It's kind of ironic that even though I am probably the fittest I've ever been, I wear my clothes better than I ever have, and I spend more time and energy (and money...) on my appearance than I ever have before, that I feel....Old. Yep, that horrible word. The one that makes me cringe, and want to run to the mirror and check for wrinkles.
It's not that I look that old - I reckon I look my age but no more. And probably not less. I put a lot of effort into my hair and makeup and clothes. I certainly don't feel old either - and I know I've got twice the energy of many people half my age, able to ''stay up late'' and indulge in a heap of physical activity but not tire out. So why do I feel old? Because I look at myself with a critical eye, when the light is extra bright, or I'm hanging over a mirror (don't do it!!!!!) and can see the lines, the slow loss of skin tone, the grey bits in my hair, the general ''oldness'' that comes with advancing in age. I might only be 46 but there are days - many days - when I yearn to be ten years younger, if only to get back the skin and vibrancy of better days.
Why is that feeling old and feeling ugly are so entwined...and so pivotal when it comes to our self esteem? It's not just because of our appearance-obsessed society surely? Because people have been agonising over this for hundreds of years, not just since the Internet got invented. I think it's because the two concepts are not agreeable - no one wants to be old, and sure no one wants to be ugly (and for ugly feel free to substitute fat/skinny/unfit/grey/pudgy/stooped or whatever your fear is)
Probably, it wouldn't matter so much, if I had someone telling me I was beautiful. My father tells my mother every day, even after 35 years of marriage. She laughs and says she isn't, but to him she is, 72 year old body and all. I have never believed I was beautiful. A good heart, sure. Well put together, usually. Smart and stylish, sometimes. But not beautiful. That's not looking for sympathy either by the way, it's just stating a fact as I see it, born and endorsed through my painful teen years of red hair, glasses and a ''bit of a weight problem''.
I'd love to be one of those women who proclaim to the world that they are proud of their bodies. Those ones that wear their stretchmarks like tiger claw scars. That are happy to wear a strapless top even when they really shouldn't - or a bikini when they REALLY shouldn't. But I'm not, I'm just a regular person, normal weight and height, with a regular body and the usual insecurities one might expect from a 46 year old mother of two.
Do I have poor body image? No I don't think so. I have had minor struggles with an eating disorder in the past, but that had absolutely nothing to do with my weight or shape, and all to do with a feeling of control. Do I like how I look? For the most part. Sure there's things I'd nip tuck and transfer. I'd really like less wrinkles and I'm not adverse to cosmetic enhancement - botox, teeth whitening, large pots of wax, all seem like fine ideas to me.
Do I think I'm enslaved to society's version of eternal youth? No not at all, but I do want to look and feel good - and not be judged for doing so. Appearances might not be everything, but clothes maketh the man!
So body image for me, might be more than skin deep - for sure there are people that I find absolutely gorgeous who are no oil painting at all - but the reality is that when I wake and look in the mirror, I am reminded that age is not my friend.