Cher madness vs Oprah diva

2011-08-09 00:00

FOR attractive women who have relied on their good looks, middle age and the ageing process can be especially challenging.

Even for women who have considered beauty stuff frivolous and nonsensical, preferring to pursue careers, midlife can be a time when they mourn the loss of their youth and femininity. They re-evaluate their ideas and priorities about themselves and how they constructed their identities.

When it happens it’s so subtle. One moment you think you are the neighbourhood sex siren, and then you spot it: the double chin in a photograph or the fact that you cannot squeeze into that cocktail dress that has been your stand-by for years.

It’s devastating — the moment when you realise that you are getting older and you cannot compete with the bevy of younger women who can toss off their clothes at a pool party without being self-conscious.

The ageing crisis for women can strike at any age and usually accompanies a single moment that strikes a woman’s Achilles heel.

Some women have a temporary mental wobble, and then pull themselves together, but others may find themselves at odds with themselves and the world. They wage war with mother nature and themselves.

Two United States former beauty queens turned psychologists have studied this ageing phenomenon and drawn from their own experiences as they counselled women who sought solace on the therapist’s couch.

Vivian Diller and Jill Muir-Sukenick have written Face It, a book aimed at addressing our deep-seated attitudes to ageing. They found that although many modern women recognise that good looks are superficial and not necessary for success, they feel inferior when they are perceived as less attractive.

It is a classic attitude-versus-logic argument that has been ingrained since we were young children. Beauty in our society has been traditionally rewarded with success and esteem, and ageing is associated with a steady decline in worth and respect.

Women in the throes of an ageing crisis may react in many ways . Some seek sexual affirmation from the opposite sex. They believe that if they can attract a new lover they are worthy. Others seek the services of a plastic surgeon and spend a great deal of money fighting the inevitable.

There are those who believe that good genes and a rigid health regime will allow them to avoid ageing. It may work for some time, but in the end feeling fit is not the same as looking young.

The authors urge women to examine the patterns in their lives when they were going through transformation. In a way menopause is similar to puberty. The body changes radically and hormones change, but the way you react to change can also be anticipated.

A teenager can reject a developing body and feel as if they are being invaded by aliens. Budding breasts and hips can be sources of embarrassment. For the older woman, grey hairs, sagging breasts and hot flushes can also be seen in the same context: the body is changing and the way one deals with it is important.

Caption: Oprah Winfrey may have battled with the bulge but she has always advocated that women should accept themselves and find their inner beauty.

Some women decide that they cannot cope with the pressure of trying to look young and simply give up. They put on weight, stop caring about the way they dress and blend into the background, as if they do not want to be noticed. But it’s a defeatist attitude. They believe they can cope better without the pressure of trying to look good, but they are robbing themselves of the pleasures of being feminine.

Diller and Muir-Sukenick say that facing the ageing process can be done with a positive attitude and a realistic approach. They advocate that women follow six steps (see box) to make the best of this time of transition. For them beauty is not a state of being but a frame of mind.

With all losses in life, letting go of images from our past and detaching from our sense of past attractiveness means making room for a newer, broader, more flexible self-image. You can spend a fortune trying to look or feel young. But it’s much easier to accept reality. Ageing does not stop. So, it’s time to say goodbye, shed some tears and then optimistically embrace our ever-evolving selves.

. Content has been adapted from the book Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change; © 2010 Vivian Diller Ph.D., with Jill Muir-Sukenick Ph.D. Published by Hay House.

Acknowledge the changes that are happening. Decide if your concerns over ageing and beauty are issues you would like to resolve. Would you like to discuss this moment with a therapist or good friend? Was there a moment when you said: “I feel and look old!” If you examine this moment and the point at which it occurs, you can understand other issues going on.

This step involves coming out of hiding from behind beliefs and actions that disconnect us from what we really feel, and looking at the devices we use to hide our age (such as young clothes) and behaviours that stop us from looking at our insecurities. We are much better off removing the inappropriate cover-ups and allowing our vulnerability to show instead. Only then can we learn our genuine feelings. They are often less problematic than the masks that cover them.

Listen to the things you say to yourself, and watch for the negative stereotypes. Stop criticising yourself and block those words that shout “You look old!” It is time to replace those negative words with positive words that will replace that sadness with life and energy. You are not your mother or some image from the past — you are you! Create new messages and new role models that speak to you in a kinder and gentler tone.

