“Women have a shelf life.” Said the instructor.
While in my mid-thirties in a sales career, I took a class I had purchased to learn about stocks and how to invest on my own. When it came time for the instructor to sell his next class, he used fear in his sales approach saying, “my sister is a newscaster and I tell her she has a shelf life. To the career women in the room, if you are in the public eye, you have a shelflife. You need a fallback!”
Instantly I felt anger towards him and fear of aging at the same time as I knew how society views models and famous women who were defined by beauty and then age. While being a salesperson myself, his approach instantly turned me off as I am sure it did for many other women in the room. I still wonder if those words of fear still linger in the minds of the other women in the room that day.
In sales, you hear, “shine your shoes”, “wear your best suit”, “if you really want to get in the door look your very best every day” and “put the time in your appearance given so much is judged by the first impression.” While respect for how you look matters and so does a proper dress code to gain credibility, being judged for appearance many times went beyond that. It was not uncommon as a sales rep to hear the gatekeeper get asked over the phone, “Is she good looking?” as a basis as to whether or not the person would take the meeting or not. This may have happened with men too.
Now in my mid-forties, aging is more of a reality than a fear. Long gone are the turning of heads. This morning I listened to Oprah’s podcast where she interviews models and female actresses who admit how they realize their beauty got them in the door in their younger years. Yet, as they aged they realized they had been defined by their beauty and had to find new ways to find self-worth.
During her podcast, Oprah talks about how in her 25 years of doing interviews very few people have spoken of what it felt like to be valued by their looks. Her guests talk about how they handled the transition from being the one to turn heads to then no longer being able to use their looks to get in the door. They go on to tell their story of how they were able to grab ahold of another way of finding their value. They tell their true age and don’t rely on plastic surgeons or beauty treatments to maintain their youthful appearance. They share how going through the transition is a freeing experience.
For some of you reading this, you may be thinking, looks are not required to succeed in most careers. You are obviously correct. However, there are certain fields where some people have defined themselves by how good they look, just like some people define themselves by how good they are at their career or being a mom.
I have recently gone through this journey and am working on that very transformation myself and finding joy in new aspects of who I am by utilizing the practices of writing, being grateful, ways to motivate myself to exercise and being more aware of how I am defining myself. Oprah’s Podcast reminded me I am not alone.
So no matter how you have defined yourself, either by beauty, as a mom, how great you are at your career, all of those things come to an end or at a crossroads. There comes a time where you will need to find a new way to value yourself. When you recognize how you have been valued and how you have defined yourself is no longer working for you, life is not over.
In reality, living life fully could just be beginning. You may just need to redefine how you value yourself. Discover something new, create something, practice gratitude, exercise, and most importantly, admit your struggles because you will realize others feel the same way as you and a whole new life will begin to develop. A life where you can embrace all that you really are and where you find people who will love you for it!
Listen to Aging Well With Cybill Shepherd, Bo Derek and Beverly Johnson from Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations in Podcasts. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/oprahs-supersoul-conversations/id1264843400?i=1000449337412
Photo taken at Strouds Run State Park near Athens, Ohio