Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Beauty and Aging

I have come to the conclusion that external beauty really does fade with age. Most of us do not age gracefully, and those of us that do, probably have work done to assist in that process (this is not based on any research, however).

I am not aging gracefully. Granted, I am only 30 years old, but there are some who are at their beauty peak in their thirties and often their forties and fifties now. I am not. I believe that my outward beauty peaked at about 25 and has gone downhill since then. I am getting gradually uglier. Unless I have plastic surgery to change completely certain features of my face, this process will continue until I am a very ugly old woman.

But true beauty doesn't fade--that is the beauty that is within us all. If you were to take a group of pictures of octogenarians and look at them only for external beauty, you probably wouldn't find it based on today's standards of beauty. They have lines, wrinkles, saggy skin, spotty skin sometimes, and gray or white hair (or no hair!). The women tend to wear very little, if any, makeup, and if they do, it is often overpowering. If you judged their beauty based solely on outward appearance, you would probably conclude that they were not beautiful.

As we age, though, we gain wisdom and experience. These experiences shape lives, for better or worse (we hope better), and help us develop characteristics such as grace, compassion, love, charity, selflessness, and understanding, to name a few. These characteristics are what enhance our beauty. And so, you take someone who is in their 80s or 90s and throw in these inward expressions of beauty and come to find some of the most beautiful people.

It's too bad that the world places so much emphasis on outward beauty. Outward beauty will never be retained infinitely in our physical lifetime. That is because the body ages, and there is little we can do to stop this process. We can slow it and extend it, and change certain aspects of it to reflect younger days, but in the end, we will all age.

But the soul is ageless. It lives forever and continues to grow and gain wisdom and experience, which enhance our internal beauty.

When I look in a mirror, all I can say is, thank goodness for that!


Allison said...

I wanted to engage you a little on this post because it upset me quite a bit reading it. First of all, I'm a little confused. You find fault, correctly, with the modern "standard" of beauty (citing the group of octogenarians together and not finding beauty), and yet, you seem to completely buy into that standard when judging yourself. So much so that you think that you will never be beautiful again unless you have work done. If beauty is more than having perfect skin, nose, eyes, breasts, whatever (and we could have a whole discussion on what that mystical "prefect" really is anyway), than why don't you fit in there also? (Which I know you do, by the way!) Why does beauty peak? (Which implies that it never returns to that it once was.) Can't beauty just change as our bodies change through the years? Maybe not the same, but that isn't always a bad thing.

But more than that, my second issue I wanted to discuss is, with 3 daughters, how can I help them to see the beauty that they have regardless of what anyone else thinks or says? How do I help them to be comfortable enough with their body that even if they don't like everything about themselves, they are still comfortable with what they have and don't think they need to have some invasive modification in order to be beautiful?

royalbird said...

Gosh, I really put myself out there when I wrote this, didn't I? I re-read it, and I guess I was trying to say that if you judge beauty solely by the outward appearance, then all of us will simply get uglier. The thing that makes everyone beautiful is their spirit, the inner beauty that we can all work on making more beautiful. We can't really change our outward appearances without a price. But we can do a lot to change how we appear to others by changing our hearts. If you stripped everyone of their soul, the part that is truly beautiful, nobody would be beautiful as they age.

I certainly wish that the modern standard of beauty allowed for the way the body naturally changes as it ages, but in our modern world, it doesn't. I've had four babies, of course my body doesn't (and won't ever) look the same as it did before I had those babies. I'm not saying I'm not attractive at all, but compared to that standard of beauty, I'm not. Our faces age. No matter what beauty products or cosmetic surgeries we undergo, they will still age. You can't prevent this, oh, but people try.

As much as I try to remind myself that it's okay that I outwardly look the way I do because I'm not 21 anymore, and I've had four babies, I still find myself looking at other women who are my age, having also had four babies and wonder why my body can't look like theirs. I'm very much prone to's a struggle I have.

In order to try to get away from that, I'm trying to recognize the inner beauty that we all possess and focus on that in myself because the outside, the physical, declines with time, whereas the inside, the heart and soul, can grow with time. You just have to feed it the right way, again, something I still struggle with.

I have to admit that teaching our daughters to love themselves, outwardly and inwardly, presents a real challenge, since I struggle with doing that myself. You just do the best you can, always reminding them how precious they are, maybe not emphasizing how they look as often as you emphasize who they are. I wish I had an answer to that. Maybe that would be worth researching!

Allison said...

I hope you didn't feel like I was attacking you in any way. I understand what you are saying, and I agree with you. The soul and heart of a person makes the person beautiful, which is why physically perfect people can be ugly, and someone can be non-traditional and be beautiful (haven't you been watching Ugly Betty ;)). At 4 months postpartum, it is probably not the best time to be comparing yourself to what you see on billboards or on TV.

Actually, interesting enough, there is push going on around here to use varied body types in advertising, so maybe that "modern standard of beauty" can actually change.

Lindsey said...

Interesting post. I think we've talked a little bit about this on the phone already. It is hard to live in a world that is so focused on the external instead of the internal. Thank goodness we have the gospel and have a better understanding of what's important. However, it can still be hard when the media is so pervasive and is telling us what's beautiful and what's not. However, it's interesting to see that plastic surgery and other "options" don't always make someone more attractive. I can think of some instances where the person was more beautiful before the procedures! There's a reason we shouldn't mess with what God gave us. Don't be hard on yourself, Jenna. You're beautiful (yes, still!).


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