What Image Do I Want to Present?

Recently, Lauren Griffiths went viral when she replaced her “professional” LinkedIn headshot with one that better reflects her current situation as a human resources consultant who’s working remotely. She proposed that looking authentic is powerful and ultimately more valuable than presenting a “perfect” image. The longstanding ideas about “looking professional” remain powerful, although many people resent and resist those guidelines. Her post led me to consider: What image do I want to project? 

When my career was still active, I was well aware of the need to look polished. Looking younger would be even better, since the working world can be disrespectful of older women. Young was no longer possible (!) but I could manage youthful, especially if I colored my hair and wore attractive clothes and jewelry. Most women my age did the same.

Now, as a 66-year-old woman who’s retired from paid work, I no longer need to present a professional image or look any particular way beyond what pleases me. Griffiths wanted to present a more authentic professional image; women my age confront a similar dilemma. How do we present an authentic image as older women?

When and how do you allow signs of aging to show? Should I try to meet the world’s expectations for “attractive older woman”? In other words, look 55-ish until I’m 75? Do I try to hold the line at all costs? Should I continue highlighting my hair but skip surgery or Botox? Stop coloring my hair? Let go of the anti-aging fuss? 

When Gloria Steinem turned 50, she threw a birthday party and declared, “This is what 50 looks like.” She looked good, which turned the idea being a crone at 50 on its head. 30 years later, she told the world, “This is what 80 looks like” while traveling in Africa—another example of aging well.

In transition: Blonde in front. Silver coming in in back.

My more modest version of her philosophy is to stop highlighting my hair. Pleasing myself will be the point, so I reserve the right to resume hair color if I prefer it. Either way, I will proudly say, “This is what 66 looks like.”

13 thoughts on “What Image Do I Want to Present?

  1. Look at all of the comments you got — well, COVID made me do it (won’t sit in a chair for that long…) and I am now sort of blondish-greyish-whatever. I am ok with it. Still tug on the jowls when I look in the mirror….

  2. You look great! One positive outcome of covid was seeing so many women going gray. It became the “in” thing. With hair salons opened back up, I see it less and less now. But there was a kind of collective freedom in it, an opportunity to explore what many wanted but couldn’t bring themselves to do until a pandemic hit.

  3. I’ve stopped coloring and cutting my hair. And am wearing a baseball cap (for the first time ever) in order to avoid dealing with it.

  4. And lookin’ good, too! 🙂
    I often bristle at the fact that women have to jump through hoops (not to mention at great expense) to look ‘youthful’, etc. when men can just show up as is. Not right!

  5. 66 looks good on you, Ellen, as will 67, 68…. I’ve been having a similar internal dialogue about “looks” and aging most of which sounds like a long rant about the bias in society against older women. I just finished reading a terrific book that explores this called “Flash Count Diary” by Darcey Steinke that I recommend.

    As for my “look”, my hair is shorter than short, grey and I am well endowed with wrinkles. This is who I am at 63. Lucky me!

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