For Our Grandmother Selves
By Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC
Do you know what one of the greatest myths is about aging? That elder women are somehow immune to the beauty standard and don’t care about how their bodies look anymore. That the siren song of thinness and culturally defined beauty dissipates somewhere in the later age spectrum and women morph into asexual, less vibrant beings.
I am a therapist who works with women to help them heal their relationships with their bodies. The women who come seeking support range in age from 17-85. No kidding. Are you surprised to hear that there are 80-year-old grandmothers still calibrating their days by daily feedback from the bathroom scale? Did you know that there are some physicians that continue to advise their grandmotherly patients to diet in the name of health? Women of age in our culture have internalized a sense of invisibility and unattractiveness because the culture does not mirror their beauty.
So, when I ran across the jaw-droppingly inspiring and heart accelerating strength of Grandmother Power, I connected to the place in myself that aches to express true beauty and truth, and is alive in power of the women featured. I am reminded of what is possible when we follow our longings, our fears, and our hungers to their most powerful origins. I am also reminded of the courage and boldness that emerges in my office daily when women find permission in themselves to turn away from the cultural standards and find their own stories and bodies beneath the myths.
The cultural rhetoric around thinness and health, with it’s mainline artery to our fears about worth and belonging, speak through the insecurities we hold about our bodies, our weight, and in an essential form, our own voices. And, although there are many instances of body dissatisfaction moving and shifting with maturation, if has been a place to retreat to, it lives on until it is seen, brought to the light, loved on and separated from the true self.
Women frequently choose to heal their relationship to their bodies not for themselves, but because they have a daughter enter their lives. They do this work for the future generations, much as the powerful grandmothers in this project. It is often said that if you help a woman, she will help her community and the generations to come. I would like to challenge us to deepen this: Let’s heal our relationships with our bodies for our own future grandmother/elder self. Let’ s heal our fears about our essential worth and belonging so that we can do more, step into our power and leave what is beneath us behind. These powerful grandmothers show the way to what is possible in all of us. There is work to be done.
Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.