Friday, April 20, 2012

Talking The Talk In The Conversation: Women Dress for Women

Deb: In our ongoing conversation about women and our self-esteem or lack thereof, I started thinking about the source of it. I started wondering what makes us change and nip and tuck and fix and futz with our looks. And more to that point, I started wondering who we do it for.

As opposed to popular thinking, most women do not dress for men. Most women dress for women. I think we have done this for centuries. And along those lines I think that women get “work” done for other women, with the possible exception of breasts. I think a large part of the plastic movement is done to impress our own gender. I think we need to look good for other women and, as a result, we might just be doing each other in. Eating our own as it were.

Wouldn’t it be lovely if every woman would look to a friend who is aging or is less than perfect and say,  “You look great.” There is an oft bandied about phrase which goes, “A smile is your best accessory.” But the truth is, it is! If we feel good about ourselves we look great. Inner beauty has gotten a bad rap for being, well ... inner beauty. Yet there is nothing “inner” about it. If we nail the inner, the outer comes along for the ride.

The world is obsessed with “hot”. We have this burning desire to look “hot”.
What is hot? Really. Isn’t hot chemical? Isn’t hot in the eyes of the beholder? Can we possibly sustain this media image of hot? No one friggin can. But between the “hot” flashes we can, in no particular order, look lovely, pretty, cute, gorgeous, rested, sparkling, happy, sexy, engaged, spirited graceful and ... handsome. I have always been miffed at the use of “handsome woman” as a derogatory term. Some of the most attractive and sexy women I have known have been “handsome”, for the record.

I think Ashley Judd was spectacular, strong and poised in her rebuttal. But thinking forward, what would happen if we all just stopped caring? I know, I know ... but I think we have to spend more time changing our own perceptions of ourselves. And we need to spend conscience time doing this. Like ... equal to Facebook time. We worry too damn much about what others think of us. And people in the public eye have the added worry of what the media thinks of them and as a result, the world.

But here’s the thing. Maybe we have to accept what we cannot change. Because we can’t change what people say publicly or privately about us. But we can change what we put out there. And in the end, the only logical answer is to stop taking the bait. And maybe by doing that, we will change it.

In the meantime, we must find a way to fall in love with the image we see in the mirror. WE MUST! Remember that others do not see what we see. I have a friend who wants to get her neck done. I get it. I see that she has a little middle-aged chin thing going on there. And I admit that when she points it out, I see that. But that is the only time I ever see it. What I usually see is her heartstoppingly beautiful face. And I am not just saying that to ease her saggy chin pain. She is beautiful. But she sees the neck. I know. I have been there. Full disclosure in a later blog.

But the truth is, in the last little while I have worked consciously to not only make my peace with, but to embrace my imperfections. I have been diligent in my attempts to banish them from my psyche. Or at the very least form a truce with them. I have decided to do the best I can with what I have. Because I am aging. We all are.

Jennifer Aniston is going to be an old woman some day.

And it’s not like we weren’t told. This is the life we expected. Getting old was in the offing from the get-go.  And yet we seem shocked and panicked by it. And the media rants and the media belittles and the media mocks.

And they do this because they know that we believe them. And in the meantime we hope they will change.

But I think it’s us who have to.

Barbara: Oooh, so many juicy points here I want to respond to. First off, when you mention how most women dress for women, I know you’re so right. I mean, there is some stuff I wear for Phil, but in the every day sitch, I’m thinking more about “fashion” and “trend” and “style” than I am about, well, sex.

As soon as I read this, I remembered a moment earlier today when I was standing in a bookstore in front of the magazine aisle and a young woman stopped not too far from me—and I was tired and so maybe not as conscious as I would normally be. But I suddenly realized I had literally been eying her up and down for several very looooooong minutes. I am sure—given that my relaxed face now looks (okay, okay, in my mind’s eye, Deb, but I am sure in real life too!) like I am an angry, judgmental bitch— that anyone passing must have assumed I was secretly lambasting her, cutting her up, cutting her down. But the truth is, my face looks like that when it is relaxed!!! And I was absolutely LOVING her outfit. I wanted to drink it in. I wanted to memorize it. She looked amazing. But betchya anything she would’ve been shocked and outraged at my blatant staring, and surely would have misconstrued my utter lack of intent. So there’s that.

