How Happy Do You Feel in Your Own Skin? Growing Old May Have Something to Do with It

by Ann Richardson

old friend and I were chatting recently via email. She had sent me a photograph
she had taken of me earlier that day. I replied that it made me notice how very
white my hair is and that I needed a haircut. It also reminded me that I am not
as slender as I used to be.

replied immediately to say I was “beautiful.” Which I am definitely not. I
suddenly realised that she thought I was one of those women who don’t much like
their own body and was seeking to reassure me.

I wrote
back to say I have never felt ugly nor beautiful, but “pretty enough,” and it
was not an issue for me. And she replied, “A rare and precious quality – being
happy in your own skin.”

stopped me in my tracks. Am I truly “comfortable in my own skin”? Do I feel
happy about myself? Is it, indeed, a rare quality?

course, this has many meanings, but let us start with the physical one.

Physical Appearance

as long as I can remember, it never occurred to me to feel that my face or body
were not good enough. Yes, I was very short, but that couldn’t be altered
(aside from wearing high heels).

I didn’t feel the need to “fix” my body in some way. I never even liked wearing
makeup and, after a few inelegant efforts, gave that up. I was – and have
remained – a walking WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get).

was only when I got into my 20s or so that I discovered this was not the case
for all women. Many seem to feel their breasts are too large or too small,
their backsides are too big, their noses are not the right shape, and so forth
and so on.

so, of course, the business of makeup was born (going back to Egyptian times,
if not earlier) and, more recently, plastic surgery.

is the advice given about how to alter your physical appearance – dying your
hair the right colour, doing the odd nip or tuck, and certainly applying loads
of stuff to your face. Even the right colours to wear for you.

does it make you happier, or indeed, more “comfortable in your own skin”? I
honestly don’t know. That is certainly the intention.

Deeper Issues

feeling happy, or simply comfortable, with yourself is grounded in much more than
your physical appearance. Do you like yourself? Do you think people like you?
Do you feel you have done enough to meet your early expectations of yourself?

Our initial
view of ourselves must come from somewhere. This may be what our parents told
us or how we compared to our siblings. Much labelling goes on within families
“he’s the sporty one” or “she’s good with people” and this must rub off.

the other hand, it may not be fully accurate. I was the middle child of three,
with the other two being outstandingly clever. Despite reasonable grades in
school, it took me years to realise I was really quite bright as well. It
hadn’t seemed so, by comparison, in my formative years.

view also comes from our classmates, not only in those many years of school, but
also if we go to university and beyond. We may get a reputation for studying or
partying or being good at politics. We may have loads of friends or very few.

try somehow to work out who we are and what we are good at. And how much do
certain qualities and skills matter – to us or anyone else?

many a novel has been written about the rest of life! It has a way of throwing
you a hand-up or pushing you down. An abusive partner is very likely to flatten
self-confidence, just as a quiet but admiring one will do the opposite. Success
in work is much the same.

cannot do justice to the issue here, but it is all part of the process of

Feeling Happy in Your Own Skin

reflection, I feel this is a lifetime’s work; at least it has been for me.

is one of the joys of growing older that year by year, you settle in, come to
terms with your strengths and weaknesses, and accept yourself in a quiet way. You
have achieved certain goals, but perhaps not others, and – it is hoped – accept
your life for what it has been.

the important thing is that you view yourself not on the terms of your parents –
or your friends or colleagues – but on your own. It is the all-important bit of
“being old” that people don’t tell you about.

happy do you feel with yourself and your qualities? What has helped you to
reach this perspective? What would you advise others? Please share in the
comments below.

Let\’s Have a Conversation!

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