Psychologists rarely express interest in exploring the topic of external beauty. To most it's "what is inside that counts," a line often used by therapists to reassure women whose looks are changing with age. But contemporary women know better. Surely our emotional well-being has a lot to do with feeling beautiful, but so does caring for our appearance in a confident manner. Here are four key psychological tips that will help you gain the confidence needed to feel beautiful at any age. These tips were gathered from hundreds of real women who responded to articles I have written on this topic. These are single and married women, stay at home moms and women who work as teachers, lawyers, ad execs and more. Combing through their responses, I found great suggestions about how to continue looking current and elegant without feeling victimized by "anti-aging" trends and without altering their faces and bodies with plastic surgery. Here is their scoop on beauty from the inside out.
Going Gray: Doesn't Mean Letting Yourself Go
Many women assume that letting their natural hair color show is synonymous with letting themselves go. They associate the "G" word with loss of control, aging, becoming their mothers and grandmothers. An expression of resignation. But, remember when we all wore black and thought gray was blah? Well, now our wardrobes have plenty of shades of gray. Kate Winslet never looked more ravishing than when she wore a gray gown at the 2010 Oscars. Likewise with our locks. Going gray with confidence and pride (hey, we worked hard for this!) is what makes it appear attractive. Instead of feeling out of control, take control by making gray a choice. Women are now in the work place much longer than their parents were -- if their mothers were at all -- and can look stylish well into their 80s and 90s. Make an appointment with a colorist and find out how to make the most of natural gray, how to embellish it and make it work to your advantage. Research how to let your hair color change gradually and how to style it so it provides a positive boost to your image. Some women say their natural hair feels shinier, healthier and more vibrant as they stop regularly treating it with color dyes. They not only like the time and money it saves them, but they also enjoy feeling more connected to their authentic selves. This all doesn't sound exactly like letting yourself go, does it? Learn how to go gray in a way that suits you and your lifestyle. It just may be a choice worth making.
Cosmetics at Midlife: Less is More
Wearing too much makeup, or using it to cover-up fine lines and textural skin changes is often less attractive than wearing makeup that enhances your natural looks as we age. In short, less is more when it comes to cosmetics. We need to accept that our looks change, rather than deny, defy or avoid these changes. Only then can we be receptive to learning how to highlight features, rather than hide them using makeup. Add moisture and color to lips that may be dry and thinning. Darken eyebrows that have lightened and need shaping; these are smart ways to use makeup. You may be tempted to resist looking too closely at the changes that come with age, but I suggest the opposite; use a magnified mirror when applying makeup so that you can apply it more carefully, in the most attractive and appropriate way. Experiment with lighter foundations. Try more subtle shades of eye shadow or use lip gloss with just a bit of color, rather than bold lipstick like your grandmother wore. The point of cosmetics at this stage of life is placing focus where you want it. Have confidence to use makeup to bring attention to your natural features and less on the mask women feel they need to wear.
Accessorize: Take Risks
Baby boomers have broken barriers and crashed glass ceilings, but we have also earned the right to enjoy our femininity and all that comes with it. Taking risks by adding sensual and playful accessories can serve that purpose. We may dress for success for our high-powered jobs and wear practical clothes while we care for our children, but adding accessories can say "it's fun being a girl." Try sporting something you haven't ever worn before -- a red handbag, a bright scarf or bold jewelry. Experiment with flamboyant, bright colors. It's an option men don't have so take pleasure in it! Some women, who never enjoyed short skirts or high heels, are more comfortable taking risks as they age by accessorizing their outfits. Bigger, brighter and bolder accessories when matched with sophisticated age-appropriate clothes keep you looking current and show a sense of style that is ageless.
Flexible Fashion: Let Go, Move On
Instead of holding onto an image that is associated to a former time in your life, learn to let go and move on. A large part of looking attractive at various stages of life is knowing what works for you and doesn't. Show your confidence by wearing what you know makes you feel and look good. Let go of what doesn't. The key is taking ownership of your self-image, but being flexible as it changes. Select fashions that highlight your best features and learn how to de-emphasize others. If you have great legs, show them off. They are often the last feature on women to show age. It may mean replacing your mini skirt with a mid-calf one and choosing low heels over three-inch, pointy ones. But, when you take strong, confident steps in comfortable stylish shoes, wearing outfits you feel great in, you will look attractive at any age. Try experimenting with new colors and interesting fabrics that show off the changes you see in your face and body. Instead of shopping at your old haunts that worked when you were in your 20s and 30s, find stores and designers that make you feel great about yourself. Chicos or Eileen Fischer are places where you'll find other women who, like you, want to look good at any age. You are always changing, so allow your sense of style to change as well.
Remember, the most important addition to any of these tips is the confidence and pride you bring to them. A bright smile, straight posture and engaging eyes never have to change with age.
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