But I do also want to say that I take up the noble and brave gauntlet you’ve thrown: that we need to be aware of how we judge our physical selves so very harshly—and that we need to STOP IT. If we go along with the old credo that the media likes to scare us, then them openly playing to our insecurities would surely fit in with that, right? Let’s take away that power. Let’s take our own power back.

Can we do it??? 

49 comments:

  1. Lots of insight for the taking here ladies...would that we can see our way to doing so and further, do our best to live the wisdom.

    I firmly believe the supposition that we dress for other women is spot-on! So you know what I've made a point of in recent years...telling women who are older than me how great they look on the many occasions that I see them and, like Barb was with the gal in the fab outfit,am wowed by their ensembles or their haircut or their kicky accessories. It's my personal little campaign to eradicate the phenomenon wherein we women are made to feel invisible as age. I approach these stylish women on the street or excuse myself and interrupt their dining in restaurants just to say "I have to say you look so lovely or elegant or beautiful...I couldn't help but notice your outfit...or whatever...and have to compliment you as you look fantastic!' You know, after the tiniest second of hesitation, the women have always beamed and, to the last gal, instantly fallen into that zone wherein we have to tell each other where we got "the" shoes or bag or little black suit. I've seen where the simple gift of a compliment is so appreciated and, dare I say it, uplifting.
    To Deb's point, we are all getting older...why not learn to appreciate the inherent beauty of each particular age and stage. Realistically, we probably won't change our youth-centric standard of beauty but we may expand it to include the whole spectrum.

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  2. Annette, honestly I am that person too! I love to walk up to women who have it goin' on at ANY age and tell them they look great. Makes my day to spread that vibe and their's too! And yep it's time to just love ourselves at any age isn't it? I am off to a funeral two hours away so I will not be responding to comments until tonight just FYI everyone! But I would love to hear thoughts on this!

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    1. "I love to walk up to women who have it goin' on at ANY age and tell them they look great. Makes my day to spread that vibe and their's too!"
      Girls I am like you too...!!! I LOVE telling women how great they look...and it makes my day !!!! especially coz recently when I said it to a few women, they said How better they felt hearing it coz they were going through something..and that I made their day...Making someone HAPPY....I mean isn't that the BEST ???

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    2. And maybe we can also compliment things that aren't looks-based: like "you were so thoughtful" or "brave" or "reasonable" and on and on and on!

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    3. Yes...yes...yes...I DO THAT TOO....Idk I am constantly in the mode of appreciation lately...but its so awesome feels. wonderful !!!!

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  3. I have never looked at style from this angle. I have never been a fashionista and my style reflects no real style. I don't own anything (I don't think) that would be considered stylish. I dress so I feel good about me. Not men, not women but me. I have never told anyone they look fabulous in that outfit as I don't even see it. But now I am sure I will and compliments will flow. Thanks for the insight.

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    1. Madge I think it's great that you dress for you! I do too. And...for women. Once in a while...for Colin! :-)

