The first few days of a new year, especially one that’s also ushering in a fresh decade, are inherently reflective, leaving us to think carefully about our personal ideals, as well as which patterns of thinking to add or subtract. In 2020, supermodel Paulina Porizkova, who recently suffered the loss of her estranged husband, late Cars frontman Ric Ocasek, has set out to extricate herself from the harmful beauty ideals women face as they age. Sharing a makeup-free selfie, silver hair growing in at her roots, the 54-year-old mused on the influence of social media on today’s notions of beauty.
“Today, narcissism is king and constant self-improvement is queen,” she writes. “Who wants to see ‘real’ people on social media? No, we want aspirational. We want tips and secrets and shortcuts to how best present ourselves in the most glowing light. We want people to envy us, to copy us, to buy what we sell them, whether it’s our words, our brands, torture or magic.”
Getting candid about her personal insecurities, as well as her choice to buck them as best she can, she continues: “This is what I really look like. Not a great photo, early in the morning, no makeup no filters, just the real true me. I’ll be turning 55 soon. At first glance, I think—ew. I look so old. Grief is certainly no beauty maker. My eyelids are starting to droop. The jowly bits next to my mouth don’t only make me look older but also somehow bitter. The gray in my hair is an easy fix, although, honestly, I’d love to just grow it out and stop coloring.
“Now, how can I help to make all this—what we consider flaws—to be seen differently, to be seen as confidence and beauty of a mature age rather than something that needs to be eliminated?”
Answering her own thought-provoking question, Porizkova then credits “the many glorious and rocking hot women on Instagram,” such as Jane McCann and Annika von Holdt, for helping her to recalibrate her own preconceived notions about aging. “I’ve changed my vision to gray hair being sexy and confident,” she explains. She also references Pink’s now-iconic 2017 MTV Video Music Awards speech, in which the singer recalled a conversation she’d once had with her young daughter, underlining how empowering it’s been to ignore society’s narrow feminine ideals throughout her career. “That is something to strive for,” she says. “Not change yourself to fit in the box, but to blow up the fucking box. I’d like to end this post with a rousing ‘let’s blow up the fucking box, ladies.’ ” But for Porizkova, it’s also important to remember that vulnerability and self-assurance aren’t mutually exclusive—and there’s no shame in feeling what you feel. “Although I really want to, and will try my best, the truth is that I am a mid-fifties woman,” she says. “I’m vain and insecure, and next week I could decide to have surgical help to fit the comfortable and warm and familiar box instead of crusading to blow it up.”
There’s no sugarcoating it—aging, especially as a woman in a patriarchal society, is difficult. But as Porizkova points out, it’s a lot less daunting when you can tune out societal noise and make room for gentle and thoughtful introspection. That’s aging on your own terms.
Originally Appeared on Vogue