How do wrinkles affect happiness?

The signs of aging can be tough for any woman to handle. We’re surrounded by not-so-subtle signs that society values female beauty, too often in the form of an underage model.

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Wrinkled face of an older woman
Masterfile

The signs of aging can be tough for any woman to handle. We’re surrounded by not-so-subtle signs that society values female beauty, too often in the form of an underage model. You know you’ve got more going for you than just your face, but it can be hard to feel the male gaze drift away, to see the lines accumulate, and to wonder if people won’t just stop looking, but stop listening too.

The new FACE report (from the people trying to sell you Botox) offers some insight into how women perceive the aging process, and how it shapes their confidence. According to the report:

– The visible sign of aging that affects women the most is wrinkles (followed by sagging and uneven skin tone).
– More than half of women say they feel, at times, self-conscious about the signs of aging.
– On average women say there’s an eight-year gap between how they feel and how they look.
– If they could look a few years younger, it would make 31 percent more confident, 15 percent feel more like themselves, 11 percent feel more relaxed, and 9 percent happier.

I can’t say any of this is particularly surprising, but one thing that caught my eye is that looking younger would make so many women feel more like themselves. If we live long lives, our youth is a comparatively small part of the pie. A woman’s perception of her ‘best self’ is often based on a largely physical assessment. We forget that, as we get older, we get better. We create families, we find a purpose, and the right people to love and inspire us. Studies show that we actually get happier, too. The whole time, our skin along for the ride.

The notion that women need to value themselves for more than their physical beauty is not an original one. I agree with the need for diversity in media representations of women. But we also have an obligation to ourselves to take a deep breath and realize that if we’re healthy and loved, we’re doing okay. Defying negative social expectations is a necessary first step for both our own well-being and to offer a positive example to the women around us.