As men and women get older, their appearance changes significantly. That’s just a fact of life, but one that is difficult for many people to get their head around.
As a result, there is an industry worth billions dedicated to trying to make our looks last longer, keeping our youth from fading and making sure that we look our best for as long as we can.
This kind of behaviour is in built, it would seem. Our evolutionary need to stay looking good is well founded in terms of scientific background – see the study ‘Facial attractiveness: evolutionary based research’ as an example. We are conditioned to seek out certain attractive qualities to find a reproductive partner.
Although much research has been done around our romantic interest in attractiveness, it tends to affect all aspects of our being. Take, for example, the anxiety and depression often seen in men who experience male pattern baldness, especially those experiencing this at a young age – on average, male pattern baldness affects around 66% of men over the age of 35 (Source: Hair Loss 101: A Primer for Battling Baldness).
Women also suffer from mental health issues as a result of changes in their appearance. According to mentalhealth.org, “body satisfaction and appreciation has been linked to better overall wellbeing and fewer unhealthy dieting behaviours.” This is a worrying trend, and one which is no doubt fuelled by the things we see around us.
Indeed, our media products often tend to give us an unrealistic impression of beauty standards, and what we need to achieve in order to become welcomed in society. Look everywhere, on television, in films and on social media (especially), and you will see perfect faces and perfect bodies. It is this perfection, and the subsequent pursuit of it, that often leads to problems.
Instagram, in particular, is a platform which has often been blamed for the spreading of unrealistic beauty standards. Online, where you can present only the best version of yourself, if you wish, and even edit your image to look more ‘perfect’, it becomes difficult to see what’s real and what’s fake. As a result, those who spend long periods of time browsing social media platforms – young impressionable people especially – end up setting these unrealistic standards for themselves.
In the aforementioned study on attractiveness, the researchers state: “Our magazines and television screens are not just filled with any faces—they are filled with attractive faces, and both women and men are highly concerned with good looks in a potential partner”. So all things considered, we can lay the blame at the feet of both biology and society.
What can we do when we inevitably see changes in our appearance as a result of our age? Well, the healthiest thing we can do is practice mindfulness; change is inevitable, and it can only be fought back for so long. So why worry? Obsessing over things which cannot be changed can lead to more anxiety, and to unhealthy compulsive behaviours like extreme dieting.
For some, the pain is too great, especially if health conditions come into play, and suddenly there are changes beyond those that we all expect to see. For this, it is understandable that many do seek treatments to restore parts of themselves. According to ‘The Psychology of Scars: A mini-review’ by Psychiatria Danubina: “Those with scars undergo a remodelling of their emotional state and are more prone to the development of depression and anxiety; feelings of shame and aggression can follow.”
In the end, it is most important to note and to understand that our physical appearance is literally only skin deep, and it would be extremely beneficial to learn that we are much more than what we see with our two eyes.