The other week, a very strange thing happened. I was in London when a stranger approached me, looked at me, and announced "You look nice, for a mature woman, very nice!"
A compliment? Well, I’ll take anything I can! But just to clarify, I’m only in my 40s – though I guess that’s mature by age standards.
That got me thinking about beauty. This stranger didn’t know me; we hadn’t exchanged any words until that moment. So what did he see? Most often we equate beauty to what the person looks like on the outside – the freshness of youth, that dewy glow of young skin, the person who is considered conventionally beautiful because of their looks, and perhaps what they are wearing.
But is beauty really about how someone looks? If so, I’m doomed, because, believe me, I’ve had my fair share of days when I’ve felt far from beautiful. There’s that spot between my eyebrows that doesn’t seem to go away; the rosacea that I’ve been suffering from since I hit 40 (resulting in redness and spots on my cheeks); and the inevitable bad hair days, especially before my period, when my hair just falls flat.
I’ve bought expensive cosmetics to try to stop the clock of ageing, and bought way-too-tight white skinny jeans because the 20-year-old girls in the shop convinced me that you really did need to lie on the floor and wriggle into the tightest pair you could, as they moulded to your body. Melding to my body is not a look to go for when you can make out the cellulite on my thighs!
With flabby bits getting a bit flabbier, I decided to join a personal fitness programme. So far, I’ve not lost any weight – I still enjoy coffee and cake and seem to be consuming more because my mind tells me ‘I’m burning it off’. But, three months in, I do feel more toned, more energised and stronger. My legs don’t wobble quite as much as they used to; I can literally feel the muscles in my back; my arms are stronger; and I think I’ve got a two-pack starting to appear!
While I may never be able to hold a plank for longer than about 30 seconds and I still pant when I climb too many stairs, the transformation that has taken place is about more than purely physical changes. In the process of learning to accept and love my body, I’ve learnt to accept and love myself just a little bit more. To me that’s real beauty – the inner glow that comes from knowing and accepting who you are. It’s the kind of beauty that defies looks and age.
So stand tall today, shine and be your own kind of beautiful.