I will admit it took some time for me to realise this, but growing older has been one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. As the years pass, I’ve gained more freedom than I could have ever imagined; the freedom to care less about the expectations of others, the freedom to embrace my own individuality, and the freedom to define my own ideals and standards of beauty. Embracing what makes me different is also what inherently makes me beautiful and, as we age, it’s our uniqueness that has the potential to make us more beautiful than ever.
Sophia Loren, arguably one of the greatest beauties of all time, regardless of age, once said, “You must believe that you have a special beauty that is like no other and that is so valuable that you must not abandon it. Indeed, you must learn to cherish it.” I’ve always held this quote dear to my heart. And as I grow older, it becomes more and more true.
When Sophia was first discovered, she was told that her face was too strange to make it on the silver screen. Her lips were too big, her nose too long. At one point she was even told that getting a nose job would improve her career, but she refused, insisting that her face made her who she was. It was her one-of-a-kind beauty, combined with confidence and grace that made her into the icon that she is today.
As with most women, when I was younger, I felt the pressure of being like everyone else - from dressing like them to doing my hair and make-up like them. Even today, I still see this effecting younger women, and this uncertainty in who they are as individuals is often the thing that holds them back from being the best version of themselves.
There’s a certain level of confidence that only comes with living and learning who you are, often by trial and error. But once it’s achieved, it’s magnetic and irresistible. It turns imperfections into badges of honour and gives you an air of effortlessness - even when there might actually be plenty of effort put in!
While at first, youth certainly gives us a bonus, it can really only take us so far. The rest is up to us. As Sophia also once said, “Discipline is the great equalizer. If a young woman is beautiful but has no discipline, she will lose her looks as she grows older. If a plain woman is disciplined, she will undoubtedly become more beautiful with time.”
While aging gracefully is certainly, in part, a state of mind, it also takes work. I have always believed that there are no easy shortcuts when it comes to anything in life - and that includes both beauty and aging gracefully. Wholesome food, exercise, plenty of water, and enough sleep will get you further than any cosmetic procedure out there - as long as you’re consistent. So the biggest beauty secret I could possibly share has nothing to do with a specific cream, tonic, procedure or workout. It’s simply this: learn how to turn discipline into a habit. Start with one thing at a time and work to maintain it for two months before beginning to focus on the next one. Through small, consistent steps, you will always make the biggest changes in your life.
Above all, though, be kind to yourself. Be patient. Learning who you are and nurturing that will bring you peace, success and beauty - no matter what your age may be.
From the September 2019 issue of Harper's Bazaar Arabia