How did you feel when you saw Gwyneth Paltrow’s 50th birthday photos (where she’s dressed only in a light smattering of gold paint)?
Personally speaking, my first thought was this: flippin’ heck, she looks bloody AMAZING. Good for Gwyneth!
I then cast my mind back to my own 50th birthday and spent a few merry moments picturing the reaction of my three kids if I, too, had chosen to appear stark naked on social media rather than wearing my favourite dungarees. (If you’d like to listen to my A-Ha moments on reaching 50, you can listen to my podcast episode here.)
Now, let me say straight out that I’ve always had a soft spot for Gwynnie. I admired her hugely as an Oscar-winning actress and I admire her still. I like her unapologetic courage in being herself, no matter how much the British media might enjoy taking a swipe at her.
But looking at GP’s photos got me thinking about how dramatically different her version of middle age is from the middle-aged women who come to see me for help…and who frequently judge themselves by her yardstick.
Gwyneth looks very much like she’s “living her best life”, as they might say in California. Eternally sun-kissed, effortlessly youthful and eye-poppingly confident in her own, painstakingly-honed body.
I think we can all agree that her lifestyle, and the considerable resources at her disposal, are radically removed from those of the majority of women entering their 50s.
Most women I come across are feeling rather different about themselves at this stage of life. Far from glowing, many of them would describe themselves as some (or all) of the below:
Exhausted, overwhelmed, overstretched, stressed, sad, anxious, hopeless, harassed, haggard, taken for granted, unfulfilled, stuck, lost, flabby and deeply insecure about their body.
Comparing themselves to the likes of Golden Gwynnie drives them even further into feelings of failure and insecurity. In many cases, these are women who diligently read all the inspirational blogs, buy the latest healthy eating books and subscribe to all the wellness podcasts. And yet they feel as stubbornly unhealthy and unvibrant as ever. They’re desperately frustrated with themselves for not being able to get themselves “into shape” and feel as positive about themselves as GP does.
Celebrity vs. real-life wellness
There’s a yawning chasm between the wellness ideal (epitomised by Gwyneth) and the wellness reality. It seems like the more content there is about wellness on social media, the less wellness there actually is in real life.
In our synthetic world of photo-shopped, click-bait posts, we’re encouraged to think that we too can be like our icon…if only we buy the same products as they do. It’s so tempting to pin our hopes (and our cash) on a celebrity-promoted elixir as the answer to all our problems. We’re fooled into thinking that a “brand new me!” lies just beyond the latest wellness must-have (like the special crystal to shove up our nether regions, as infamously promoted by GP’s website, Goop).
Well, I’m here to tell you this: it ain’t gonna happen.
Does that mean we should just abandon the whole concept of wellness and resign ourselves to feeling crappy? No.
As a functional medicine health coach, I know – and have witnessed from my work coaching hundreds of people – that we can all feel better than we currently do. For most of us, however, that will not mean magically transmuting into a clone of GP or any other celeb.
Seeing the light
The route to feeling better is not paved by investing in yet another wellness product or listening to yet another celebrity. It’s in this: starting to make small, sustainable change to your lifestyle and changing the way you speak to yourself. And slowly, surely, you will start to feel like your own version of a golden girl: someone who feels at ease in your own skin and body, whatever texture or shape that is.
As I explain to my health coaching clients, this process is not something that happens overnight. We need to ditch the preposterous assumption that we can throw ourselves into a “health kick” on Monday and, by the following Sunday, be looking and feeling like GP. This wildly improbable, all-or-nothing thinking leaves women feeling that they’ve failed yet again. So, let’s leave La La Land where it is, and instead start where we are. That is, after all, the only place we can ever move forward from.
By all means, take a moment to marvel at GP if you like. But then move on. Don’t allow yourself to be seduced by the pernicious, self-defeating, self-flagellating belief that you should look anything like her to be a luminous version of you.
You don’t need to slather yourself in gold paint to be radiant. Your light is all your own and it’s already inside you, waiting to shine. Middle-age is a damn good time to finally open up the curtains.
If you’d like some help with finding your health and your light, book yourself a chat with me.