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  4. "Let’s take our own power back.Can we do it???" YES YES YES....ABSOLUTELY...OH MY GOD....THIS POST IS AMAZING !!! Deb, IDK how...this post is like a CLONE of my thoughts...IDK how...every bit of every bit of it !!!!! including the JENNIFER ANISTON part....
    I say the same thing....always...!!!!! ASK BARB...
    Love yourself...Look in the mirror and LIKE WHAT YOU SEE...you are perfect the way you are....and yes....IF you FEEL beautiful...you look beautiful....Others are only conveying whats going on within you...they offer only the reflection!!! And Honestly, it doesn't matter what they think...! And "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" is so true...Ive had so many experiences where I was wearing a traditional saree (and saree is the least "hot" outfit I know)...and I did get a lots of "you look gorgeous" or "you look beautiful" but....I realized the power of the phrase when one of my friends said "you look HOT" and other said "you look old...." Every body have different opinions....you'll never know how someone will react...so Depending on their response to feel better....then feeling better could take A WHILE...!!!
    And I also met a few women who KNOW they look beautiful...but because people are judgmental...they dont say it...I mean you know you are pretty....who cares what others think SAY IT....I AM FREAKIN' GORGEOUS !!!! I do..ya know..until my Mom asks me to get over myself :P
    I used to have a problem with my nose...I always thought it was too big...But now I realize it compliments my face.....when I accepted it...Few of my friends said I look a lot like MADHURI DIXIT......and then I LOVED IT MORE.. :D
    And Barb...I can totally imagine your relaxed face......I would call it the "cute face" not a bitch face :P you know that !! but I feel for ya....People even normally think I'm a bitch....Its probably my glasses....It used to bother me coz I'm not....I'm a nice person...But now its my "compatibility detector" evry person who ever called me a bitch "just because they thought I was" never stayed in my life....And the others who liked me...STUCK AROUND !
    ....And getting old....I mean the more you age the more you experience LIFE..I mean isn't that the WHOLE POINT OF BEING BORN ??!!! I mean C'mon...!!!! Embracing everything would make it soooo much easier for everyone...I dont know about anyone else...I make a point...that I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOOVE every ounce of my life....If I dont...I'm probably sleeping !!!

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    1. Shalaka you are right. It is the whole point of being born isn't it? But I will say this. PLEASE please remember that you said these things ten or twenty or thirty years from now. Remember you felt this way when you were young and hang on to the fact that you are beautiful. Partly, because you are!

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    2. Oh...HELL YEAH....its weird coz you said exactly the thing I was gonna write next. It was...and I'd say this even if I am 50 and on a vacation with my husband who is tall and sexy and handsome and who COOKS and-- NO THTS NOT THE POINT....WHERE WAS I GOING WITH THIS??? Oh yes that I would Still FEEEEL Beautiful.

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  5. Absolutely, we can do it.
    Methods I practise that make a difference to my attitude toward myself:
    When I see myself in the mirror, I make a conscious effort to say: "I like what I see." Sure it sounds like a lie at first, but it becomes true.
    I also say to my image, "You are FABULOUS." Also a lie, but begins to feel true.
    Small steps taken each day (better yet, each time we wash our hands in front of the bathroom mirror) take us far.

    I have the utmost respect for women in the public eye (actors especially) who do not cave into the belief that plastic surgery or botox will return their youthful appearance to them. The more of these women we see on TV and in films, the more we will be helped to accept ourselves. Have you ever noticed how beautiful Judi Dench is? And she has jowls! And they're gorgeous!

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    1. Oooooooh I love that "I like what I see". I am snapping that one up for myself!

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    2. I think this "recipe" for self-acceptance is probably the only one that works. Maybe if enough of us say it often enough, the ripple effect will take over, like it did for things like boob jobs and Botox...

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  6. After a 25 year absence working in retail I find myself back there. Can’t say the name of the store, but it has an h and an m in the title. Not only am I the oldest person working there, I am older than most of my co-workers parents’. I am often approached by customers and they ask “Are you the store manager?” I am not the store manager, just a department manager and head of training. Sorry, I digress. I guess what really hits me is when I pass by a mirror and catch my reflection. I think who is that old gal in the mirror? I am still young and hip. That is when I have to remind myself that it is how I feel on the inside. As for judging other women, I am guilty of that here at work. But not in the way you think. Or maybe you do. I am always shocked when women my age and size (average) come in to try on clothes that are too small or just too young for them. What do you say when they ask your opinion? The kids at work know I am brutally honest. So I have come up with a phrase “How do you feel in it?” Trust me; I have gone the honest route. Telling a woman she may need a size up. That does not go over too well.
    I didn’t realize how dowdy I had dressed when I first started. Till recently when a co-worker said “Wow you look good. You are finally dressing your age.” Before I could say anything, they finished with “you stopped dressing like an old lady.” Some days that is all you need to hear.
    Heidi

