Though we came of age in a post-feminist time, women still seem tethered to a single dispiriting message: "Beauty equals youth, and youth equals beauty." Advertisers sell products and services suggesting that you can be beautiful if you just deny aging, defy aging or at least slow it down.
Women today are in a quandary. When the AARP polled those 50 and older to ask what was the most important factor in attaining well-being at midlife, women chose "inner beauty." Yet in 2008, the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons reported a 162 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures performed in the United States since 1997, with women ages 51 to 64 accounting for most of them. Any way you do that math, it doesn't add up.

If women are paying lip service to the notion of inner beauty, yet are opting in huge numbers for short-term exterior fix-its, clearly they're responding to something outside their comfort zone. You have to recognize that the blaring cultural message itself is not responsible for the power you give it. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." While you can't change the physical process of aging, which is inevitable, you can change your experience of aging by identifying what you are feeling, why you are feeling it and what you can do about it.

It is important to begin by recognizing how what you see as the diminution of your beauty limits you in various ways. We call these uh-oh moments, and they can be telling wake-up calls.

The opinions expressed by contributors are strictly their own.


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