Getting older for me is a strange thing. Unlike people like Marilyn Monroe and Kurt Cobain who died before their time and will forever remain young and dewy, I am no longer that girl from the '80s who made an indelible mark on Canadian pop culture. When people meet me, I'm often told how their husbands, brothers, fathers, friends used to have a crush on me. "Used to?" I say with a laugh. Of course, there's a quick retraction and they assure me they still DO have "those feelings" for me.
Last year on Twitter, someone tweeted out "Just saw Erica Ehm on the Steven and Chris show. She's not aging very well." Someone else posted, "When did Erica Ehm get crow's feet?" My response to both of these social media comments is a mixture of sadness and anger. Of course I'm aging. My days on MuchMusic were close to thirty years ago (how did THAT happen?). But I understand how my aging is a direct reflection of everyone in my generation getting older. I'm like a mirror being held up to your mortality.
Being in the public eye for so many years, I had to come to some kind of personal acceptance of how I would cope with being judged on my looks. It never gets easy watching old footage of myself with less than flattering camera angles, lighting, and makeup. I did a lot of soul-searching back in those days to come to terms with intense public scrutiny.
Fast forward to today, my face lined by time and a belly bigger thanks to two babies. I'm older and celebrating yet another birthday. I'm not going to lie. I wish that time would have passed over me when it chose to sprinkle its "aging" dust on me, but I'm dealing with the same challenges everyone my age is. Rather than fight it, I feel a strong responsibility to the women I've grown up with to age gracefully and make this my best birthday ever.
When I was asked to participate in the Dove Beautiful Age campaign, I didn't hesitate. Although the fancy photoshoot did dredge up some old insecurities which I wrote about here, ultimately I am honoured to be part of a movement that challenges the unhealthy definition of what is considered beautiful today.
To imply that my face isn't good enough because I have laugh lines is infuriating. Have you given thought as to who exactly is making these youth obsessed proclamations about what's beautiful? I'll tell you. It's greedy corporations and cosmetic surgeons who are infusing deep-seated insecurity into an aging population in the hopes that we will empty our bank accounts into their pockets in the search for the elusive fountain of youth.
Here's the truth: There is NO WAY to reverse aging. It's inevitable.
Here's what you can reverse: Your attitude towards it.
Rather than staring at the lines on your face in horror, switch your perception and see them as lines of wisdom, a life being lived, and stories to be shared. Insecurity isn't pretty. Confidence and self-esteem are beautiful.
There is a scary trickle-down effect of our negative self-talk. It is absorbed by our kids, who are in the process of learning how to navigate the minefield of self-esteem. According to Dove research, 72% of girls feel pressured to be beautiful; and sadly that definition of beauty is fed to them in a photo-shopped, youth obsessed celebrity culture. Our daughters, nieces, and grandchildren need positive role models now more than ever.
I'm very passionate about this, so much so that I've partnered with Dove on a series of free Self-Esteem Workshops for Mothers and Daughters hosted by YMC Bloggers and #YMCCommunity bloggers to held around the country. There will be great conversations about what our girls feel is holding them back, and how you can help them live more confident, empowered lives. You can see the entire list of workshops here. I'll be taking my daughter and I hope to see you there.
So what do I want for my best birthday this year? For you to tell me how you are working to embrace the aging process. And to hear how you are redefining beautiful on your own terms, not just for yourself, but for the daughters and sons in your life. It's up to us to change the way we're being marketed to by not buying into the negative images we're being sold.
Happy Beautiful Birthday to us all!
Visit our 'self-esteem resource page' for helpful info on how to talk with your daughter about real beauty and self-esteem.
We need you to be a part of the Dove mission to improve the self-esteem of over 15 million girls by 2015.