As Kate Moss, Mel C and Victoria Beckham turn 50, Claire Musters, who recently reached the same age, acknowledges the pressures she has felt about growing older.
I have never followed fashion very closely, but I have always felt the ‘inadequacies’ in my body keenly. As I’ve gotten older, I have noticed the media’s obsession with youth…but only in women. As men age, they are viewed as debonair, sexy even, whereas women are expected to keep looking as youthful as possible otherwise they are dismissed – or mocked.
Actresses, models, singers all have an added pressure to always look as though they are about to step onto a red-carpet event or attend a party. I can only imagine that thousands of pounds can be spent each year trying to keep up these appearances.
Why are we so obsessed with youth? Can’t we just accept that we all grow older, and embrace the process rather than trying to postpone or hide it?
As men age, they are viewed as debonair, sexy even, whereas women are expected to keep looking as youthful as possible otherwise they are dismissed – or mocked.
I am proud of what I and my body have achieved – we’ve been through a lot over the years! I look back and am sad that when I had a slender, taut body I covered it up with baggy clothes because I have always had a pear-shape and had allowed my brain to be programmed to believe this fell short of the ideal. These days, while I know I want to tone up here and there, my priorities definitely lie elsewhere.
So here are some things that have nothing to do with my body shape which have shifted my focus in the last five decades.
As a shy introvert, for too long I tried to blend in. I became a book editor straight from university and one of the first things I did was buy a briefcase and a jacket – I felt I needed to look the part in order to do it well.
Even though I’ve worked hard to overcome it, my lack of self-esteem has reared back up at various times. When God led me to write about my marriage struggles authentically it shaped the way that we serve our church as leaders. As I stepped into speaking at events, again the imposter syndrome hit – until God told me that the message I bring in the way I bring it, is needed. When we are authentically ourselves it blesses others as well as us.
Invest in core relationships
I married my childhood sweetheart, but things were tough from the start. I still look back at my 20s and see them as the ‘years the locusts have eaten’. We also felt ashamed that we were struggling so much, so didn’t reach out for help until after crisis hit. How wrong we were, and how much we’ve learned since!
Having children (in my 30s) taught me the need to find a rhythm as a family. I never knew I could love so much but also be stretched so much too.
Serving others is fulfilling
Having been involved in church planting, I have experienced having to muck in and do all sorts. And there is a real joy in working hard together.
Whether it is helping to serve food at an event after a service, running our monthly women’s book club or simply standing in prayer with someone, each act of service reminds me that we were made to be in community – and I’ve learned to receive from others in a similar way too.
Navigating perimenopause means I’m dealing with brain fog and other symptoms, so I have to show myself compassion. I understand that my body is to be cared for, and that doesn’t make me weak.
Self-care is important
I have always been quite capable, but have also dealt with my fair share of difficulties that have floored me. I have come to understand that I need space to regroup and recuperate after giving out.
These days I don’t bounce back physically so quickly and have had to learn to pace myself. Navigating perimenopause means I’m dealing with brain fog and other symptoms, so I have to show myself compassion. I understand that my body is to be cared for, and that doesn’t make me weak.
Read more on ageing
Celebrate yourself, and let others do so too!
I can remember being really nervous about the attention I was going to receive on our wedding day, and I never made much of birthdays in my 20s and 30s. But more recently, and possibly as life has gotten tougher, I’ve viewed them as opportunities to pause and celebrate.
On my 50th birthday, a dear friend delivered hampers full of my favourite things, which the women from church had contributed to, as well as a beautiful bouquet. I was so touched, and grateful for the people in my life who had taken the time to show me love and care.