Warped beauty standards are ruining my plan of ageing naturally

Rhona McAuliffe might not be a trained therapist but she does have very big ears, quite a long nose and a gaping heart. If you have a problem that won’t just go away, she’d love to hear it.

Dear Rhona,

I decided years ago that I was going to age naturally, no botox, no facelifts, no fillers. I don’t want to mess with the natural process and above all, want to be a good example for my daughter. How can I mentor her on positive body image if I’m altering my own face? The problem is, some of my closest friends have started to have regular botox and they look fantastic, fresher than they have in years. I was surprised initially as thought that they would have frozen face straight away but you’d never even know. My resolve not to do it is slipping, my face is looking older and more weathered compared to them and I’m starting to feel crap about myself. Apart from all of that, I don’t really have the cash to do the minuscule, regular top-ups they rave about. I know I’d regret doing it long-term but am also afraid if I don’t do it soon it will be too late as the buzz word seems to be ‘preventative.’ I’ve never been competitive before, physically, but I feel like they have an unfair advantage now. I’m annoyed with myself for thinking like this and wish I could just get on with things. How can I commit to my original plan, be happy and age naturally? First World Woes, Dublin.

So, you’re not asking for much then, FWW, just inner strength, beauty and wisdom?! We better get started then.

First up, don’t feel embarrassed or annoyed with yourself because a combination of warped beauty standards and hot friends has tested your resolve. You would be a robot not to feel the pressure, especially when society continues to value youth and fear ageing. No-one is immune to feeling insecure about how they look, no matter their circumstances.


And let’s be honest, we all want to age well but it seems we’re divided on how. In terms of cosmetic intervention, there are two clear camps: The Bring It Ons and the No Way Nevers. I’m with the No Way Nevers but am finding it hard to reconcile my early views of Botox – it is, after all, a neurotoxin, designed to short-circuit the nervous system – with some of my favourite beauty writers now actively endorsing it. If these women, who have every product and treatment at their disposal, are riding the big shiny bus, what hope is there for us mere plebs? On the flipside, they are also on the coalface of a noxious industry and expected to look ‘ageless’ if they want to keep growing their audience a.k.a. working. It’s a catch 22.

Then there are the fantastic, fresh-faced friends, people you actively chose to hang out with because they represent reflections of you (yes, we are all a little bit Narcissus); people you thought you’d be linking arms with as you made the crossing to Craggy Island.   It’s disappointing to find out that you’re not in it together but is also time to embrace your choice, confront the reality, find peace with it all and be done with it.

Personally, I now see Botox as medicine. It’s fixing something inside, not outside. It’s come to be associated with either low self-esteem or an obsession with appearance, neither of which merits judgment. Friends of mine who do it talk about how they couldn’t deal with ageing, how they’d never looked or felt more tired. Botox is an instant pick-me-up, something that makes them feel better about themselves. One says she can now look in the mirror again.

For some, it might be temporary. They may just be bridging the gap to self-acceptance.

However, it’s worth citing the downside of Botox so you can strengthen your own position. Where do you stop, for starters? By relaxing muscles in one area of the face, another part of the face will over-compensate and you will see new wrinkles appearing in odd places, commonly at both corners of your eyes. And so follows an endless game of Whack-a-Mole where you will forever more race time. And possibly acquire Frozen Face in the process. Your face will also become less and less expressive, meaning you are likely to be viewed as more artificial. There’s also some research to suggest that as your face is no longer able to express multiple emotions, you stop feeling the feels, which obviously has a knock-on impact on your actual personality. (That’s enough to swear me off tbh). And that’s not including the possible side effects and having to wait out an aggressively surprised eyebrow.

The question is, do you really want to obsess over how you look until 2060 and beyond? How far are you prepared to go to look ‘younger’? I know someone in the public eye, living in LA. She looks better now than she did 10 years ago and that’s down to a daily vitamin injection, a live-in vegan chef, regular spa MOT’s, a personal trainer and probably a weekly vaginal steam. She doesn’t drink, smoke or do late nights. She also gets a $350 weekly facial massage from a bona fide skin witch who hasn’t accepted a new client in two years. In comparison, Botox is the quick-fix Band-Aid for the masses.

So what can you do? Altering your mindset is the first step, positively embracing ageing as a privilege, a natural evolutionary process, not something you need to run and hide from. Look after yourself, eat well, sleep well, exercise, see your fabulous friends. Research skin treatments and facials that boost your skin’s vitality, for example, the CACI Facial, which uses electric impulses; Fraxel; Laser Skin Resurfacing. Experiment with new looks, beauty and fashion. Find your style if you’ve never nailed it. Fully inhabit that shell called You. *adjusts Dreamcatcher and clinks crystals. Sings theme tune to Fame, I’m gonna live forever*


And finally, your daughter is the best motivator going to keep you grounded. Pre-teens and teenagers are most vulnerable to the overwhelming pressure to conform to photo-shopped beauty ideals. Where celebrity and influencer messaging on beauty is confused, or increasingly pro-intervention, having a strong mentor at home to rationalise the debate is essential. Again, this means not shaming those who are ‘medicating’ but trying to find inner confidence and strength before you start altering your bits. Far easier said than done when a fair chunk of the globe is fixated on physical perfection but hopefully not impossible.

Photography by Jason Lloyd Evans.

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