More-and-more plastic surgeons want me to meet with their clients – before they have a facelift – to see if the client’s expectations are realistic. One doctor told me, “Way too many of my clients expect a miracle. They expect that the surgery will make them look younger, feel more confident, find a husband, make more money, like themselves…you know, stuff that has nothing to do with external appearance and everything to do with mental attitude.”
I also get referrals from hair stylists in some of the nicest salons in town. Why do they refer clients to me? The owner of a very chic salon in Mission Hills, put it this way, “Michael, I am sending this person to you because what they need isn’t the perfect haircut or color, what they need is to start seeing themselves differently. I have given this person so many different hairstyles and hair colors, and she is never satisfied. I cannot make her happy. She needs to talk with you.”
I am flattered that these professionals trust me to assist their clients when the change they want and need is psychological, not physical. Whether it’s the perfect eyes, nose, face, chin, cheekbones, neck, butt, abs, pecs, haircut or hair color: you can’t depend on how you look to make you happy.
I know this from first-hand experience: I used to work as a photo-stylist for fashion photographers in NYC: I helped the photographer work with the models to get the best shot. These models were on the covers of magazines like Vogue, GQ and Men’s Fitness. Were these paragons of gorgeousness self-confident?
Some of them were much less confident that I, an average-looking person. I remember one young beauty was photographed for a major cosmetics company (you’d see her picture everywhere) and she kept saying, “I don’t know what they see in me, my face isn’t symmetrical and my forehead’s too high.” She wasn’t just being coy; she meant it.
On one shoot I worked with a bunch of male models (in swimsuits) for L’Uomo Vogue: these guys were flawless, with amazing bodies. And, were they confident? Not very. One of the guys told me, over lunch, “I’m sure that, any minute, they’re going to realize that my nose is weird and fire me.”
Believe me, there was nothing wrong with his nose.
After many years in the fashion business, it’s clear to me that the easiest way to look younger is to find ways to like and forgive yourself. Have you ever noticed how youthful spiritual leaders are? The Dalai Lama does not look 85. Look at his face. He’s not getting Botox: he looks good because he has made peace with himself (and the world). I met Thich Nhat Hahn a few years ago at his retreat center in North County. He was about 84 at the time and, to my trained eye, looked about 54. I don’t think it was due to a $25,000 facelift.
If physical beauty = personal happiness, then the most beautiful people would be the happiest. One look at social media disproves that theory. Think of the happiest people you know, aren’t most of them average-looking? That’s my experience, and, it makes sense. They have found their happiness in other ways, not a temporary, perfectionistic appearance.
As an elder who turns 68 in a few months, I’ve noticed that becoming more forgiving, flexible and relaxed makes you look better (and younger). Drama, unhappiness and unforgiveness ages us pretty quickly.
In one of my recent “The Joys of Getting Older” workshops, we talked about how to make peace with getting – and looking – older. In the March 27th workshop, the final one in the series, we’ll talk about:
- Acceptance of the Past – Letting Go of Old Regrets: Have you made peace with your past? No matter how happy or traumatic your childhood was, how do you forgive those who harmed you (to the best of your ability), and move on?
- Giving back & Mentoring: No matter how healthy you are or how much money you have, a big part of aging well is giving back. Emile Durkheim calls this phase of life “generativity”. What do you have to give? To whom do you want to give it?
- Finding Peace: Each of us needs to find what grounds us…it can be Pagan or Christian, yoga or free weights, Grindr or gardening. How do we resist the demonization of aging and accept ourselves just as we are?
Currently, there are 3 spaces left in the workshop. Please go to https://lifebeyondtherapy.com/workshops/ if you‘re interested.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBT clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.