We all know that we tend to look to our mothers to explain why we are who we are — the good, the bad and the ugly. But a lot of us are mothers now and know how easy it is to blame. Of course our mothers moulded us, led the way and built the foundations for our self-image. But at some point you have to take responsibility for all the other attitudes you have adopted.

When we look back on our teenage years, we can learn from the memories they evoke. Just a peek at your high school pictures may bring up feelings of awkwardness, uneasiness and instability. Our self-criticism at that time is a close rival to the kind of harsh judgment we place on ourselves at midlife. As much as we may long for our youth, there’s no way we want to be 15 again. Now you can make decisions and navigate life with more certainty and life experience.

Understanding what beauty really means can reduce anxiety

Beauty Quotient Formula by Robert M Tornambe

IF you look at supermodels and envy their perfect looks, then you should read this book for a realistic look at what it takes to look perfect all the time. Robert Tornambe, a plastic surgeon in the United States, gives readers a no-nonsense approach to beauty advice.

He offers tips on how to avoid premature ageing and he offers great advice on how to tackle problem areas that many women try to tackle through surgery. In many cases a specific exercise or diet will help, as long as the expectations are realistic.

But Tornambe says that too many patients come into his office with an exaggerated sense of unhappiness relating to how they feel about their looks. He recommends that they analyse their beauty quotient.

This is a list of pros and cons regarding their best and worst features.

Accentuating your best features, minimising your worst, and developing  healthy self-confidence is better than going under the knife.

As a plastic surgeon he does believe surgery has a place, but he believes society’s obsession with perfection is wrong. In many cases he counsels patients and helps them to understand where surgery has its place.

The Beauty Quotient Formula shows that what makes any woman attractive is based largely on confidence, charisma, personality and a solid beauty routine.

Growing old gracefully

1. Turn Your ‘Uh-oh’ Moments into ‘Ah-ha’ Ones 

Acknowledge the changes that are happening. Decide if your concerns over ageing and beauty are issues you would like to resolve. Would you like to discuss this moment with a therapist or good friend? Was there a moment when you said: “I feel and look old!” If you examine this moment and the point at which it occurs, you can understand other issues going on.

2. The Only Mask You Wear Should Be of Honey and Yogurt

This step involves coming out of hiding from behind beliefs and actions that disconnect us from what we really feel, and looking at the devices we use to hide our age (such as young clothes) and behaviours that stop us from looking at our insecurities. We are much better off removing the inappropriate cover-ups and allowing our vulnerability to show instead. Only then can we learn our genuine feelings. They are often less problematic than the masks that cover them.

3. Talk Back to Those Internal Dialogues 

Listen to the things you say to yourself, and watch for the negative stereotypes. Stop criticising yourself and block those words that shout “You look old!” It is time to replace those negative words with positive words that will replace that sadness with life and energy. You are not your mother or some image from the past — you are you! Create new messages and new role models that speak to you in a kinder and gentler tone. 

4: Give Mom Her Due. Take the Best of Her and Leave the Rest Behind 

We all know that we tend to look to our mothers to explain why we are who we are — the good, the bad and the ugly. But a lot of us are mothers now and know how easy it is to blame. Of course our mothers moulded us, led the way and built the foundations for our self-image. But at some point you have to take responsibility for all the other attitudes you have adopted.

5: Using Adolescent Memories Instead of Repeating Them

When we look back on our teenage years, we can learn from the memories they evoke. Just a peek at your high school pictures may bring up feelings of awkwardness, uneasiness and instability. Our self-criticism at that time is a close rival to the kind of harsh judgment we place on ourselves at midlife. As much as we may long for our youth, there’s no way we want to be 15 again. Now you can make decisions and navigate life with more certainty and life experience.

6: Saying Goodbye Is Hard to Do 

With all losses in life, letting go of images from our past and detaching from our sense of past attractiveness means making room for a newer, broader, more flexible self-image. You can spend a fortune trying to look or feel young. But it’s much easier to accept reality. Ageing does not stop. So, it’s time to say goodbye, shed some tears and then optimistically embrace our ever-evolving selves.

Content has been adapted from the book Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change; © 2010 Vivian Diller Ph.D., with Jill Muir-Sukenick Ph.D. Published by Hay House

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