I'd Love to Age Gracefully -- if I Wasn't So Busy Freaking Out About My Age

Mom Moment 11

Every morning, I go through the following makeup routine: I wash and moisturize my face. I apply foundation. I dab a special primer under my eyes before applying a layer of undereye concealer. I use an angled brush to fill in my eyebrows. I use another, thinner brush to line the tops of my eyelids. I sweep a neutral-toned powder below my brow line. I use a kabuki brush to add a little bronzer to my cheekbones. I curl my eyelashes and put on a layer of mascara. I dust my entire face with setting powder, then add blush. Finally, I color my mouth with a creamy lip stain.

This is what I do to make myself presentable for the thrilling activity of taking my first-grader to his bus stop.

The crazy thing is, after all those products are on my face ... I don't really look like I have makeup on. I just look slightly more awake and less flu-stricken than I did when I first woke up. At nearly 40 years old, this is the minimum routine I need to feel even halfway decent about myself.

I've never been a head-turning beauty. I don't think I'm wildly ugly or anything, but I've always thought of myself as someone whose attractiveness probably depends more on whether or not you enjoy my personality. For instance, I have a goony, wide-open smile that lights up my face -- but it doesn't necessarily photograph well, if you know what I mean.

So it's not that as I age, I'm losing something that defined me. I was never the prettiest girl, and I'm not the prettiest mom-of-two. But as my face softens and sags, I feel more and more self-conscious about how I look. I occasionally catch sight of my profile in a window reflection and think, My god, that older lady with the droopy jawline, puffy eye-bags, and giant vertical frown-wrinkle ... is that really ME?

If Oprah's magazine is to be believed, 40 is when women really hit their stride. I'm supposed to be strong, confident, sure of who I am, and glowing with an interior beauty that transcends surface imperfections. (Of course, Oprah's magazine also dedicates page after page to antiaging treatments and photos of meticulously-made-up, professionally lit, and heavily-Photoshopped subjects, so.) Instead, I mostly feel awkward and painfully self-aware -- simultaneously the object of everyone's critical attention ... and completely invisible.

This isn't how middle age was supposed to be. I was told that experience would bring me wisdom and peace, dammit, not teenage levels of mirror-cringing and self-doubt.

I guess what I'm ultimately missing these days is a feeling of validity. It's hard, working from home and rarely interacting with adults. Doing the same tasks over and over again without a sense of completion. These things feed into my perception of myself -- they affect how I feel about my value as a person, and how I look to others. In my heart, I know it's not really about solving all my problems with the right wrinkle cream, it's about the fact that I've transitioned into a new stage of life that's caused some internal struggle.

(And by "new stage of life," I guess I don't exactly mean brand new: I wrote about many of these same feelings back in 2011.)

When I spend too much time obsessing over my appearance and feeling that sinking sense of OH IT'S ALL JUST FALLING APART AND IT'S ONLY GOING TO GET WORSE, I realize that what I'm really doing is seeing my future in terms of my limitations instead of my potential. It's not about my face, necessarily. It's about feeling the hourglass contents spilling helplessly through my hands.

Of course, it's sort of about my face, which is why I'm unlikely to toss out all my beauty products tomorrow in pursuit of inner happiness. I don't have a pithy, feel-good ending to these musings about aging and confidence and living your very best life. But sometimes -- lots of times -- it helps to talk.

Do you share any of these same feelings? How do you deal?

Image via Linda Sharps



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Rhond... RhondaVeggie

Don't sell yourself short, I think you're good looking. You just don't look 18 and that's a good thing. There are plenty of women who look much older than their age. Just look at the mom confessions board and the guess my age posts. There's always someone who looks about 40 but it turns out they're in their twenties. You look 40 (I'd believe 35 though) and you are 40 which puts you way ahead of a lot of women.

nonmember avatar andie

Linda, I used to feel the way you do when I was 40. Now my kids are almost grown and I'm in my early 50's and I feel so much better about myself than I did 10 years ago. It's not about what I see in the mirror, it's more about feeling good about my life. You'll get there.

Holly... Hollyhocks

I would say you are exceptionally charming: both the outer aesthetics as well as the inner person, as reflected in your blog posts. Beauty is as beauty does, and your approach and sense of humor are wonderful. 

adrie... adrien_80

If you hadn't have disclosed your age, I would have guessed about 35ish.  Your smile is adorable.  Just remember on those rough mornings, you dont actually look the way you feel sometimes. 

tnyangel tnyangel

I have all those same feelings, I've just passed 40 and looks like 41 will be left behind in a few months. I have a make up routine that takes longer than ever before too. Lately, I've heard over and over that I look better than ever. I don't believe them! I never buy that, I see me, I see the changes. I appreciate them almost as much as when I get a pimple and I have grey showing. Now that's unfair!

I have no answers. Just the same feelings. 

Keya25 Keya25

i have been a loyal reader of yours for YEARS and i think you a beautiful!!!  What we see of ourselves and what others see is almost always different. I feel the same way and im 26. Dont roll your eyes ladies lol. Most of us have our moments. I feel ya Linda.

Angie... AngieHayes

Oh my god, if I did that stuff every morning, my son would be sooo late to school, I just grab some jeans and a tshirt and go! We are usually about 10 minutes late to begin with, but I am only 27 with a 4 year old so I don't have to worry about my age yet.

Cynthia Lindgren

I am 33 and I feel old and I am so stressed out thinking about getting older :(

nonmember avatar Me

Aww, you are plenty pretty :) But I can totally relate to the " I dont look like I have make up on just little less flu stricken" feeling lol my own mom has asked me if im ok first thing in the morning, because I looked so pale.. Umm, no mom, this is how I actually look.. Lol

Im pushing 35 and although ive been told I look much younger im really starting to freak out over how to keep my still wrinkless face that way for a while longer.. Sigh

nonmember avatar Faith

"I've never been a head-turning beauty." DISAGREE. You're gorgeous!

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