Menopause is a Great Time to Let Yourself GoSep 19, 2023
Seriously. My 17-year-old self would be horrified, and I love it.
By Selene Yeager
I was walking my dog around the block the other day, and after chatting with another woman strolling her two floppy-eared hounds, it occurred to me that I had no idea what my hair looked like. Had I even glanced in a mirror before leaving the house? I couldn’t recall. I pulled out my phone, flipped the camera to selfie mode, and started cracking up.
I had definitely not looked into a mirror.
You’ve become one of those women who let themselves go, I thought, recalling how many times I’d heard that phrase while growing up, lobbed, dripping with derision, at some poor woman who was just trying to buy cold medicine for her kids and had the audacity to do so in sweatpants that didn’t say Juicy Couture across the keister.
Then I let that sink in for a second as it tumbled through the alleyways in my mind. When I was 17, I couldn't fathom how a woman could leave the house without checking her hair 10 times. People might see you! People might talk! People might think mean things! I was sure in the way you can only be sure at 17 that I would never turn into one of those women. I was happy I had been so wrong.
Hell yes. And I should let myself go more often!
Not that I’ll never look in the mirror or comb my hair again. I don’t aspire to appear as unkempt and uncared for as possible. But I have found myself spending far more time facing outward, eyes set on where I want to go and what I want to do in the world, and far less time fixated on a sheet of reflective glass, scanning for something to hate or hide. And for that, I thank midlife and menopause.
Menopause forced me to reflect on what I needed to do to feel and perform my best as my physiology shifted, and midlife made me recognize the passage of 50 years in what sometimes feels like the turn of a page. Both made me think hard about how I wanted to spend the precious time, however long it may or may not be, left.
And it wasn’t in front of mirrors. It wasn’t letting the “beauty” industry (which currently pals around with the “wellness” and now parts of the menopause industries) tell me I need to spend hundreds of dollars a month to not be old and ugly (which they love to intertwine to keep us all afraid of the inevitable passage of time). It wasn’t letting some predatory marketing monsters tell me I have to fix my “menopause face”. Instead, I decided I’d spend the 2,000 weeks or so I have left on this big blue marble “letting myself go.”
Letting myself run the trails without worrying if my menopause middle is properly camouflaged. To bomb down mountainsides in my cycling Lycra without shelling out 200 bucks for “body confidence in a bottle” in order to iron out any “crepey” skin on my knees (which let’s face it after 27 years of mountain biking have so much scar tissue that’s the least of their worries). Letting myself be free to appreciate that self-acceptance and the confidence it brings provides more joy than any pricey aesthetic “remedy” that promises some idealized version of everlasting youthful beauty that isn’t and never was actually real.
As I write this I’m reminded of what past Hit Play Not Pause guest Jeannie Wall wrote in her essay on menopause for Outside, Menopause Is Hell. It Also Made Me a Better Climber, “…a glance at a mirror has me reeling: Who is that older woman staring at me? I confess that I used to enjoy living behind a nice facade: a cute, young, strong female athlete. Now I understand that it was a waste of energy—my source of power runs much deeper than my appearance. I’ve had to let go of my self-image and dig into how to be more compassionate to myself.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s to living life away from mirrors, marketers, and those who want to keep us forever fretting. Menopause is a great time to truly, finally, thankfully let ourselves go.
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