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What I Know About Beauty Now That I'm In My 60s

03/28/2012 11:49 am ET | Updated May 28, 2012

"This is my daughter, Vicki, the one with the personality. This is my daughter, Bonnie, the pretty one," explained my mother to her new hospital roommate.

My kind and loving mother would never have spoken those words 40 years ago had she not still been deeply drugged after her surgery. Mom would be pained to know that these words hurt me, and I wouldn't share this publicly were she still alive.

My sister was more outgoing, more social and quicker to make friends. But did I have no personality? Was "pretty" all I was? If pretty was my best point and I didn't consider myself particularly pretty (which I didn't), what did I have to offer?

I was a child dazzled by the glamor of her aunt. A younger sister left behind as the older one grew adept at manicures, make-up and hair styling. An adolescent more wallflower than not. A young woman pained that she wasn't the "boy magnet" she wished to be.

Being beautiful seemed to matter so much then.

Now, at 62, I've made my peace with beauty and here's some of what I've learned:

Beauty is overrated.
We're fixated on appearance in our culture. Countless things are so much more important, yet the supposedly perfect proportions of a woman's face or body are the focus of our attention.

Do these really matter more than her compassion, kindness, strength or love? Not at all. But it took me years -- too many years -- to believe that.

No one looks like that.
We see the perfectly proportioned faces and bodies everywhere. Online and off, we're inundated with images clamoring to dictate what we "should" look like.

But who even has that perfect face? If you take away the hordes of make-up, hair and styling experts working their wizardry on these women, if you take away the photoshopping, how much do celebrities and models resemble their pictures?

At this age, it's crystal clear that I'm not going to look like those 20-something models. In fact, I'm not going to look like a model of any age! Thankfully, any desire I once had to look like someone else has vanished. This makes it way easier to be satisfied with what I do look like.

Our lives are written on our faces.
Stress, exhaustion, unhappiness, anger, health challenges and hard times -- they all show on your face. Enough of this kind of stuff etches lines on your face and dims the light in your eyes.

If you've been fortunate enough to be mostly healthy and happy (as I have), that's likely to be reflected in your face. Count your blessings for all these gifts.

Some say we get the face we deserve as we age, but I think it's more we get the face of the life we've lived. Some of that is in our control, some is not.

Whatever kind of life we've had, it's never too late to cultivate more of the qualities, attitudes and choices that make us feel and look our best.

I get to decide.
As the saying goes, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." When it comes to how I look, the most important beholder needs to be me.

Letting our culture's messages, the media's images, or other people's opinions tell me whether I look good is a dangerous game. Perhaps one that only a young, beautiful woman can afford to play.

When I feel good about myself, I like the face I see in the mirror more. When I like the face in the mirror -- and even smile at it! -- I feel better.

All of us who are lucky enough to grow old are going to look different as the years go by. If looking good helps me feel good, it's crucial that I evolve my ideas about looking good and do that fast enough to keep pace with my physical changes.

Beauty really is an inside job.
Our mothers told us "Beauty is an inside job" and they were right. This is even truer as we get older.

A kind, vibrant, curious, and joyful woman is beautiful inside and that shines through to the outside. Her eyes sparkle. Her skin glows. There's an aliveness and radiance about her. She's beautiful!

The good news about this is it's not age-limited, and it is in our control. We can choose to be kind, vibrant, curious, and joyful at any age.

I can give myself a face lift.
In my work, I help women discover and do what lights them up (what they love, what energizes and enlivens them). They get a "life lift" to more joy, meaning, fun, and passion. They also get a "face lift" -- without the pain, recovery time, or expense of surgery.

I've watched it happen many times. When a woman connects with what lights her up, her eyes sparkle and her skin glows. She looks brighter, more radiant, and more alive. Often she looks younger. Always her innate beauty shines. It's a quick, pain-free face lift.

I know the more I do what lights me up, the better I look and feel.

Beauty does matter.

Beauty is so much more than ideally proportioned faces or flawless bodies.

A turquoise blue ocean. Mt. Rainier bathed in morning light. Daffodils glowing in the sun. The iridescent red head of a hummingbird. A giggling child's grin. A humpback whale leaping out of the water. A smile that makes me feel loved.

This is the kind of beauty that truly matters to me. It moves me, nurtures me and feeds my soul.

This is the kind of beauty that is all around me. All I have to do is notice and appreciate it.

This is the kind of beauty I wouldn't want to live without.

Making peace with beauty has been quite a journey for me. My wish is that every woman finds a way to make her own peace with beauty.

Bonnie McFarland founded Savoring Your Sixties to share with other women what she has learned (and is still learning!) about making peace with turning 60 and living a life after 60 that is fun, joyous, and meaningful. Get her free e-book, Loving Your Sixties: 6 tips to start now!

Twitter: @BonnieMcFarland
Facebook: www.SavoringYourSixties.com/facebook

To Read More In This Series, "What I Know About Beauty ..."
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