I turned 35 this year. All my friends seem to be hitting milestone birthdays. 30, 35, 40. And with each age the changes in our looks and our bodies.
We talk about our sagging chests, our jiggling arms, bags under our eyes, covering up our grays.
I see women 10, 20, 30 years older than I am, and I wonder when it stops. I think, to a certain extent, we’ve idolized old age. We assume when we get older, we’ll just get over it. We’ll be comfortable with our looks because we will be passed the point of no return. Since it will be impossible at 70, 80, 90 to be without wrinkles or greys or jiggles or sags, we will give up and finally be without worry or self-consciousness.
The problem is, I don’t think any of that makes sense. Nor do I think it’s true.
I stand here in my 35-year-old frame, 2 pregnancies, 3 children, a lifelong struggle with weight and depression all having taken a toll on my form. All leaving marks and scars and evidence of experiences and genetic history, all telling my story for better or worse.
I know in the next 35 years more story will be told, more wrinkles and greys accumulates, more weight gained and lost.
I’m in a fragile window right now. A window of great opportunity. In my 30s, 40s, 50s, being “skinny,” “hot,” youthful is still (relatively) within my grasp. It will take a large amount of dedicated work, mental fortitude, personal sacrifice and self-control, but it can be done. Or so we believe.
In my 60s, 70s, 80s, will I suddenly accept who I am, who I was built to be? Will I suddenly learn contentment and freedom in loving my reflection as God intended it?
When will I start exercising the muscles of self-acceptance?
If I don’t start now, they will be weak in my old age, and I will spend the rest of my days bemoaning the loss of my youthful physique rather than grateful for my health and longevity.
So here I stand, with just a handful of grey hairs and more on the way. A few small laugh lines with more around the corner. With extra pound, sagging skin, stretch marks, and the like all begging to be fixed or removed completely. All piling up like a list of to-dos with more being added every day as I battle the never-ending clock that is the aging human body.
There is a way to love my reflection.
Perhaps there is a way to let go of the expectations of my past. To relinquish the long-standing beliefs imposed upon me by the comments of others. To cast aside the mental image I have at my peak, in high school or on my wedding day. To eat well and exercise regularly not to photoshop my image, not to remove every bulge and bump, not to sculpt my shape to being the envy of every woman, the desire of every man, the epitome of culturally accepted beauty. But to eat well and exercise toward the goal of health and longevity in order to faithfully, energetically, whole-heartedly serve and reflect my God.
To move forward with gratitude, acceptance, and yes, even love, for my reflection, and myself.
Perhaps we can find that reality together.
CHALLENGE: How has aging impacted your body image? Do you think you will be more comfortable with your body as you age? Why do you think that is? Do you think it’s possible to love your looks and still exercise and eat well? Or are you usually motivated out of dissatisfaction with the way you look?