Welcome to Episode 6 of The Midlife. Today I want to talk about your physical appearance.
I’ll bet you just had a completely visceral reaction to that statement. You probably had one of the following thoughts. Maybe, “that’s so vain”. Or, “my appearance is not important”. Perhaps it was “what’s the point” coupled with “no one’s looking at me”. Add in a little “my husband doesn’t care what I look like”, or “I don’t have to impress anyone” and finish it off with “I don’t have to listen to this shit”. Just give me 10 minutes of your time and let’s see where we end up.
What a strange world we’ve been brought up in where we are constantly bombarded by images of beauty that are not natural or attainable but at the first mention of improving your appearance, you feel shame. Like you don’t or can’t match up.
None of us can. Not all the time, at least. Sure we have our moments of dressing up for a dinner or party or maybe an event for work. But those are the exceptions. I feel like we are all hypnotized by a swirling black and white disk so I want to snap my fingers, shake you out of it and point out that the shit we’re watching, social media and the like, are also exceptions for those people.
I’m just venturing into the world of marketing myself online but I made a conscious decision to not always show up ready for a photo shoot. In particular, I recently posted a quick video teasing my weekly podcast episode that would drop the next day. I really hesitated to post it because my hair was up and I wasn’t wearing any makeup. But then I thought, it’s important to normalize “regular” and my message is more important to me than my appearance. Also my audience, the people that are really going to get me, that I can serve, care more about my message than my appearance.
And you know what, I feel I look pretty good for “regular”. That’s what I want to talk to you about today. How you show up everyday, not for a camera, a man, a client. How you show up for yourself. Everyday.
I’m gonna level with you. In the depths of my Midlife Crisis, I was a wreck. I think about taking my youngest son to school one morning in my PJs and him asking me not get out of the car to hug and kiss him. It wasn’t that he cared that I was lovin’ on him. It was the pajamas!
I know we sort of joke about that kind of stuff. Especially if you’re a SAHM or work from home. That we hold it out as a badge of honor that we don’t care what we look like and that it somehow makes you more cool and aloof if it doesn’t matter to you. I’m gonna call bullshit on that. It’s a total smokescreen for our insecurities.
I really started thinking long and hard about this when there was a flood of Mr. Rogers’ movies a few years ago. Ok, there were only two: a documentary and a feature film with Tom Hanks. I watched them both because I used to love that show when I was little. Now watching scenes from it as an adult, the opening really strikes me. Mr. Rogers comes in from the outside world and sings as he changes into his sweater and tennis shoes. He was signaling to all us kids, “I’m shaking off my cares of the world and I’m physically changing into the uniform that I have designated for our time together. I am completely focused, present and ready to spend this time with you, Small Person.”
So I ask you to be honest with yourself. Are you signaling to yourself, that you are ready to be fully present and devoted to whatever your day holds for you?
Has this ever happened to you? You walk by a mirror in your house or catch your reflection in a store window or as you walk up to your car. And you are horrified. Like you are completely deflated. Yeah, me too. Why would we set ourselves up for that?
I got sick and tired of it so I pull it together. Everyday. For me. And it has made all the difference.
Now I will admit to a major relapse. I call it my COVID coma. When we went into lockdown mode for COVID, I was really thrown for an emotional loop. While I could intellectually process what was happening and why, and I could reason why my family and I were at relatively low risk, I still was emotionally ravaged. It probably started because it was immensely stressful trying to coordinate when and how my college freshman was going to get home from across the country. Then there was the concern of when school would shut down for the high schooler and 2nd grade nugget, not to mention the concerns over my husband’s business. So yeah, that was a lot.
I was having absolutely insane dreams. To the point that I was nervous to go to sleep because the dreams were so exhausting. Let’s just say there’s a tiny but grateful village in Mexico Dreamland that refers to me as the vigilante, El Scorpion. Yeah, like completely nuts, call the paddy wagon crazy.
In those early weeks, I was not “getting it together”. I even posted on my personal facebook page that I didn’t own enough sweatpants. I’m kind of embarrassed about that now. I felt aimless, tired, deflated. I was just in survival mode.
Wait, holdup, I’ve been here before. Time to get over it. And if you find that I’m describing you too, can I gently suggest that you get a little vain on your own behalf and see if it doesn’t improve your mood and your creativity and your overall productivity?
Here’s what makes sense for me. Like everything else I teach, please consider this a buffet where you can pick and choose what you want to try and what works for you. I have never believed that presenting things as all or nothing is fair or worthwhile, like if you don’t do exactly as I say, you won’t reap any benefits.
So here goes:
I do not personally feel like it is a great use of time to spend hours getting gussied up every day but I DO know that getting yourself together, even if you don’t work outside the home, is paramount to your self confidence. And that that self confidence spills out into everything you do for the day. You should have a pretty quick routine for hair and maybe light makeup if you choose. Feeling super bold? Post your “look” in the private FB group Muddling Through The Midlife. You may be someone else’s inspiration.
The same goes for a night out, even if your kids are tagging along. Spend a little extra time making your hair look a little more polished and perhaps even a different makeup look. You are a grown-up, sophisticated woman. Present yourself as such.
