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Mirror Angst Syndrome

07/11/2013

40+ women will recognise mirror angst "syndrome" where they become acutely aware and overly focused on the wrinkles, sags and bags of ageing. This isn't full-blown body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) - a full-blown phobia that you’re ugly. Nevertheless it’s depressing in our youth-oriented culture as facial changes flag-up how time - and the chance to be the person we dreamt of being - have slipped by.

The conflict many women feel is the mismatch of their inner self - feeling energetic with much to offer - and their outer self reflecting the passage of years. This feels desperately unfair to those experiencing this.

The worst cases of mirror angst occur when coupled with other testing life events. For instance, getting divorced after the 40s is particularly daunting and when a woman sees her reflection it exacerbates negative feelings: no one else will want her, she looks old and haggard, etc.

Such angst is of her making but that doesn't soften the emotional blow and feeling you’re unattractive and redundant destroys self-esteem.

Some women with mirror angst confess they never look in a mirror as it completely depresses them. Others are affected to a lesser extent, yet won't linger when applying make-up. Thankfully most adjust to and eventually embrace middle age and its effect on their appearance.

The key to coping with it is to refocus your emotional energies on yourself as a complete woman - not just a physical reflection in the mirror. Affirm to yourself what's most important in life - partner, children, friends and family. Accept these key people love you for who you are and not what you look like. Focus on your best qualities, the wisdom that comes with life, and embrace new challenges. Enjoy experimenting with new styles, hair colours/cuts celebrating the new, self-accepting you.

An edited version of this article appeared in the women's pages of the Express newspaper which is why it emphasises women

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