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    1. So there you go Heidi, you can dress younger and own it! And clearly you have. I am a firm believer that people can pull anything off if they feel great in it. The dressing in sizes too small is kind of a bad choice though. NO matter what your age, bad choice!

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    2. Stefanie often deals with that at the store where she works -- having to delicately suggest to women that another size might work better. Ironically people are often as attached to a too large size as they are to a too small one! Her answer (which is the truth) is that every line does their sizing a bit differently so sometimes it takes a few different sizes to determine which one is the right size for you. And, like you, Heidi, people do NOT like to hear it...

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  7. you both are the best. I particularly appreciated the part about telling an "aging" woman that she looks beautiful. great, amazing. whatever you said. it would all work. because we all do want to know that, don't we? we all know the positive messages to send ourselves, but sometimes we need to hear it from others.........
    by the way, you both look INCreDIBLE, but then inner beauty always shows, doesn't it?

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  8. Lori you are very sweet. But I do believe it. I do. Women must start supporting women!!!! We must. And...thanks. x

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  9. All of your points are excellent, and well written too. I'm going to try be more conscious of telling people when I think they look lovely - and make a point of not only doing it when they're wearing extra make up or whatever.

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    1. Aimee that is a good point! We need to tell each other no matter HOW WE LOOK! Natural-even better!

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  10. What a great idea to compliment older women on how they look. I know how thrilled I would be if a stranger said that to me!
    It was good to read this post...I have become a bit too obsessed with the crepey (sp?) neck lately. Two years ago I went for it - Botox, filler - the works. I didn't tell anyone, not even my husband, that I had done this. I looked fine. I didn't look fine enough to get over spending $2,000 + on my FACE, however! I will never do that again. Wrinkles and crepe 'r me, and that's OK!

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    1. Sue yes, I meant to compliment older women but I really meant to compliment every women of every age. Some of the most insecure women I know are younger. I think it goes across the board. Someone has it goin' on and we tell them! Good plan!

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  11. I don't care how old you are (or sometimes, blame it on my 22 year old naivete...how old I THINK you are), if you look great, you will hear it from me! I am a firm believer in positive words toward other people.

    For me, an example I can relate to is one that's probably already been mentioned, but makeup. I haven't worn an ounce of makeup in something to the tune of 3 years, and I can still go to a formal event or something of the like and still be told I look good. And, I don't know if any of you saw the "au naturale" picture of Snooki that was floating around the internet recently (if you don't know who Snooki is, you're very fortunate), but she looked absolutely beautiful!!! I was like, GIIIRRLLL, WHY do you need all that crap on your face?

    Personally, I think natural beauty should be just as embraced, if not more embraced, as opposed to fake, synthetic beauty that our culture seems so hellbent on advertising. I want middle and high school girls, girls my age (and girls older than me...lol) to dare to step out exposing all and not feeling ugly or ashamed by it.

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    1. Love this, Holly! This reminds me that one of my upcoming posts will be in this vein...

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    2. Yes Holly I agree too. I think that we should embrace that part of us that looks in the mirror and says "yeah" whatever that may be.

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    3. Little late in my reply, but I am a bit older than you and I normally don't ware makeup. I do own makeup, so sometimes I wear it so that I can say I do. On average I would say I wear makeup maybe three times a year... And Yes I know I have makeup on, on my blog pic :)) That's why I chose it.

