The only approval you need is your own
Last year for my 25th birthday I found my first grey hair.
I plucked the silvery threadlike follicle straight from the root as I stared in the mirror, at first in disbelief. As I studied my hair more thoroughly to make sure there weren’t any more white surprises, I realized I hadn’t checked my face for any newly sprung wrinkles. I suddenly became preoccupied with my physical appearance half expecting to see my young face vanquished right before my very eyes.
Silly, I thought, to be so concerned with one’s looks. Once that thought crossed my mind, I stopped focusing on my facial features and peered more intently on what was on the inside, as if I had the ability to visualize my very soul.
I stopped to ponder if I had really and truly aged as much as I presumed I did from my teenage years and younger.
Could I call myself a woman? Or was I still some naïve little girl desperate for the approval of others?
Never mind if physically I appeared to be developed, but what about my wisdom, my strength, and my will-have those traits progressed? Have I matured? When I was a child, like most children, I sought the constant approval of others; from my parents, from my siblings, my friends, extended family, boyfriends, teachers, coaches, neighbors and peers. I wouldn’t act unless I thought everyone else approved of it first. I wouldn’t go to the school dance wearing a pink metallic skirt if my friends thought it was lame. I wouldn’t continue to play basketball if my mom wasn’t cheering me on in the stands. I would even kiss the boy I liked no matter how not ready or uncomfortable I was, just because he thought it was cool.
Everything I did was based on the opinions of others.
Because I became more concerned with everyone else’s feelings before my own, my struggles with my own identity were delayed as I grew older and older. Who was I? Who did I want to become? What did I truly like and not like? What were my passions?
As we age we begin to think more about the person we are and less about the person everyone wants us to be. This realization of growing up can come at any age. Aging to me is not defined by a number, but defined by our experiences that influence and shape our development of knowledge, and maturity.
The first crucial lesson I learned came a little after my son was born. I was a sixteen-year-old girl who had suddenly became a mother for the first time. Too young to have a baby in the eyes of society, I feared what my peers would think when I returned to school. Everyone would know I had sex, despite most of them having had experience with it themselves, I’d still be thought of as the slut because my evidence was my child. Instead of worrying about the mother I can be to my son, I was worried about being bullied and becoming infamously known as the school’s whore. My social life was over it seemed.
First lesson to aging, the only approval you need is your own.
School was tough. I did get bullied. A substantial number of people spread multiple rumors about me that were devastating to my self-esteem. Most of my friends turned their backs on me and at times I felt completely alone. But the truth was, if I had realized it sooner, I wasn’t alone. I had my son; someone who loved me without any condition and it would never matter to him that I had sex at an early age. I had someone who needed me and would be looking up to me for guidance, security, and love. I had to approve for myself what kind of woman I wanted to be. I had to determine for myself that despite what my peers may think of me, it only matters what I think of me. I had sex at sixteen. I got pregnant and had a baby because of it. That does not make me a slut. That makes me a mother and I love being a mom.
Second important lesson to aging, accepting your responsibilities.
I could blame the world for my problems. I could blame everyone else for hurting me, and putting me through difficult and tragic experiences. However, I could also take responsibility for my part into my development. I can choose to forgive and move on. I can choose to stay quiet and let people hurt me, or I can choose to have a voice and stand up for myself. I can choose to accept the choices I’ve made and deal with them head on or run away afraid to face them at all.
All that I have learned and gone through has resulted in the duties I have been placed with, and if I want to become a better woman then I need to oblige to those duties. I need to accept my responsibility for my own life choices.
Third and final important lesson to aging, embrace that you will never know everything.
There is always room to learn and grow. I can never stop learning something new whether it’s calamitous and inconsolable or encouraging and comprehensible. So, looking in the mirror peering into my soul, my grey hair in hand, I see both a woman and the little girl. I am somewhere in between old and wise, and young and naïve.
I have progressed and I have matured but I can always be better. I can always learn more. I will never stop aging nor will I be afraid to grow four more, ten more, or hundred more grey hairs if it means I can look myself in the mirror and be proud of the woman I am no matter my life span.