Obsessed with Youth & Beauty? You’ll Get Over It by Christina Knowles

Recently I was tagged in a social media challenge to post five pictures in which I felt beautiful. Normally, I ignore such challenges, but this one got me thinking. Our society is obviously obsessed with beauty, not just any beauty, but the beauty of youth and thinness. Millions of dollars are spent annually on trying get thin, stay thin, look younger, and reversing the clock. Men are influenced by this as well, but I think it’s safe to say that it affects women in greater numbers. Many women feel low self-esteem when it comes to the idea of aging or with their body image, in general. However, many women report a gain in self-esteem and confidence as they age. Why? I mean, according to societal pressure, they should be worried about trying to reverse, or at least, stay the aging process. So, why do so many women feel better about themselves at 50 than they do at 25?

I am not a social psychologist, and I haven’t done any studies, so I can only speak for myself and what I’ve heard other women over 50 say about this topic. I’ve never been overly concerned with my looks. I grew up in a family of scholars, so I was much more conscious of excelling intellectually and took my appearance for granted. I was often complimented on my appearance, but what I wanted to be known for was my brains. I think this has helped me ignore the cultural pressure of being thin or worrying about wrinkles.

But as I aged, a curious thing happened. My few youthful insecurities (I’ve never really had a self-esteem problem) were disappearing. It seemed the older I got, the less I cared what anyone else thought about me, and the more I accepted and loved myself exactly as I am. From what I hear, this is common. Entering my early fifties has been wonderful. People aren’t joking when they say it’s the best time of your life. In your fifties, you are probably at the top of your career, secure in your skills and knowledge with a lot of experience under your belt, not worried anymore about advancing, and you are probably making more money than you ever have before.

Better yet, you start feeling good about yourself on a level that was previously unknown. You no longer worry about knowing enough, seeming smart enough, or even about competing with anyone. Your friendships are real—you’ve eliminated people from your life that aren’t. You don’t have the time or inclination to deal with drama or competition, so you just don’t. You wear what you want, do what you want, and most of the time, say what you want—and you get away with it!

And I’m not suggesting we don’t eat healthy foods and take care of our bodies as we age. I’m just saying we don’t do it to impress anyone. We do it to feel good and to allow us to do all the things we were too afraid to do when we were younger. That’s the only shame about getting older–now that I finally know what kind of life I want to live, I don’t have tons of  time left to live it. But maybe that’s one of the things that makes me uninhibited and willing to do whatever I really want to do without caring what others think.

So, when confronted with iconic question of “What if you could go back in time and do it all over again?” I am repelled by the idea. I don’t want to do it again. I am enjoying now way too much to trade it for smooth skin and a firm body. That should be saved for the youth who need it until they grow into the confidence of loving who they are without it. Don’t worry; you’ll get there. Just give it twenty or thirty years. The best is still to come.—Christina Knowles

 

graduation
College graduation 1986: A little insecure and not sure who I am.

 

camping
1988: Trying to figure out who I am.
Scan 24 - Version 2
2006: Almost figured out.
laugh-lines
2013-I’m proud of these lines. I’ve earned them!
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2016: Loving myself more than ever before! I know exactly who I am, and I like me.
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Someday, I will look like my mother does here, and I will be so proud of that!
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On Turning 50 by Christina Knowles

IMG_2412Turning 50 is supposed to be some kind of milestone, right? I should be feeling down about crossing over the threshold of another decade. But I’m not—at all. On the contrary, I have never felt better about myself. And it has nothing to do with how physically fit I am (LOL). It has everything to do with being comfortable with who I am and where I am in my life.

I have heard many women say that getting older is very freeing, and I find it to be so true. I have never cared less about what other people think about me. I mean this in the best possible way. It’s like I just don’t have time for bullshit anymore. I am who I am, and I am more and more unwilling to act like I’m anything else. I say my opinion, and if you agree, fine. If you don’t, I respectfully don’t care.BabyChristina

I am getting some gray hair, my wrinkles are taking up more and more space on my face, and I have put on a few pounds since last year. I, personally, think I look great. I am healthy and happy. I like me.