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  12. Yeah, so I do want to make more efforts to tell strangers how great they look, but also how incredible they are in other ways. As I said in an earlier comment, I want to acknowledge other traits than their looks too. I do this, btw, with anyone and everyone I know: I am all about the positive support. But I think it would be lovely to support strangers in every way as often as works.

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    1. My parents were these people. They were always cheerleaders when they were young. Still are. I grew up with the pay it forward and it was a lovely way to be brought up. My parents spent a good deal of time and effort being and teaching kindness. The greatest gift I have ever gotten.

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  13. I always compliment women when I see something that looks really good on them. I've also gone up to them in the grocery store and tell them that was really polite of them to let that person go in front of them, particularly when they haven't been thanked by said person. Seldom does anyone do this for me, but, frankly, I think seldom do I deserve it. I dress for comfort. Always have, always will. I never wear makeup. I wear earrings RARELY, but that will change now that I know to look for nickel-free earrings. Maybe that will make a difference, but I will be wearing them for me, not anyone else.

    I do have a few things in my wardrobe that can be considered "in" as well as comfortable. I was telling Barb a while ago that I bought a pair of BRIGHT pink jeans, a pair of BRIGHT blue jeans, and a pair of leopard print jeans. I've worn all three for specific occasions, but so that I felt good, and wanted to smile. Nothing like wearing neon anything to perk yourself up. This is also the sort of thing I call "show appropriate." I feel dressed up. That's for me, too, because Colin and Brad aren't going to notice. :)

    Long story short, I dress how I like to dress, because I don't need anyone else to tell me I look good. I do that myself.

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    1. (LOL Colin and Brad CAN'T notice. I'm always wearing a jacket when I see them.)

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  14. Dawn I am glad you do it for you. I do too as I said earlier. I really and truly dress for me. But I also dress to impress. Cannot tell a lie. I am not a big makeup wearer. In face during the week and in the hood and around the house I wear NONE. Ever. But going out, I have to. But I am happy to say it is subtle.

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  15. I know its late and I have been busy, but I love how we all just come together to tell each other how wonderful we all look : )

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  16. Hey Deb, great topic!!! Yes,I dress to be accepted, by other women, if I really analyze it, I also dress for comfort and life style for myself. I to am becoming more comfortable with myself and battle insecurities and poor self image daily. I am just starting to like my outer self since I hit my forties and on. I have always felt inferior and insecure growing up and relied on my intelligence and good hearted ness to bring me through. I was always the friend others came to for advice, but I was never the one that was "hot" or was chased after. A couple of times maybe lol But truthfully, it is sad that we rely on this stuff to feel important. I always promoted self assurance and confidence and sucess to my daughter so she could always stand on her own two feet. Today I am thrilled that I suceeded and she is that women today. Her inner beauty outshines her outer beauty for sure. Though she is a beauty. I still struggle, but am trying to let that outer beauty perfection stuff go. Thanks for the good topic love you Jenn x

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    1. Jennifer Munro JackApril 21, 2012 at 2:59 PM

      Yes, hey Deb x

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    2. Okay so now that I know it is you...I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT YOU DID NOT AND DO NOT THINK YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL! You have been gorgeous since you were a baby!!! Please keep up the good work regards yourself and try to see what everyone else sees so clearly!!!! xo

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    3. Jennifer Munro JackApril 21, 2012 at 9:48 PM

      Thanks Deb, crazy, eh? Your right, I do positive talk to myself daily. I ahave always admired you and your style. You being in your business mustbe be hard on the psyche. And yes there comes a time in life when, we need to drop this outer beauty stuff. Especially us women, we are always comparing ourselves to other women. Thanks for the compliment and yes, I aspire to gracefully and enjoy myself. I love your and Barbara's Blog daily. xo

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    4. Jennifer Munro JackApril 22, 2012 at 11:17 AM

      I meant to say "age gracefully" :)

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  18. This reminds me of a recent article on photoshopping celebrity pictures. http://shine.yahoo.com/the-thread/stars-without-photoshop-183500648.html And read that top rated comment. That's the kind of comment we women need to hear and hold on to!

