“We are not going to waste another moment criticizing our bodies, scrutinizing ourselves in the mirror, or wishing we were younger looking!” This was a declaration that I made with my two dear friends, Tricia and Suki, while sipping margaritas together one beautiful evening at a rooftop restaurant in San Francisco. We raised our glasses and toasted to cherishing our health and vitality.
That evening was more than 20 years ago, but I remember it clearly because we were truly committed to loving ourselves as we aged. We looked across the table at each other and could easily see the beauty there – not despite aging, but because of it! There was a wisdom and maturity in my friends’ faces that wasn’t there when we all first met a decade previous to that evening’s clink of the margarita glasses.
When I looked at my friends, I saw a deeper beauty in them – as if they had each grown more into who they really were. To me, their faces revealed stories of lives well lived, with so many loves, adventures and challenges.
That big toasting moment I’m telling you about happened sometime around the year 2000. Tricia and I were in our mid-thirties and Suki was likely in her mid-fifties. We’d all met back in 1989 when we were coworkers at a humane society, sharing meaningful work that forged a deep friendship between the three of us. Over the years, our friendship and conversations extended beyond animal welfare and often turned to our families, romantic relationships, spirituality, health and well-being.
Sitting together, at that rooftop restaurant in the year 2000, waiting for our tacos and guacamole, we expressed how grateful we were for our years-long friendship with one another. We mused about all the big events we’d experienced together – celebrations and also difficult navigations!
We’d then started circling around a topic that seemed to come up whenever we were together: how self-conscious we felt about wrinkles, sagging skin, varicose veins and other signs of growing older. Each of us admitted that when we looked back on photos of ourselves at younger ages, we thought we looked so good. Yet, we remembered being critical of ourselves even then: “I thought I was too heavy; but I was a great weight!” “I hated my thin hair. But that’s silly; it was shiny and lovely.” “I was obsessed with having bigger boobs. What a shame that I focused on that so much and missed the joy of such beautiful skin!”
Thin hair. That five extra pounds. Crooked noses. Big hips. We remembered all the ways we were so critical of ourselves; and yet, as we shared some fun photos of our trio back in the early 1990’s, we exclaimed that we wished we had appreciated ourselves more. We wished we had felt our youthfulness and beauty. We wished we had been more grateful for our vibrancy and health.
Gosh, how much time did we waste on what we thought were flaws, when we could have been basking in our good health and the natural beauty that everyone has? THAT question was the one that led us to our declaration and toast! Because – gulp! – did we really want to be sitting around a table together in another decade looking back at photos from this evening and saying, “Gee, we were so lovely back then. We should have let ourselves feel our health and vitality instead of focusing on weight and wrinkles and sags.”
Well, guess what? As I’m writing this, more than twenty years have passed since toasting and declaring. The reason I’m writing this is because yesterday Tricia and I were on a phone call and the conversation turned to aging. We both realized that we had not stayed true to our commitment to appreciate ourselves and our bodies as we aged.
Instead, here we were, both of us nearing sixty, and still trying to wish away the wrinkles and sags. Now, of course there is so much more to our lives than how we look! We are both blessed with abundance of love, connection, meaning and fulfillment; however, any energy spent on negative feelings about ourselves is energy much better spent elsewhere, right?!
Rather than looking back anymore or feeling bad, Tricia and I renewed our commitment. “This is IT,” we declared to one another on the phone yesterday; however, this time we are wiser. We didn’t just declare something; we also made an action plan. We asked ourselves, “How can we stay true to our desire to love ourselves, our bodies, our looks, our health as time marches onward?”
Here are some actions we know we can take! I want to share them with YOU just in case you are wasting a moment of your life feeling less than glowing appreciation for yourself!
Six Ways to Love My Aging Self:
Speak kindly to my skin
In the morning, when I am putting lotion on my face, I can feel appreciation to my skin for its softness and smiles. I can gently pat the lotion on my face and imagine how happy my skin is for this caring touch and moisture.
Express gratitude for my energy
When I am jumping around at dance class, walking up the stairs, running quickly to the postal box or chasing one of the cats around the house, I can pause and acknowledge how grateful I am to have energy and vitality. What a gift!
Feed my body healthy foods and hydration
When I am at the market, I can choose fresh, rainbow foods. I can buy myself lots of unprocessed food that will fuel me. I can treat my body to organic produce. I can drink lots of water all throughout the day because I know my body wants it!
Collect inspiring role models
I can remember to add to my “Aging Zestfully” Pinterest board more frequently. I can create an Evernote notebook where I store all of the articles I read about the Positive Aging Movement. I can read books like the one Tricia just recommended to me, “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age”by Mary Pipher.
Engage in conversations about the positive aging movement
I can talk to people much more frequently about ways to overwrite our culture’s obsession with youth and anti-aging to a healthier focus on grateful aging and the beauty of becoming older. (Trish and I have promised one another to bring this topic up at least once a month when we have our weekly connection calls!)
Remind myself daily what a gift it is to simply be alive
I can put quotes and post-it notes around the house to remind me that I am so lucky to have lived this many years. I can be grateful to my body for carrying me around, through rain and snowstorms and across so many years and experiences! And best of all, I can be grateful to have been alive so many wonderful years with some family and friends who are on this journey, too – helping me grow old with joy and love!
If you have some ideas about ways to love your amazing aging self, please post them below! If we are going to rewrite the stories in our culture, your positive input is essential!