SELF-LOVE AND BOTOX: A RECKONING
My 92-year-old grandmother says the same thing every time I call: “When I look in the mirror, I ask myself Who is that old lady staring back at me? Because in my heart, I’m 25!”
I’m starting to understand what she means.
I really, really don’t like that I’ve begun looking older. Whether it’s because our culture puts youth on a pedestal, or because giving birth made me confront my own mortality, I’m not sure. Either way, I do not want to look my 38 years.
Aging And Self-Love
I find it interesting that I started getting Botox at around the same time I learned to love and appreciate my body. I was 35 when I suddenly realized that my smile lines (I refuse to call them “crow’s feet”) had started sticking around after my smile faded. Which of course caused a lot of frowning! It wasn’t that I felt ugly or unattractive; I simply didn’t like that my face was changing. I wanted to look like I felt inside: vibrant, healthy, my best self. And to me, those new wrinkles didn’t reflect that at all.
As I write this, I’m struggling to hold two seemingly disparate desires: a wish to appear young, and a genuine love for the lessons of my 30’s. Sure, I’d love to have my 25-year-old metabolism, the freedom that comes with fewer responsibilities, and the ability to sleep until 10am on a Saturday, but my twenties were also about insecurity and instability. There was the heartbreak of failed relationships, the financial struggles, and the way I constantly compared myself to every other young woman my age.
I remember sitting in yoga class dissecting who was thinner, who wore $100 Lululemon leggings versus the $15 ones I bought on sale at Target, and which girl had a boyfriend waiting for her when class got out. In my head, each difference ballooned into a reason these strangers were somehow better than I was. They became parts of a story that kept repeating itself in my head: other people had life figured out, but it would always be a puzzle I’d never solve.
My thirties have been about letting go of that lie. As the friendships I formed in my twenties deepened, I learned that no one has it figured out. Ever. Those expensive leggings may have been bought with a now maxed-out credit card, that boyfriend might be the flavor of the week, and that rock-hard body may come at the price of truly enjoying life. Regardless of how perfect we make things look, we’re all just faking it.
Which brings me back to the Botox.
Can You Love Yourself, But Still Want To Look Different?
Now, in my late thirties, I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m feeling myself. I’ve created life, forced myself to change and grow in ways I didn’t think were possible, started my own business, and learned to be honest with myself and others. Why shouldn’t I be proud of myself? And yet, as much as I want to view wrinkles as medals of honor earned in the years that brought that wisdom, I still want to erase them. What’s more, I do this by injecting a toxin into my body.
Yeah, yeah, I know doctors tell us it’s safe. But it’s hard not to question myself when my bathroom cabinet is filled with Beautycounter products and I refuse to put certain chemicals on top of my skin. And yet, here I am pumping botulism toxin into my forehead muscles.
Perhaps the real lesson here isn’t in the why, but in the how. As in how I might embrace my desire to use my physical appearance to communicate something about who I am at my core. Because I don’t feel older. I just feel a little closer to being my best self. So why shouldn’t I look it?