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  19. So true Eileen! I had seen this too.

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  20. This is so true! I remember once coming from the gym, I was putting my shoes on (I don't know if it is the same elsewhere, but here we leave the outdoor shoes in front near the check in desk) and this young girl (well in her early 20s) jumped behind a sofa and started admireing my shoes (they are really lovely). I was so happy and showed them off a bit. :)

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  21. Kasku, when someone admires our shoes, it becomes one of the great days, doesn't it?

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    1. It indeed does! I just remember another occasion when I have been given a compliment. Though it was not about my clothes or shoes... We were celebrating my Aunt's 27th bday and I was 25 at the time. One of her friends (girl) said that I had really nice looking boobs. I was really taken by surprise by that comment. I think I said something like thank you and that both of them are home grown or something like that. :))

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  22. Jennifer Munro JackApril 22, 2012 at 11:19 AM

    Deb, must run in the family as shoes are a for sure priority!!! lol

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  23. AH I so know what you mean....

    As I told you before, when I was younger, I didn't give a damn about how I looked like, because I felt comfortable. I liked myself. I was happy.

    But right now, I'm always worried. It's not that I care much about fashion. I hardly ever wear make-up...but I am afraid that I look stupid or ugly, when I go out, and other people - especially women - see me.

    I don't like my body...And sometimes, when I look in the mirror, I don't like my face. My hair is all weird, I have pimples, as if I was a teenager, I sweat very easily, and am all red and puffy...

    I want to look good, because I want to feel good. And I can't feel good, when I think that others might dislike my appearance.
    I don't want to stand out, I just want to hide amongst the other people.

    Sometimes, when I go out, I put on make-up (I started doing this only a few months ago, I think...like I told you, I wasn't interested), because I look pretty. And I like myself, when I'm pretty.

    Sometimes I have to laugh, because I do look sexy, but I am not. :D I'm just a boring and shy person...not even make-up can change that.

    When people tell me that I'm pretty, I can't believe them...and it's hard for me to accept that.

    It's so stupid. I always put myself down, although I think everybody, who smiles and is happy, is pretty and beautiful. It's so easy....really.

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  24. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this topic since I read it last week - so felt I had to share my thoughts! I have, in recent years, become 'alarmed' by my ageing reflection in the mirror. I suppose this is because I feel so young inside - I have not yet been able to accept the changes - and admit I do a few non-invasive treatments that make me feel good about the way I look (I like my face - no great beauty but never worried about changing this or that). Oddly, when I was younger, I was very critical of my figure. Didn't really concern myself with the face - a bit of cover-up and lipstick and I was good to go. Now, middle aged (more actually), a bit saggy, definitely blubby -my cute fat (the pudges I used to hate that popped over my bra - i complained once about it to a friend who said "oh - that is cute fat- I don't mind it")bulging, thicker waist and flatter bum (ha! - I make it sound negative but I don't mean it to be)- I have to say I am more comfortable in this body than I ever was. I have always dressed for myself - this has not changed. I think I have a good handle on what works on me and I go with it - no matter the trends. When I see a "middle aged" woman that looks fantastic in my minds eye - it is the confidence I find so attractive - first observed through a head held high, a bright smile and good posture. I certainly don't scan a face for crows feet or saggy jowls. Yet, I can be hard on myself in that department. I had lunch recently with a school chum who had just become a grandmother. She said "I'm okay with ageing thing, you?" ; I honestly said "no, I am not there yet". It's a journey. Kim

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  25. Kim, I'd be lying if I said I didn't relate to the challenge of embracing the age thing. It seems to get easier the more I actively think about it. Weird, huh? Like I"m tuning the muscle or something. I do absolutely agree that confidence is the number one most striking element. So there's that too. I will say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE "cute fat". That one goes in the kittie!!

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