I find myself looking in the mirror more these days.
I’m noticing the bags under my eyes. I see the lines on my face, telling me that I’m starting to age. The targeted ads that I saw at the beginning of the pandemic were preparing me for this moment. Now that I see my image so regularly on a screen, I am considering buying the products and gizmos that promise to make me feel better about my reflection. This, of course, sends me reeling. It feels so self-indulgent. My unemployment stipend is coming to an end, my financial future does not feel secure, and I’m worried about my wrinkles?
With every Zoom meeting, professional video and FaceTime call, I’ve been critiquing my mannerisms, inflection and appearance in new ways. These methods of communication cause me to fixate on how other people see me. Some days I feel cute; other days I don’t want to identify with that goofy-looking Muppet who needs a haircut and more sleep.
“I want permission to grow older without the scrutiny of capitalism’s judgment.”
The fact that we are programmed to think negatively about ourselves makes my blood boil. Women, in particular, are terrified of cellulite, drooping skin and whatever else our society perceives as a flaw. This “toxic femininity” misdirects our attention from the bigger picture and onto ourselves, as though all that matters is what we look like.
I’ve been told, implicitly and explicitly, not to like myself, so that I will buy things to make me feel better. I scroll through all the beautiful people, places and things on my phone, and I convince myself that I am not happy with my life.
I know enough about myself to recognize that I am capable, beautiful and exactly who I am supposed to be, as is. Why is the truth taken away from me so someone can sell a product? Why are we pitted against each other to compare and contrast our looks and achievements?
Even in my anger, I still want to buy the products to tighten and lift. But what I truly want is for someone to tell me that wrinkles are a good thing and I don’t need to hide or minimize my body. I want permission to grow older without the scrutiny of capitalism’s judgment.
So I change what self-perception means to me. I walk throughout the house and I take the focus away from my image and onto my lifestyle. Does it all check out? Do I seem all right? I live in a very dynamic household; as I look around my home I soak that in. Every item has a history of where it came from, why I have it and what it means to me. I only have things in my house that I want, and I protect myself from indifference by being deliberate about my tangible surroundings. I have strong feelings about my home and how it should be treated. I value intentionality, purpose and commitment to who I am and where I’ve come from by how I care for myself in my home. These are values I live by and what is truly important to me. I understand that this isn’t everyone’s lot, but I have embraced that it is mine.
Another value that I honor is to practice what I preach. It takes a lot of commitment to do this. It also means we must honor the work right in front of us, as trivial and mundane as it may seem. When I look in the mirror or see myself on a screen, I can begin to see someone with purpose and who is true to herself. It is the woman on the screen and in the mirror who has been consistently there for me. She’s cleaning up, making sure there is food on the table and staying on top of her responsibilities while raising three girls as a single mom.
That beautiful lady in the mirror is putting one foot in front of the other and trusting the process. She’s been through fire and drought. More than ever, I can’t emphasize enough how good it feels to be loved by my friends, family and myself.
I’m proud of the woman in the mirror, no matter what she’s been told by the media and society. I am happy with what I see.
Lois Volta is a home consultant, musician and founder of Volta Naturals. loisvolta.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.