By Samantha McKenzie
Let’s face it. We live in a world that shames us for getting older. By the time we’re old enough to figure out how to use a remote control, we’re bombarded with every type of advertisement that’s telling us we should look younger, feel younger, be younger. We’re a society consumed with protecting our youthfulness at every turn.
Even in our homes.
At the office.
As we walk down the street and when we’re hanging out at the local bar.
There’s no place to really hide. Forty is not the new 25. Forty is forty and it’s just damn good for some of us.
We all want to drink from the illusive fountain of youth, because, well, that’s what we’ve been taught to believe.
I’m guilty of it too. The first time I saw a gray hair pop in, I immediately plucked it out. Later, when more grew, I elicited my children to help me destroy them all. I continued these self-loathing habits as the years progressed (while I didn’t). As I aged out of my 20s, I detested buying new clothes because I no longer wore that “perfect size.”
During my 30s, I refused to wear a bathing suit because I didn’t want my stretch marks to show or those cellulite dimples that had begun to form around my thighs. At this stage, I was sure it was all down hill for me. By the time I hit 40, I learned about concealer. I have purchased every product known to man to cover up the dark circles around my eyes and perfect my imperfect skin. On the outside, I was confident and self-assured, but on the inside, I was doing everything in my power to look 20 again.
I was stuck in a pitiful place, a place that nurtured the belief that there was this perfect look and if I captured it, I’d be forever happy.
I’ve since learned that I had to get out and get out fast (it was a different type of sunken place).
These days, I no longer chase after my youth. I absolutely love being 49. I can say this with conviction: I love each and every day of getting older because I only see myself getting better. I eat healthier and get more exercise because I know it’s good for me and I feel better when I take care of myself. There’s less to put on and much less to cover up on this side of beauty.
I’ve learned to detach from the idea that aging is a bad thing. I’ve had to learn to disregard the images that tell me otherwise. Instead, I see age as the most beautiful part of life. It has afforded me the opportunity to focus on more important things, like creating stronger friendships, and paying attention to my mental and spiritual diet. I have learned to respect the changes my body has gone through and see it as a natural evolution.
Those stretch marks now remind me that my oldest son is now a new financial adviser and is living a productive (and might I add, independent) life. They also remind me that my middle daughter is graduating college in May and just took the law school entrance exam. Those marks tell the story of sacrifice, of expansion, of progress…and they are deeply divine.
My gray hairs tell the world that I’ve been here long enough to have seen a few things. It says, “She’s wiser. She’s stronger. She’s able.”
Aging has given me the space to create my own happiness. It’s made me find greatness in other things, like the ocean or a very meaningful conversation – both things that urge me to shift my understanding of life.
What if we became that generation that embraced aging? What if we gave ourselves permission to get older and be happy while it’s taking place?
I challenge you to accept your entire self this week. Look in the mirror and love the skin that you are in. Eliminate any criticism of your physical features (the ones you say out loud and the ones you say in your head). If you are feeling less than pretty, remember to smile. Think back on the stories that got you to this point and celebrate each and every experience.
Age has done me no wrong. In fact, it’s made me more beautiful than ever.