The fashion world holds youth in high regard. Models are usually in their teens or early twenties. Most fashion bloggers are in their twenties and thirties. Older celebrities are “smoothed out” by Photoshop to look younger in magazines. And the media onslaught of information on “how to look younger” is absolutely relentless. 

Somewhere along the line our society made the implicit assumption that after we reach a certain age we should suddenly adopt the goal of looking younger than we are. Most of us become aware that we are past this point when we start to see physical signs of aging. For a while, we hope that we’ll defy the aging thing because we’re special, but it catches up with everyone. Good genes and a careful skin regimen can only go so far.

Aging will always be a tough issue. After all, it is a reminder of our mortality. But the combination of a society that fears the aging process and a trillion dollar industry that reinforces these fears makes it a lot tougher than it needs to be.

I’m 43 and the visible signs of aging are well and truly here. I have hectic laughter lines, crow’s feet, drooping jowls, a spindly neck, a sagging bust line, countless spider veins, and feet that have become fussier with each passing year. Our bodies all show signs of older age in different ways, and this is how my body shows my age. It is what it is. 

I cannot turn back the clock, so I can’t reverse the signs of aging without “having work done”. For some things I might take that route — for example, last year I had a procedure to remove some of the spider veins on my legs — but for the most part I will try hard to embrace these “undesirable” physical changes. I will think of the aging process as a rite of passage. I’ve made it this far, and this is the next chapter of my life.

All of us will strike a different balance. When it comes to holding on to one’s youth, I don’t for one moment judge the decisions other people make about which battles they choose to fight and which ones they simply surrender. Accepting these physical changes is much easier said than done. It’s a shock to see them in the mirror, especially when your mind and spirit feel stronger than ever. And when society seems intent on penalizing you for aging.

I dress women of all ages, sizes, and body types for a living, so I am privileged to have a very realistic vantage point on the aging process. It inspires me enormously when I see my clients and YLF forum members having fun with fashion and looking fabulous at every age beyond mine. But more than that, I am constantly humbled by their wisdom, and by the inner beauty that is the product of their rich experiences. And even as I am critical of my own signs of aging, I find myself marveling at their outer beauty.

Getting your head around the fact that “wrinkles are fine” requires lots of cognitive discipline, some soul searching, and a certain amount of denial. But it all gets a lot easier if you focus less on superficial signs of aging and more on what is truly important. Yes, some of our outer beauty changes, but our inner beauty benefits from our experiences.

There is beauty at every age. The sooner you embrace the next phase of your own beauty, the easier it will be to stop fighting the aging process and start celebrating the miraculous journey that is your life.