I recently started teaching college; I have left my comfort zone to teach things I have never taught before this year, and I am ROCKING it. My professional life is progressing in wonderful directions. I am planning the publication of my second book this year, a book of poetry, I’m working on a short story collection, and I have an absolutely fabulous novel in progress. I have many more plans in the works professionally as well. There’s a certain respect, which I enjoy, now that I have years of experience under my belt as well.

I am completely in love with my husband and couldn’t be happier in that realm. I look forward to growing old with someone with whom I can be completely myself. My relationship with my daughter has blossomed into the adult friendship of love and mutual respect I always hoped it would. I have numerous interests and enjoy so much about my life.

I have the most amazing friends and enjoy many adventures and fun times with them. Getting older really allows for much more satisfying friendships because I don’t have time for bullshit in that realm either. My friends and I share our lives on an honest, bullshit-free level with no drama. This is the way friendship should be.

I know who I am, what’s important to me, and the way I want to live my life. My philosophy, beliefs, and my political opinions are well-established. I’m done worrying over such things or caring about what other people think about my views.Scan 54_2

And the weird thing about getting older, which is also very cool, is that with the exception of this straightforward feeling of freedom about who I am, I still feel like who I have always been. Scan 54I still feel like the excited little girl opening her birthday presents, the little girl who can’t sleep late on Christmas morning because she is too excited to open presents, and the little girl who loves to walk barefoot in the damp grass, picking daisies to put in her starting-to-gray hair. That will always be me, and I’m glad.—Christina Knowles 🙂

All Grown Up by Christina Knowles

IMG_2659We buried our mother today, my family and I. She was a wonderful mother—loving, strong, kind, principled, and dedicated. I don’t know what I’m going to do without her.

Losing a mother is a unique kind of pain. It’s different than losing a father, a spouse, a sibling, or a child. I’m thankful that I haven’t experienced all these different types of devastating loss, but I just know that it has to be different. I’m not saying it’s worse, just different. In fact, I’m pretty sure losing a child would be the worst.

But losing a mother is the ultimate severing of the umbilical cord. When you lose a mother, you feel lost, insecure. I haven’t depended on my mother for many years, but I guess I knew she was always there if I needed her. Knowing she is gone makes me feel all alone in the world even though I know I am not. I feel a primal need for her. I wake up in the middle of the night calling for my mommy, and I don’t care that I am a grown woman, a grandmother even. I want my mommy.

Losing a mother makes a person grow up instantly. You are no longer the child, and having already lost my father, I am no longer anybody’s child. That’s a strange feeling. I am the mother now. I feel this more now than ever, even though I have been a mother for 26 years. Not being someone’s child is a lonely feeling. It makes me want to pour myself into being a mother to my children. Unfortunately, they’ve grown and left home, and I don’t see them as often as I’d like.

Being without a mother makes me feel different. I am different. My husband warned me that losing parents changes a person, but I didn’t really understand before. Losing a mother leaves a void that nothing else can fill. Really losing anyone you love does, but to whom will I go for advice? Who will be proud of me for absolutely no reason? Who is capable of unconditional love besides a mother?

That’s what’s really missing. It’s knowing I will never be loved unconditionally by anyone again. My husband loves me almost that much, but I know I could make him lose his love for me if I tried. Of course, I won’t. My brothers, my sisters—that’s close. They have loved me through everything so far. My kids—I’d love to think that they love me unconditionally, but even though some part of them may need me or love me no matter what, it’s just not that same I’d-die-for-you kind of love. I know this is true because the only people in the world that I would love under any circumstances are my children, the only ones I could forgive anything.

My pain sounds so selfish. It’s all about what I will no longer have. But isn’t that what grief usually is? We miss the people we lose; we will no longer enjoy their love, their presence. My mother was a wonderful person. She left the world a much better place than she found it. But even if she didn’t, today I would still be an orphan. I suppose her goodness just intensifies it.

So today I said goodbye to my mother and to a love I will never experience again. At 49 years old, I just grew up.—Christina Knowles

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