By Dr. Vivian Diller and Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick
Authors of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change
We are often asked how the psychological six steps we describe in our book, Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change, translate into practical ways to feel and look more attractive. So, we put together some tips that once were useful to us in our former careers as models. They are even more useful more so now as our own looks are changing! They were designed in conjunction with the internal changes suggested in Face It and work best if you have learned what it really means to be attractive at any age. The ‘beauty’ of these tips is that unlike quick-fix ones that instruct women how ‘not to look old,’ these can be applied throughout life and are for all women.
1. Show Confidence Inside and Out
We learned first hand that models who walked in with an air of confidence tended to get the jobs. It wasn’t about being the prettiest — everyone was. Or about being perfect — no one was. It was about how you carried yourself. Some models were known for their great legs or long necks and used these assets to feel beautiful. Sometimes only one’s hands or feet were considered marketable material. Instead of focusing on features you don’t like about yourself, take the ones you do and embellish them. Delicate wrists? Wear an eye-catching watch. Thick hair? An elegant headband or jeweled clip can make your statement. Posture is a feature all women can enjoy if they keep their bones healthy. Hold your head up with poise and self- assurance and people will see what you feel.
2. A Radiant Smile Can Work for You
There are models who are not perfectly shaped who have successful careers because of their great smiles. Think of a baby’s smile. Does anything bring more pleasure to the eyes of others than that spontaneous toothless grin? Sure, we can whiten and straighten our teeth, but regardless of how they look at any particular moment, smiling with a sparkle in our eyes goes a long way to convey beauty.
3. Reinvent Your Look
As models we had to constantly change our ‘look.’ It taught us to be capable of adjusting our appearance to the circumstances. Instead of feeling anxious about change, have fun as you reinvent a look with each stage. Those short skirts might not work, but other styles may. Letting go of your former self-image doesn’t mean neglecting yourself. Try walking instead of jogging; take yoga, in place of spin class. Adjust your attitude as you adjust your look.
4. Sexy at Sixty
We may have left behind unlined faces and bright teeth, but we never have to leave behind our ability to connect to others sensually. As models, we were sometimes told to ‘make love to the camera.’ With safety pins pulling at our clothes, fans blowing in our faces, that was a challenge. But the more we let ourselves get into it, the more alluring we felt. A model can be absolutely exquisite, but her photos can look cold, sexless, and dull. It’s not about the perfect body or the skimpy clothes she’s wearing or not wearing. It’s about the connection to the viewer. So it can be for you.
5. Accessories Can Say A Lot
A woman who has interests that go beyond age-defying remedies is one who conveys a vital approach to life. Sport the cap of your local baseball or football team, or a T-shirt with a meaningful saying, “Save the Whales” or “Free Tibet”. Use these ageless accessories and you may end up having fun rooting for your team or supporting a new cause.
6. Work Out and Work With Your Friends
Models are dressed, undressed and styled with other people coming and going all around them. (Nothing like outfit changes with stage hands in full view!) At best, we learned to laugh to make the work fun. Instead of sneaking off alone to color your hair, make it fun by passing the time chatting with a friend in the next salon chair. Go to a spa with friends. Take a power walk with a buddy. Tell one another how attractive you each are. We’re in this together.
7. Get up close and personal.
An essential tool for models to inspect imperfections is a magnified mirror. It’s like wearing glasses while you attend to your face. You can pluck the white hairs if you don’t want them, rub creams on brown spots if you want them to fade, and apply makeup where it belongs. How many of us have left smudges of mascara above and below our eyes thinking they made it on to our lashes?? By seeing yourself up close and personal, you can choose among the plethora of products available to adorn your beautiful self.
8. Leave Competition Out of Beauty
As models, competition was a necessary part of the work. At our age, we don’t need to be the best, but rather look our best for our age, which is about looking as healthy, robust, and vital as we possibly can. There is no race for the smoothest skin, the thinnest or the youngest looking body, nor is looking good about a race with time. Let’s get out of the competition we’ve imposed on ourselves. We’ll all feel like winners.
9. Take the Plastic out of Plastic Surgery
We are not anti taking steps to feel better about how you look. We are not anti- anything, except recklessness. Cosmetic surgery aimed at altering physical features so they appear more in sync with your self image — like removing dark circles under your otherwise sparkling eyes — can surely bring increased pleasure. However, surgery performed with the hope of changing your self-image often leads to the opposite result. How you look is based on how you experience yourself, no matter what you do or don’t do to your face and body.
10. See Yourself as an Example for the Next Generation.
At social and professional gatherings, you have the opportunity and responsibility to show younger women what beauty at midlife can be. Demonstrate the kind of poise and grace you want your daughters and younger colleagues to emulate. Remember, those who admire and respect you are the people you influence most. Let’s provide the next generation with the kind of role models we weren’t lucky enough to have. We owe it to them to look forward to — rather than dread — the years that lie ahead. Live them with confidence that you can look and feel beautiful at any age. It will benefit both the body and the soul.
© 2010 Dr. Vivian Diller and Dr. Jill Muir-Sukenick, authors of Face It: What Women Really Feel as Their Looks Change
FACE IT: What Women Really Feel As Their Looks Change by Vivian Diller, Ph.D, with Jill Muir-Sukenick, Ph.D. and edited by Michele Willens is a psychological guide to help women deal with the emotions brought on by their changing appearances. As models turned psychotherapists, Diller and Sukenick have had the opportunity to examine the world of beauty from two very different vantage points. This unique perspective helped them develop a six-step program that begins with recognizing “uh-oh” moments that reveal the reality of changing looks, goes on to identify the masks used to cover deeper issues, defines the role beauty plays in a woman’s life, and ends with bidding adieu to old definitions of beauty so women can enjoy their appearance — at any age!