Bobbi Graves: Letting Go of Youth

Culture Keeper Favorite Bobbi Graves discusses beauty and aging:

"There’s an uh-oh moment in every person’s life, whether at the first fine gray hair or the first fine line, when we realize that the blush of youth is leaving. We can panic (and pluck), but the key to weathering this transition with aplomb is to redefine how we think about beauty. No matter who you are or how much money you throw at a plastic surgeon, you will age. You can control how you deal with it: denial or with dignity. I chose the latter. I want to find another way to feel beautiful rather than turning back the clock – a change in attitude can help us regain confidence and even improve our looks.

I remember the day I passed by bathroom mirror and thought I saw my mother. I also remember the day I passed that same mirror and saw my grandmother. We have an attachment to the image we see in the mirror, and barring illness or major weight fluctuations, that image may remain much the same in your 20’s & 30’s. But when it begins to change, it doesn’t just affect your looks, it affects your identity. These changes reach down to a deeper place: what your future holds, who you are as a woman.

If you look at aging as an illness or as something unnatural, it can lead to rash decisions. No matter what you do, your youth is something you eventually have to let go of, and allow yourself to feel sad about the loss. You can’t change society’s attitude, but you can change your own. I am learning that I need to leave behind the youthful image I once associated with beauty. Find something you can get better at doing as you get older. I chose to become an etiquette consultant.

Mourning the loss of youth is not unlike what occurs when you lose a loved one. At first there is a feeling of, “oh no, this isn’t happening.” Then there is a gradual understanding that you can’t hold on to the past. There may be a deep sadness that life has turned a corner, but you have to let go. If I tried to preserve the look I had in college, it would only make me sad and anxious. When you truly accept that your life stage is changing, it doesn’t feel so sad in the end. You can have a big cry and then move on with your life.

So, here is what I am doing these days – I am redefining beauty. When I glance in the mirror, instead of worrying about my appearance looking older, I think about looking good at my age. I am changing my internal dialog and thinking about whether there is anything I can do to look my best at my age now, but it takes practice. The notion of perfection isn’t healthy for young kids, and it is definitely not healthy as you get older. There are certain aspects of your face and your body that don’t change that much, and you should concentrate on those – I love buying shoes and jewelry because those sizes seldom change. It’s up to you to take your positive features and attributes and wear them with pride.

Once you accept you can’t turn back the clock, concentrate on looking good/healthy versus looking young. Take positive steps but don’t take obsessive amounts of time on it. Stay active. Be involved with something you feel passionate about.

Botox? Plastic surgery? That’s your call. But since I feel strongly that there is no turning back the clock; I see it as a short-term solution to a long-term issue. I do foresee that there are increasingly better procedures that are not so radical and are probably going to be what dyeing hair used to be. But again, none of these procedures replace the necessary internal work that helps us age with grace.

It’s alright to mourn the loss of youth, but in the end you will see yourself differently. You will feel more hopeful. You will create a solid foundation from which to grow for the rest of your life. You will gain a comfort level, a renewed energy for other things. When I look in the mirror now, what I see reflected back looks like age-appropriate beauty. I like my life.

Face your uh-oh moment head-on.

Listen to your internal dialogue.

Learn to appreciate your appearance today.

Make some healthy changes. "

-Bobbi Graves

(Photo by Larry Endicott )