Perhaps the best advice I could give you is that good skin is your best accessory. I spent my first 4 decades totally taking my skin for granted and I really started to pay for it. There is a message that must genetically go out around age 40 that tells our skin to start aging at light speed. If you don’t actively take care of your skin, you don’t stand a chance. It took me over a year to walk most of it back. I’m relieved to tell you that I think my skin looks better now than it ever did but I was horrified at how old I was starting to look. Now I feel perfectly good to throw on my sunscreen and skip the eye makeup and stuff if I’m in a hurry and just not feeling it.
Look, I’m not a skin expert and I have no interest in being a beauty influencer. This is all just my personal experience and girlfriend to girlfriend advice. At this age, you should have a consistent skin routine that at a minimum has a decent cleanser, anti-aging serum like Vitamin C or a retinol product, moisturizer and SPF. You can absolutely use drug store brands and see results. You can get a little fancy and add additional products for enhanced results and you can certainly overpay for garbage in a bottle with fancy marketing and packaging. Do a little research.
And it’s inevitable for women of our age to be curious about cosmetic procedures. I do want to extend a word of caution here when it comes to “enhancements”. Pleeeeeaaase be careful. Fillers and botox have become a “look” unto themselves and in my opinion, people can end up actually looking older than their age. But there are some interesting advancements in lasers and treatments that may help age you a little more gracefully. I’ll be having a good friend of mine who’s a doctor on soon to discuss all that so keep an eye out for that episode.
Now what to wear. I’m all for keeping it casual and comfortable but that doesn’t mean it can’t be cute and put together. Consider a uniform of sorts for yourself. I’m a big believer in uniforms. I went to a private girls’ school and we were required to wear a uniform. Sure we bitched and moaned about it and “rebelled” by wearing men’s boxers under our skirts but the uniform did two things. 1. It leveled the playing field. There was no hierarchy based on who had the latest designer whatever. 2. More importantly, it signaled that we were at school to do a job. It worked.
Lots of successful people do follow a sort of formula for dressing. I’m a jeans and t-shirt kinda gal and I’m unapologetic for that. It may be kind of basic but it’s put together. Every once and awhile, if I’m feeling kind of spicy, I may throw on a dress for the day but that feels more like an effort and therefore I consider it a costume. I think there’s a big difference between a uniform and a costume. A uniform is utilitarian. It’s the gear you need to function for the activity at hand. When I ride horses, I need breeches, boots, chaps and a helmet. That’s a uniform. When I stop by the grocery store after riding on the way home, then it’s a costume… because I look adorable. Some women are able to look like their instagram feed everyday. More power to you. I think for the rest of us mortals, just pull something together that feels like an outfit and if you can systematize that, even better. You don’t have to overthink it.
So do you walk into your closet and say you have nothing to wear? Then get ready to purge. I think we hold on to a closet full of clothes because it’s a bit of a security blanket. But if you’re not wearing any of it, what’s the use? I want you to go through and first take out anything that doesn’t fit you. If it’s a size too small and IF you really love it and IF you truly believe that you can and should be that size to wear it, I give you permission to keep it. Otherwise, let go of the weight marker, and give the item away or sell it. Next go through and get rid of anything that is stained or has a hole in it. Damaged clothing is not becoming of a woman of your worth. The one caveat is if it’s something that can be repaired. But the catch is, you have to repair it or take it somewhere to be repaired in the next week. Don’t leave it in a corner for 3 months. Now get rid of the stuff you don’t like, never wear and are never going to wear. It can be given away or sold to someone else who may enjoy it. Nothing I have asked you to get rid of is stuff you were wearing or should have been wearing so don’t tell me you have nothing left to wear. You may need to start supplementing your wardrobe and I know this can be difficult depending on your disposable income. A good/honest friend can be a huge help when you go shopping whether in person or online. Go slowly.
I speak from experience that when your nails are done and your feet are regularly pedicured and your eyebrows are neat, you will have a head start on feeling good about the way you look. If you have the means to use outside services, set regular appointments. Book it before you leave the last appointment. If this is a luxury you can’t afford, make an appointment with yourself to take care of it. Right now with COVID rampant, I’m doing that all myself. Not very well…but I’m doing it.
So how about committing to yourself and your reflection that you may catch in a car window? I would love to hear if this makes sense to you and when you try it, ways that pulling yourself together on a daily basis helps you. The best place for us to continue these conversations is in the Facebook Group Muddling Through The Midlife. I have created this as a safe space to talk about all things Midlife. Know that I have a few “test” questions to vet people who want to join the group and I do a little internet snooping to be sure it’s a real woman who is more than likely wanting to actually join a community. I truly want this to be an open and supportive group and I want you to feel safe that I’ve checked people out.
Maybe you’re going to get bored of me saying so, but I do want to thank you for listening. I am grateful you’re here. As always, it helps me out if you rate the podcast and leave a review. And it’s beyond amazing if you feel that sharing the podcast, or my website www.themidlife.co or any of my social media could help add to this community as we all grow and thrive in our Midlife.
I hope you enjoy this first week of Summer. Get outdoors, enjoy the sunshine, fresh air and in light of our skincare discussion, don’t forget your sunscreen and I’ll talk to you next week when I make you choose: Are you a warrior or a martyr?