Updated: Sep 8
When I saw this Sports Illustrated cover of 81-year-old Martha Stewart, I felt very conflicted. On social media it was being touted as a win for older women, but as an older woman it felt like a loss. Images like this are inauthentic. They involve a lot of cosmetic procedures and lighting, photography, and photoshop. Many women have been at war with their bodies since pre-puberty, feeling bad about themselves for not living up to unrealistic beauty standards. Just when many women have reached an age where they feel like they can relax, put on some elastic waist pants, and feel comfortable in their own skin, the goal posts have moved. For some this pressure is not just about vanity, but the fear of losing their jobs if they look “old”. This is particularly prevalent in creative fields where youth is a treasured commodity.
The pressure to maintain a youthful appearance is causing or exacerbating anxiety, depression, low self-esteem as well as eating disorders in mid-life. It’s unrealistic to expect to look and feel the same in your 50’s as you did in your 30’s. You have so much more lived experience and maturity to draw on. It shows on your face and in your thoughts and feelings.