*This post was originally published under the same name on Some Hannah's Think Different.*
I’d like to tell you all a secret. Two years ago I bought something that I’m very ashamed of. If you read my posts regularly you’ll have realised by now that I’ve carried a lot of shame about all sorts of things over the years. Thankfully when I turned 40 all that changed. Goodbye shame and hello life.
I still have this unusual item, but I try not to look at it. I’m not sure why I haven’t thrown it away but it’s still there, peeping out at the back of my knicker drawer, reminding me of a time when I was quite clearly, insane.
Let me put this into perspective: I had an important date. When I say important, I mean that I wanted to look my best, as anyone does who can be bothered to go on a date, as let’s face it, they’re mainly tortuous. I can’t even remember who the date was with now, but you know, these things mean a lot at the time.
THE PERFECT DRESS
I knew exactly what I wanted to wear for the date, but when I tried my gorgeous dress on in front of the mirror a week before, I nearly had a heart attack.
I had a thin hairline fracture on my décolletage area – you know, above the breasts. A wrinkle on my chest. What the hell was I going to do? How had this happened? I’d turned old overnight and with no warning.
There was no way that I wasn’t going to wear this specific dress for the date. I’d spent days trying to find the right one in the first place and here it was: figure-hugging but flattering, not too revealing but still sexy, you know the dress.
I tried on various vests and cami’s underneath to see if it would cover this offending line, that was now consuming all of my waking hours and ruining my life. None looked right.
INSANITY SET IN
So I did what any other self-respecting, insecure lunatic would do. I started asking Google for help and ideas. Luckily for me, there were millions of women who’d already been in this awful, life-changing predicament, and plenty of ‘solutions’ out there for me to buy.
After hours and hours of extensive research, I found that there were just two products on the market that actually worked, that held the magical powers I so desperately needed. One was a thousand pounds, so it was out of my league, although I did for a split second ponder whether they’d consider offering me credit. Unfortunately, I can’t share the article with you as it was written by The Daily Mail. I’d rather pull out my own teeth with no anaesthetic than share anything published by them.
NO FRILLS PROCEDURES
The second and more affordable option (£30) was a ‘Silicone Chest Pad’, and yes, I bought it. My cheeks flushed red when I collected it from the post office, maybe they knew I had a wrinkle on my chest and that I had the cure in this envelope?
Ok, so this is what it involves folks. Before you go to bed you place this little silicone pad on the offending area, stick it on, then you sleep with it on all night and it smoothes the skin out. Simple. And yes it does work, temporarily. I was absolutely thrilled about this and started to look at all the other incredible products that this website sent from heaven sold.
I found out you can get these silicone pads for the neck, the eyes, and the chest. Wow – which others should I buy?
MORE PROBLEMS FOR WOMEN
Some of you may know that I’m a Beauty Editor. It’s a strange job for me as I’ve never really been that interested in beauty products. I love a good foundation as much as the next woman, but that’s as far as it goes. When I first got the job some years ago I was asked if I wanted to take it further and start blogging about beauty products, I didn’t.
In some ways, I’ve made a good editor as I don’t buy into the bullshit, and I’ll only ever write the truth. Last week I got an email entitled ‘The Answer to the New Big Beauty Problem’ – ‘Oh shit’, I thought: ‘What’s this new big problem that women now have to worry about, spend money on, and help make them feel even more insecure about themselves’? No thank you.
I was tempted to email them back saying as much, but I couldn’t be bothered. I have to accept that I do work in an industry that feeds on women’s insecurities, counts on it, banks on it and just try my best to remain authentic.
THE ELIXIR OF YOUTH? MONEY OF COURSE
Anyway, just today I’ve been writing about a serum for the eyes. Now, this serum is amazing, it really does do what it says, it smoothes and reduces fine lines, instantly and on a longer-term basis. It’s £80 for 15ml which is more expensive than cocaine. I’ve realised from doing this job that if you have money, you can indeed look much younger than you are if you want to, and that floats your boat.
I’ve realised that it doesn’t float my boat.
PUNISHED FOR LAUGHING?
I really don’t care if I have lines around my eyes, what laughter lines? I’ve just been to look in the mirror to see if I have them, so little have I thought about them, and yes I do. Great. I have them, that’s because I’ve laughed a lot – so? And so I added the last sentence to my review just to be sure that I was being authentic.
‘An absolute must for anyone concerned about ‘crows feet’.’
