Saying that "50 is the new 30" is a form denial. But why deny what you've worked your whole life to achieve? You've crossed so many finish lines, reaching goal after goal. Besides, were you happier at 30?
Our society places an enormous amount of emphasis on looks, but the secret to real beauty is happiness within. Being happy does not come from good looks, money or youth. Take a step back and see what you've achieved so far.
By 50, you've likely finished your formal education. And you did it the hard way -- trudging to the library, using books, manually looking up info, etc. You've decided whom to marry. Or not. You've made decisions one way or another about relationships. If you have children, you've made key decisions about them, such as how and when to say yes and no. You've likely learned that it's a lot easier to say yes but that saying no can have long benefits for both you and your child. As child psychologist Ray Guarendi points out, if you don't say no now, a teacher, boss, police officer or judge may later.
By 50, you've decided where and how to live. You've settled in with friends. You probably have some exercise in your life, but if not, it's easy for most to pick up a pedometer and start walking each day. Maybe you've overcome cancer or another major illness. Fifty is a blessing!
You've made career and financial decisions by 50. You've endured the ups and downs of recessions and economic booms. So take comfort in the knowledge that you've weathered a lot of storms and made it through.
But back to the question of good looks, happiness and aging.
It's wonderful and necessary to take care of yourself -- mind, body, spirit. But often, people have turned so far inward that it becomes selfish rather than self-reflecting. Narcissus might have been OK if he hadn't kept staring. Perhaps we can take care of ourselves and others, as well.
Finding happiness by serving others sounds like an ancient Christian concept, but perhaps it's easier than you think. And good for you. According to the U.S. News & World Report e-book by Philip Moeller, "How to Live to 100," volunteering has great benefits. "Volunteering improves the health, happiness, and in some cases, the longevity of volunteers."
Moeller goes on to quote Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota: "People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness. All of these things go up as their feelings of social connectedness goes up, which in reality, it does. It also improves their health and even their longevity."
So by helping others, we truly help ourselves on a lot of levels. Many self-help guides contend that looking good on the outside will make you feel good on the inside. Perhaps that's true to some degree. But it's much stronger the other way around. A truly happy person always looks great, no matter what his or her physical attributes. Put another way, people become better- or worse-looking as you get to know them. Years ago, a friend of mine was dating a model. Not knowing that and only knowing he had a date that night, I asked whether his new girlfriend was pretty. He replied that he believes someone becomes prettier or uglier as her personality comes through.
So enjoy your age. Keep striving to improve, but be secure in your accomplishments and your well-being. By helping others, we also help ourselves on multiple levels. Years ago, I heard a story about the difference between heaven and hell. In hell, the story goes, people have these huge eating utensils. They cannot feed themselves because they cannot turn the forks so as to reach their mouths, so they live in eternal frustration and hunger. In heaven, they have the same utensils and the same food. They happily feed one another across the table with their utensils, never even trying to turn them in toward themselves.