Recently, I read about actress and model Pam Anderson’s bold choice to go makeup-free at a high-profile fashion event, embracing life in her 50s with a more unfiltered presence. In fact, she didn’t even bring a stylist with her.
Kudos to her, because I’ve seen The Devil Wears Prada, so I’m assuming that’s a very judg-ey crowd.
I think she looks happy and youthful.
Like Pam, many of us reach a stage in life where the urge to conform or create a certain image becomes less pressing…and also pretty exhausting.
So we start questioning: Are we doing this for ourselves or for others?
It’s a valid question. And for a lot of us, it brings on a hopscotch journey of just trying to settle in and feel comfortable with where you are.
We call it “feeling comfortable in our own skin.”
And we do all kinds of things to try to achieve this feeling. We celebrate the things that seem to work, and rationalize away the things that don’t. (I’m not mocking, that is human nature.)
But let’s flip the narrative around a little bit.
What if you learned to embrace the discomfort of being in your own skin?
Walk with me here…
Reaching your 50s often brings a cocktail of discomforts.
- Let’s be honest, once you enter midlife you find there are some things you didn’t know your body was doing for you until it stops doing those things.
- Some relationships you thought were solid and healthy you realize through your own discomfort may not be what they seem.
- Goals and dreams you had when you were younger suddenly don’t seem as achievable or appropriate now, and what are you supposed to do with that?
That’s all pretty uncomfortable.
We like to avoid the uncomfortable.
We want it to just go away so we don’t have to deal with it.
So we try to shoo away uncomfortable feelings with all kinds of potions, lotions, experiences and rationalizations.
But just because we avoid something doesn’t mean it goes away. If a telemarketer has your cell phone number, then you probably already know that.
The irony of avoidance in midlife is that you’re more capable of handling things than what you realize because you have seen and been through some real stuff. You’ve already proven you can handle discomfort.
You just have to give yourself permission to use it to pull the right levers.
Learning to Embrace Discomfort
Keep walking with me here.
So, what does embracing discomfort look like?
I’m not talking about wallowing in your pain, throwing your hands up all like, “What’s the point? I guess I’ll just feel bad forever.”
Put down the diary, Bridget Jones.
Embracing discomfort is about accepting where you are, shifting your perspective and looking for what you still have yet to learn.
This is where you get the confidence to pull the aforementioned levers.
For example, let’s talk about wrinkles. I see changes in my face that I am sometimes uncomfortable with, partly because I know it’s not really going to get better.
Fact: If the timeline is moving, I am aging. We all are. (I’m a real hoot at parties.)
Now, I can do things to take care of my skin that will take the edge off a bit (hence my 9-step AM & PM skin care routines), but the reality is, if I live long enough, I absolutely will have wrinkles.
I could sit with that discomfort and worry about what I will one day look like, especially compared to women years younger than me.
Or, I can use that discomfort to remind myself of a few things. Each wrinkle means:
- I am being blessed with long life on this earth with my family. Not everyone gets this opportunity.
- I have had more time to keep working towards my own goals, or helping other people with their goals, people I wouldn’t be able to help if I’m not here.
- I found humor in more than a few things.
- I have the capacity to empathize.
- I still manage to be surprised by life (this is how I explain the forehead lines, what else could it be?).
The wrinkles then become less about my image in the world, or to “look good for my age” and more about marking the time that I have already had to invest in others.
Knowing that, can I take actions to continue to invest in others and see where that goes?
How does this relate to feeling comfortable in your own skin?
Let’s keep walking, walking.
Identify Who You Want to Be
The key to navigating this phase is getting clarity about who you want to be. This is harder than you might think.
Ironically, you may be able to aggressively list all the things you don’t want to be. We’ve allowed our media and social environments to condition us to always focus on the things that we’re not.
- I want to not be so anxious.
- I want to stop being unhappy.
- I want to stop feeling so tired.
But if I ask you, who do you want to be?
It might take you a hot minute to come up with even just a couple of things.
- What kind of person do you want to be?
- What kind of legacy do you want to leave for your family? Your friends? Your community?
- What are your values, those overarching themes in your life that you are always working towards?
Get Moving and Keep Moving
Once you start learning what kind of person you want to be, begin taking actions in that direction.
Every decision that comes your way will either take you towards that person, or away from that person.
Take real actions every day that will actually move the proverbial needle.
I’m not talking about busy work, planning and spreadsheets and whatnot (shout out to my fellow procrastinating perfectionists).
This is pull-the-lever, step-out-on-the-Indiana-Jones-invisible-bridge kind of action.
This one thing keeps most of us from what we want.
We are afraid to use the very discomfort we are trying to avoid to actually get us moving, even in small ways.
Action begets more action.
Once you get something moving, that energy doesn’t just stop. It has to go somewhere else. Use it to take the next step.
And guess what?
When you start taking real action, you don’t have a whole lot of time to worry about how you look, how awkward you feel, that stupid thing you said, and other defeating narratives.
You are doing stuff that matters to you, and you don’t want it to stop.
Case in point, this whole post was an action towards my larger value of helping others learn the skills to get what they want from life.
It won’t go viral or start a movement. But my discomfort with feeling like I’m not where I want to be with my writing goals spurred me to act, because actual writing will take me closer to my writing goals.
The wrinkle in time
This is all less about becoming more comfortable in your own skin, and more about being comfortable with the person you’re becoming.
True beauty and joy comes from a willingness to engage what may not be working for you so you can grow and change. It doesn’t come from arriving at some predetermined destination everyone else is headed towards.
Seeing your lifelong values actually start to unfold is pretty great because it means you’re actually doing what is most important to you.
Makeup is optional.