This phrase caught my eye in my email inbox: “Meaningful Beauty.” It’s appealing, isn’t it? Who isn’t drawn by both beauty and meaning? The combination of the two was tantalizing, promising substance, a look at beauty that was beyond skin deep—which only made the actual content of the email all the more ironic.
It was an ad for Cindy Crawford’s wrinkle-erasing skincare line.
False beauty, false youth, false advertising, really. I don’t know if I could think of a less meaningful definition of beauty if I tried.
Now, I’m not going to pretend that I have always embraced the changes in my appearance as I entered midlife and beyond. Looking in the mirror and seeing those first fine lines, then the deepening of those lines into wrinkles, along with the sagging and other changes in my aging body was never easy. The person I saw in the mirror didn’t match how I felt inside. That isn’t me. And if that isn’t me, who am I?
Who am I if I’m no longer young?
And that gets to the heart of what the anti-aging industry, from skin creams to face lifts, is really promising. A reprieve from having to ask that frightening question. The chance to be who we think we are for just a little bit longer. To be noticed, relevant, visible.
Yet answering that question for ourselves, figuring out who we are when we’re no longer young, can be the most meaningful, liberating, and life-affirming step we ever take. It can lead us to fulfilling our purpose on this planet, to awakening our visionary and creating the legacy we were always meant to create but couldn’t until we’d reached this point where experience, wisdom, and the search for meaning all coalesced. But we can’t create this future if we are focused on living in the past.
The anti-aging industry doesn’t offer meaningful beauty. It delays or even stops us from ever finding it.
There is a difference between wanting to enhance our beauty and wanting to change who we are to feel beautiful. I love finding flattering clothes or getting a new hairstyle that makes me look and feel great while expressing my personality. I am not going to pretend that I don’t. In fact, I am totally drawn to the promise of smoother skin, fewer wrinkles, and a more youthful looking body. This is not a condemnation of that desire or of the women who act on it. I think we all have it to some degree and always will. We all struggle with where to draw the line between enhancing our appearance and accepting ourselves as we are.
But let’s not pretend that we are going to find meaning in that jar of eye cream. The less time and energy we spend distracted by the promise of holding on to our youth, the more we can focus our time and energy on what really matters to us, to the people we love, to the world. The more we make the effort to find actual meaningful beauty in ourselves, in who we are now, the closer we get to fulfilling our greatest vision yet.
After all, how clear and grand can our vision be if we don’t even see ourselves in the mirror clearly?