My friends and I, who are all in our late 30s/early 40s, have experienced the same phenomenon regarding old pictures of ourselves — the phenomenon is called “damn girl.” Damn girl, look at that body. Damn girl, you are cute. We remember ourselves in our teens and twenties and wonder, why were we not more confident? Why were we nitpicking our thighs and fretting about a pimple? We ask this, yet still continue the same behaviors of our youth, hiding behind someone in a group photo and stuffing ourselves into shapewear. Why do we not appreciate what we look like in the moment?
Earlier this week a student asked me how old I am. I did not demur or offer a ballpark figure (mid-30s). I proudly proclaimed myself to be 37 years old. For a moment, I felt I had finally reached a higher state of enlightenment and self acceptance. I was owning it. Then came the follow up question, when is your birthday? This class is an annoyingly curious bunch. I less enthusiastically answered July. I am not ready to own 38. In this moment I realized I only love my age about two months of the year, when I realize it is fleeting and soon to be replaced with a higher number.
Luckily, studies show that with age comes greater self acceptance, so this will get easier.