Thoughts on Aging, Body Image, and Contemplating a Tattoo at 40

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Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I am an over-40 blogger. I’ve entered a different space within the blogosphere. One reserved for so-called mature fashion and beauty bloggers.

Everyone treats 40 as some sort of milestone. It’s the time when hem lines magically lengthen, and hair is cut. Anti-aging skincare products are purchased.

We march towards our latter years and wear our maturity on our sleeves.

Every move you make is scrutinized.

I, for one, thinks this is utter nonsense. I mean, what does 40 look like in this day and age. Is there a one-size-fits-all marker for maturity?

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I also crossed another marker. I am a plus size blogger.

Maybe it’s age. Maybe it’s lifestyle. Most likely it’s the medicine that caused a 14-pound weight gain in two months. Either way, I can no longer shop in the same the section as before.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Can we have a discussion about weight? A real discussion?

I know how to style my body for the most part. That doesn’t mean I don’t carry excess weight. It means I can hide it better. That’s the point of clothing — to create proportions that don’t exist. I look taller when I wear tapered pants for a stiletto. I’m still 5’1″. Same rule applies to weight and body shape.

We like to one-up people when it comes to weight. It’s as if we want to be fatter than the next person. Yes, I am plus size. No, I’m not a size 22. It doesn’t mean I have an easier time finding clothes.

Do you have any idea how unnerving it is to be a body-positive blogger who has body image issues? My weight gain is documented through social media. For the longest time, I rarely took OOTD photos and focused on selfies to hide my weight gain.

I am no different than anyone else — size 6 or size 22. Body shame affects all people. Instead of invalidating someone’s feelings about their weight, let’s talk about it. Even if someone is a size 2 and thinks she’s fat, telling her that she’s not fat isn’t helping.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Insecurity is insecurity. While I make modifications to my lifestyle, I have to learn to accept a certain amount of contentment with my body as it is in this moment.

The fashion industry is not helping one bit. I have a rule that I do not publicly support or endorse any boutique or brand that does not offer plus size options. This has been my standard for a a few years. Most of my known audience is size 14-18 on average. This is the audience that asks for style advice and sends me pictures in dressing rooms to solicit my opinion.

I felt empathy before. Now I enter understanding.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Every year, I write a birthday blog with my thoughts on aging and other important issues. I post the blog on my birthday or the day after. It is almost a week after my 40th birthday, and here I am. I struggled for a week to write this post.

So here it is. My thoughts.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Turning 40

It’s not a big deal. Age is a social construct of rules created by someone who is long dead and passed from generation to generation as if it’s gospel.

If this offends, I really don’t care.

While I refuse to chase adolescence at this point in my life, I also refuse to chase some social norm of maturity.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I really want a tattoo. Many over-40 friends have multiple tattoos. I’ve contemplated the idea for well over a year.

It will be minimal. It will be visible. Right smack on the back of the neck.

My mistake is wanting my first tattoo at 40. Just as going blonde is a sign of shirking middle age, getting a tattoo is representative of youthful rebellion.

I still have a mortgage, retirement plan, and cellulite. Surely I am firmly secure into adulthood.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

There is a meme circulating Facebook about achieving specific life goals by a specific age. The point is not judging someone based on an arbitrary societal expectation. Everyone achieves goals at a their own pace.

This is why there are so many people suffering depression and anxiety. I should know. I’ve been on medication for a year. My anxiety is chemical. But it manifested in existential anxiety — fear of death and not leaving a legacy. I understand my 20-something students on so many levels. We’re not that different.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Body Image

With age, body image is intertwined. Weight is only one factor. Eventually my face will — and has — changed. Hormones do funny things to women’s bodies.

Everyone struggles with body image. Men. Women. Young. Old. Body dysmorphia is a growing epidemic.

Some people blame Instagram or the filter culture. I don’t think it helps matters much. But this isn’t a new issue. Eating disorders and addiction to fitness have been around for decades.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

I can’t lie. I chose photos that I thought were the most flattering. That never used to be the case. I chose photos that said something.

I’m not the most confident about sharing these photos. Jennifer did a fabulous job with the photography. My makeup is on point. The scenery is lovely. The problem is me.

Maybe posting these photos is an exercise in overcoming my body image issues.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Emily suggested I overcome my writer’s block by sharing a list of 40 things I learned by 40. While I like the idea, it’s a bit to advantageous for my taste. However, I will share a few tidbits that I have learned over the past year — random musings — to finish off this blog.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Never let anyone invalidate your feelings and never invalidate other people’s feelings. Each person’s psyche and experiences are their own. Sometimes, their feelings don’t make sense to us. Regardless, those feelings and thoughts govern who they are and are real to them nonetheless.

Make time for a facial. I love a good home facial. I take time every Sunday. I look forward to it. Maybe it’s a pedicure or fizzy bath or cooking. Do what makes your soul feel good.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Don’t neglect people. In the height of my workaholism, I lost not only myself, but the relationships around me. Make time for the people in your life, even if the circle is small.

Celebrate the little victories. When I started my new position 13 months ago, I had lofty goals. I accomplished many of those goals. Unfortunately, I’m an all-or-nothing person. Many hurdles presented themselves. I’ve learned to celebrate the victories, not matter how small, and give myself credit every once in a while.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Learn to live in the present. This required medication and therapy for me to accomplish. It’s a work in progress. I dwell on the future and my next move. I lose so much time in the here and now. Focus on who you are today. Only today. One day at a time. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Never allow anyone to criticize you for taking time for yourself. This is a biggie. “It must be nice to have time to do X.” Why yes, yes it is. Thank you for the acknowledgment.

We live in a culture addicted to busyness. As a workaholic in the clinical sense, my therapist has worked tirelessly to get me to take a lunch break away from desk. Never feel guilty about taking a coffee break.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

You define you. This is a tricky lesson. You may receive ridicule or side glances. Society thrives by eliminating the other. Happiness comes when you defy those expectations. Maybe your circle of friends is smaller. Maybe you have to change locations. But overall, don’t apologize for being who you are.

Strong women align themselves with strong men. As much as we would like to think we can do things entirely on our own, we are not there yet. Vocal male allies exist. Find them. Allow them to mentor you. We’re in this together.

Well, Emily, it’s not 40 lessons, but the best things come in small packages.

Photo credit: Jennifer Le @lifewithjenn_ © 2018 Le. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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What I wore:

Photography: Jennifer Le 

This post is not sponsored. I purchased all clothing, makeup, and accessories.