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Ejecting the Beauty Myth

If you're defining beauty by your age, think again.

For women, whether we admit it or not, two potent mythical figures that course through our psychology, that of the maiden (or, in modern terms, the sexy chick) and the crone (or, the old lady). We know the maiden well: she’s the beautiful young princess.

But who is a crone? A crone is typically an older woman, and in some folklore she is evil (e.g., the witch). Or, at the benign level, she is grandmotherly and asexual. Certainly, she’s not a sexy chick.

This destructive image, in turn, unconsciously affects a woman’s perception of her attractiveness as she grows older. Beyond the psychological forces, these elements continue and further promote this negative viewpoint:

  • The image is furthered by women’s willingness to accept as a biological fact that a woman becomes less alluring as she ages.
  • Socio-cultural influences often make it unseemly for older women to dress or act in a way that highlights their sexuality.
  • Sexy older chicks don’t exist for the ordinary woman—that’s for celebrities who have the money needed for the high maintenance it requires for an older woman to look young.

Indeed, women across a wide age range—sometimes even beginning as early as their mid-thirties—become prisoners of the crone psychological myth.

One poisonous offshoot of the crone psychology is that as women age they may start to feel like “sidebars” and not the main event. That is, we become peripheral figures. As a result of this type of thinking, one’s sense of sexuality is diminished. Thus, we may feel somewhat invisible to others (that is, we can no longer redeem the “pretty girl discount.”)

These thoughts and feelings that we have accepted and consumed, lead to the idea that older women are “expired products.” The crone psychology is powerful; it is insidious; it is destructive to enjoying life. How do you know if you have swallowed the perception that you are beyond your shelf-life?

First, you need to assess your “crone quotient.”

  • Has there been a slow loosening of concern over how you look: not styling your hair, wearing ill-fitting clothes, not maintaining good physical health?
  • Do you reject certain styles because, “they’re for young women.”
  • Do you dismiss yourself as “old” in a joking way?
  • Do you reject engaging in new activities or ventures?

Second, you need to press the EJECT button on the crone image if any of the above apply.

  • Pay attention to your skin, your hair, your body and keeping it in shape is healthy narcissism; making this the only focus is pathological narcissism
  • Focus on your appearance—make sure you wear a style that suits you, colors that enliven you; that’s not being superficial, it’s taking care of yourself
  • Be energetic and enthusiastic, look to learn new things

The crone psychology is insidious and poisonous to living a joyful life. Reject it soundly. You are not a sidebar, you are the main event. Believe it!

Dr. Shoba Sreenivasan and Dr. Linda E. Weinberger are authors of the new book Psychological Nutrition, which encourages women to live happier and healthier lives by monitoring emotions that are consumed on a daily basis.