With age comes a form of grace which is born out of life experience and a sense of humour. I have contemporaries who are, like me, in their sixties and above, who embody beauty in the broadest sense.
Every laughter line tells a story, every silver hair has been earned in the toil of developing careers and businesses, bringing up and caring for families, and maintaining friendships. What we say to each other matters far more than what we look like and if we make each other laugh, even better. As we are forced into social isolation over the next few weeks, let’s use this time to explore how we communicate with each other beyond the boundaries of physical appearance.
Now that I’ve said all that, I find it hard to explain why it is that when I have the opportunity to be visible – either presenting on stage or being filmed, I completely freak out about how I look. It’s usually done silently and before the event or filming takes place but the image in my head resembles Munch’s The Scream.
The most recent set of circumstances brought all my insecurities to the fore. I was being filmed and also presenting at an event on possibly the wettest and windiest day of the year. I drove to Brighton, a journey I make regularly, but this was unusually treacherous with torrential rain and poor visibility making the roads extremely hazardous. I had to drive slowly, ran late and then wait for my colleague to help me transport props and banners to the venue (indoors!) at the extreme end of Brighton’s Palace Pier.
We were blasted from every side by wind and rain as we walked down the pier and arrived soaked through and very bedraggled. And, I’m embarrassed to say, when I was asked to get ready for being interviewed on film, this brought out what can only be described as my ‘inner diva’ as I fussed and fretted about my appearance.
Fortunately, I got the ‘diva’ under control and as the panic subsided I snapped into professional mode. I realised that everybody was in the same boat, and indeed we were all out at sea on that very windy and wet promontory, as we had battled the elements to get there. The reality check was 200 amazing women congregating to celebrate International Women’s Day, all with wet clothes, hair and shoes but with their sense of humour firmly intact.
As for the filming, well what you see is what you get. I don’t wear much make up due to a chronic eye condition, my hair has been recently cut and coloured so looks fine and I’m dressed casually because I prefer to be comfortable when I’m running a workshop. I looked like myself but a little bit damp.
I fell into my own insecurity trap about what I looked like. The wind and the rain and the panic did it. Honestly, in that moment I really had to remind myself that I personally care far more about what people have to say than what they look like and that should apply to me too.
I had to quickly remember what my personal values are in today’s image and appearance obsessed social media world. I feel sorry for young ‘influencers’ who feel the need to have their lips and boobs augmented and their lovely laughter lines Botoxed out of their faces. Beauty is not all skin deep and it’s what’s inside that really matters.
Surely, we can take the pressure off ourselves now that we have more important things to worry about? Keeping ourselves fit and well should be the priority over the next few weeks and not what we look like.
By the way, I look great on a podcast! Listen to me chatting to June Sarpong about ‘Finding your Funny’ with my colleague Jenny Bolt on NatWest’s podcast series Championing Women’s Voices.
Photograph (in header) by Mariana Feijo.