There are all kinds of beauty, right? There’s the beauty when we’re out in nature surrounded by tall trees, delicate mosses, and vibrant flowers. There’s beauty in an art gallery with all the lovely colors, textures, and images. And there’s beauty we can’t see, but that we hear in certain music and singing voices.

What about beauty when it comes to people, when it comes to women specifically? What makes a woman beautiful to you?

Women Over 55: What Does Beauty Mean to You?

In May 2022, People magazine published what it calls “The Beautiful Issue.” A gorgeous picture of Dame Helen Mirren is on the cover, and inside there are many pages of Dame Helen draped in magnificent, flowing gowns in quiet shades of pastel pink. She is quoted as saying, “Don’t call it beauty, call it swagger!” But this entire issue is devoted to picture after picture of what the editors consider to be beautiful women, all made-up and airbrushed. This is not what I think of when I think of “swagger.”

I’m not being critical of Helen Mirren. I think she’s a beautiful, an incredibly gifted woman who seems very genuine and down-to-earth in her interviews. But her presence in this issue of People highlights the difficulty many of us women have with how we look as we get older. It’s really hard to look into the mirror in the morning and love all the lines in my face that didn’t seem to be there even the day before or the extra skin showing up under my chin. What’s to love about that? Yes, we can try to be proud of our wrinkles, but doing so is not a slam dunk!

What Beauty Means To Me

Do I think all the soft, pink photographs of Dane Helen are beautiful? Yes, of course. But the contrast between these photos and the accompanying video made me realize what beauty means to me. In the video she looks as if she has on a little makeup. Her hair is pulled back from her face, and she has on a very simple shirt and jacket. But even though she’s less made-up, her full beauty as a remarkable woman shines through brightly.

Women Over 55: What Does Beauty Mean To You?
Women Over 55: What Does Beauty Mean To You?

Which woman looks more interesting? Which woman would you rather sit down with and have a great conversation over a nice cup of tea? The one swathed in translucent pink gauzy fabric made up to the hilt or this “plain,” lovely looking woman?

In the interview in this video Dame Helen talks about how she likes beautiful things, but she doesn’t like the idea of “beauty” because it often is used in reference to the beauty industry, which she defines as companies that sell all kinds of makeup and skin care products. It’s funny that she says this but has served as a spokeswoman for L’Oréal for years.

The Contradiction

And here again is the contradiction that many of us face. We don’t like the beauty industry, which makes millions and millions of dollars by convincing us that we need to do everything we can to hide the fact that we’re getting older—but we continue to buy their products.

What can we do? We can pay more attention to the messages we’re being sent every single day. Start looking carefully at the pictures in the magazines and the women on TV. What definition of beauty is being fed to us? For example, the other night I was watching baseball on TV, and I noticed that there were two commentators, a man and a woman. My initial reaction was, “That’s great!” You don’t see too many women commentating sports games, so this felt like a victory. But then I looked more closely at what they were wearing. The man had on a casual sports shirt and a jacket, while the woman wore a black, very low-cut dress more appropriate for a dinner party. What’s the message here?

Get Clear On What Beauty Means To You

We can get clear about what being “a beautiful woman” means—and if we can’t take on the entire beauty industry, we can start by getting clear on what beauty means to us. Let’s note what we like about our appearance in terms of what makes us look like the interesting women that we are. We can take care of ourselves, both inside and out, so that we radiate the spark that is in us. We can walk with swagger with our heads held high.

Learn More…

The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 55 (or close) and older to support one another, learn and grow together, and further the mission of Prime Spark. Membership currently is closed. If you’re interested in joining, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.

Sara Hart, PhD, is an author, speaker, and coach. She is leading the charge to change how older women are seen and treated in our society. She is the creator of Prime Spark, a movement to transform how women over 55 take responsibility for their futures. Sara is the author of three books. She also has over forty years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, and building thinking environments. She was director of training and development for a Fortune 100 companySara was also an executive director of the Institute for Women and Technology. To learn more about claiming your power as a senior woman, visit Prime Spark today!