I’m not concerned about crow’s feet, and I also don’t care if I have wrinkles on my chest, which is why I stopped wearing a fu*king piece of silicone on my chest every night. The whole world has gone mad.
Do you agree?
Perhaps some of you will resonate with this, perhaps you won’t? The socialisation of my looks and my body seemed to happen so quietly and over so many years, from so many different influences, that I didn’t even notice it happening and yet it has been so powerful. So powerful that me, an educated, sensible (mainly) and an intelligent grown-up woman was wearing a piece of plastic on her chest every night, and also paying for the privilege.
Am I alone here? I don’t think I am. If I reflect on many of the conversations I’ve had over the years with my female friends, I believe that we all feel the pressure to look a certain way and that 99% of us buy into it, although certainly less so as we get older.
I’d hate for my daughter to live with this kind of pressure. There’s a certain energy that surrounds this kind of behaviour that is so negative and anxiety-inducing because we simply cannot look like the photos in the magazines or on the TV because those women are not real.
To live like this is denying the beauty of difference and individuality.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY
When I was younger I had a very dear friend. She was a few years older than me and I really looked up to her, she was a wonderful woman and great friend in many ways. Our friendship didn’t stand the test of time, but I still think of her lovingly and wish her well. When I remember many of the conversations that we had over the years I realise that they many were extremely negative towards other women.
Let me explain: Whenever I was sunbathing she’d say: ‘Jesus Hannah I hope you’ve got factor 50 on your chest you don’t want to get any wrinkles on there’. She also commented on other women’s body size, crows feet, and fashions sense, all in negative ways. Maybe I wouldn’t have thought wrinkles on my chest were so bad if I hadn’t had it thrown on to me at every opportunity – who knows?
She also struggled with her weight and she’d say: ‘God I wish I hadn’t eaten that‘. I’ve heard many many women say ‘I shouldn’t have eaten that’, it sounds so normal, but if you think about it – it isn’t normal. It’s creating a negative relationship with food and body image and shame.
Please let’s rethink how we talk about food, ageing, women’s bodies, other women, to ourselves, our friends and our daughters. Let’s stop this nonsense.
I’M NOT SURE WHEN WE STARTED TO VALUE PHYSICAL LOOKS AND YOUTH ABOVE ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING
If looking young is very important to you then you’re setting yourself up for a lifetime of misery, we don’t get younger, we can only grow older – and this is a beautiful thing.
If you take a step back and ask yourself – why am I so bothered about wrinkles on my chest, or lines around my eyes, or on my forehead, what answer will you come up with? Seriously step back, think about it.
It has to be that we have been told that being old is unattractive.
Being old or older is beautiful. The signs of ageing are stories of a life well-lived, memories, moments, risks taken, excitement, love and laughter. Think of how many warm embraces an older person has had compared to a teenager, all stored in the memory of your beautiful body.
Reminder: The human body is here to serve us, to allow us to live and love our lives. It is NOT here for other people to look at and admire. It is NOT here for us to try and make it fit within a distorted view of perfection created by men and companies that want us to buy things from them.
RECOGNISE WHAT IT IS
It’s just all absolute bullshit, all of it, it’s ridiculous. When did we buy into this story so heavily that age is unattractive, maybe more importantly, why does it matter what is attractive and what isn’t?
We’ve completely lost touch with what’s really important, deciding to spend our limited energy on what we look like, how we appear to other people, and what stuff we can own. None of which matters in any way shape or form, and we all know deep down does not lead to a healthier or happier life. Yet still, we continue.
I’ve said this before, and I have to say it again, it is such a relief not to give a fu*k about these things. Try it? It’s changed my life and it might change yours? I’m not talking about not caring about what you look like, or not making an effort with your appearance – I’m talking about accepting, enjoying, and seeing the beauty in what simply just IS.
If you’ve managed to get all the way down here, thanks so much, and you also might be thinking ‘well where’s the self-hate’ aspect of this story? Self-hate can be defined in many different ways and for me, buying into something in the hope or belief that it will make us different in some way to who we are, signifies a lack of respect and love for our individual selves.
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Hannah Anstee is a former British Wellness Journalist turned Women’s Coach & Mentor.
You may know her from her work as Beauty Editor at YOGA Magazine or her contributions to The Independent or Psychologies Magazine.
Using her no bullsh*t approach Hannah helps single women (inc. single parents) feel more confident so they can live an exciting and meaningful life with no apologies.