose lives you touched are going to remember the things you did and said, not what your neck looked like. And when you fall in love again – and you probably will – the person who loves you isn't going to be focusing on the fine lines around your eyes. They'll only see how those eyes light up when you talk about what makes you happy.
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Lead Image Courtesy of Wikipedia Creative Commons- Pablo Picasso's Woman in the Mirror