I vividly remember sitting next to a psychotherapist during a business meeting. It was the year 2000 and we were deep in conversation about women and aging, and her words have stayed with me ever since: “Heather, in our culture, a woman’s power is in her youth and beauty.”
Back then, in my early thirties, I reveled in the idea of being young and in great shape. But with each passing birthday, I found myself wondering how much longer I could hold onto that coveted “youthful” label. I faced two choices: wage a relentless battle against aging with every product and technique available or embrace the inevitable and make the most of the time I had left.
However, as the years passed, I came upon a third path. It didn’t happen until my mid-forties, but it was there, waiting for me to notice. It was a simple truth, one I’d heard other women mention, but it didn’t quite resonate with me at first. Like any profound insight, it took time to permeate my psyche and become a part of my life.
The reality is, at every moment, we have the power to shape how we perceive ourselves and our world. If we absorb the anti-aging messages prevalent in our society, we will never reach that elusive goal.
This “third way” that I’ve come to embrace is all about savoring life, living it to the fullest, and taking ownership of it. It encourages me to find opportunities for learning in every situation and to appreciate both myself and others, whether in moments of beauty or vulnerability.
My husband teases me that I’m in denial about getting older. Ten years ago, maybe. But today, I have very different conversations about women and aging. I’m very aware of my age and I know for sure that we have way more control than we’ve been taught to think. Not because of cosmetic efforts to look younger. But because our lifestyle has a tremendous impact on how well (or poorly) we age. From our sleep to what we eat, to how we move our bodies and our relationships, we are not doomed to simply our genetics and the idea that “this is just the way it is at this age.” When I take ownership of this truth, it changes what I do.
I don’t walk this third path perfectly. And that’s totally okay. In my coaching work with numerous clients, I’ve witnessed how the all-or-nothing mindset often holds them back from experiencing the health, joy, and satisfaction they long for. It just struck me that the only way I could discover my own “third way” was to recover from my perfectionism. I don’t have a perfect body, my house isn’t always perfectly organized, and I don’t constantly experience a blissful connection with the Divine. But I’m becoming stronger and healthier, my surroundings are more peaceful, and I enjoy greater moments of calm.
Honestly, I don’t even know what “perfect” would look like, or if it truly exists. And if it does, I’m not sure it would be any better than the life I’m living at this very moment. Life, as it is, is a beautiful journey of growth, learning, and embracing my imperfect self.