Cindy Joseph sits down with Experience Life editor in chief Pilar Gerasimo to share her thoughts on the lessons she’s learned about beauty and age through her modeling career that began in her 50s.
Sometimes, the best is yet to be. That's what baby boomer and fashion model Cindy Joseph has discovered as she's grown older and wiser. Here, she shares the lessons she's learned.
Recently in Emotional Health Category
I continue my talk about women, beauty and aging in another two-part vlog, this time focusing on choices and how you can use your brain to quiet that inner voice of self-doubt. Let me know what you think!
Part 1: Smile!
Part 2: Using Your Intelligence
I come from a lineage of women who hardened themselves to survive in a man’s world. My mother was practical. She kept me safe, clean, fed and busy with fun things. I grew up, however, without the feminine exchange I longed for from her. Looking back, I see that I made sure I always had many girlfriends — that’s how I quenched my thirst for the feminine connection I did not get at home.
When I was a teenager, I was painfully self-conscious and focused mostly on my appearance. I held my bangs down in the wind for fear that people would see my forehead, which I judged as too big. I sat on my hands because I was once told I had masculine fingers. I spent hours on my hair and makeup before school. I did whatever it took to look like the models on the magazine covers, wearing foundation, powder, blush, eyeshadow and two pairs of fake eyelashes every day. I helped my girlfriends do the same thing. We were all hiding behind a facade of beauty products, and I often wondered how I would keep my future husband from seeing the real me if I ever got married.
Little did I know, I was developing skills for my future career.
During the summer of 1968, I went through a huge transformation. I was living in the heart of San Francisco and my peers and I began recognizing the hypocrisy of society’s dictates. We searched for new ideas and lifestyles that we could relate to. I threw away all my makeup and beauty products, most of my wardrobe, and anything that was not natural, authentic and honest. I even stopped shaving my legs and underarms.
A few years later, my rebellion softened and I found a happy medium. I realized I could honor my interest in beauty, and still be genuine and natural.
But once I started working with professional models, my self-esteem was confronted once again: I still had heavy negative judgment about my appearance (though it was far from the extreme I went through during puberty). It was difficult to spend days with these girls and feel good about myself, though I definitely enjoyed many aspects of working with a team to create a beautiful image. I knew deep down, however, that there was more to attractiveness than shiny hair and big eyes.
I realized that models did not come through the door looking like they did once we spent hours transforming them. So as I became more familiar with the concept of ideal beauty and worked closely with the girls who the world deemed the most gorgeous, I could see that surface beauty was only fleeting. Once I got to know the models, I could see that they were only attractive when they were happy, kind and loving themselves. I saw they were the most beautiful when they were truly enjoying their lives. I was no longer intimidated by their “package.”
I was a makeup artist for over 25 years, and during that time I married, raised children, traveled the world, and learned more and more about myself. After years of taking myriad transformational workshops, psychology courses, and classes on human nature, I started living my life according to what pleasured me.
And once again I recognized that when a woman is taking joy in her life, she is her most radiant and attractive. Her beauty has nothing to do with the size of her nose, her height or the shape of her body. A woman’s beauty is in her ability to experience pleasure.
So it was not until I was in my 40s that I started discovering all that being a woman is about. When I started living according to what pleasured me, my persona changed. When I started feeling “right” for who I was rather than thinking I had to fix something, or change in some way, others took notice. That is when I was recognized on the street and asked to model at age 49.
Honoring that most innate part of my feminine nature is what makes me most attractive.
I am now 60. I have found that the riches in life are all around me if I allow myself to notice and appreciate them by following my spirit. There is no external place to find what I carry right in side.
I continue to model and have created a pro-age, believable beauty cosmetic line, www.boombycindyjoseph.com.
Aging is really just another word for living. Life continues to be a magical and fascinating adventure. My passion, my feelings, and all that I am are intact and functioning. The concept that aging is becoming less in some way is really the antithesis of what happens. One becomes more and more as life continues.
I am always and forever in the “prime of my life.”
Change is the nature of the universe. Change is inevitable.
We can either learn to work with it, and allow the natural course of transformation to unfold, or we can resist it. Regardless, it will happen, so how about flowing with change? Imagine your own evolution, growth and success as being unstoppable!
Let’s take improving your mood as an example of going with the flow of change. When you’re in a bad mood, do you tend to put on a happy face, think don’t worry and be happy, or “fake it till you make it”? Are these techniques really following the organic process of change, or are they ways of shoving feelings under the rug?
I’ve learned that the key to moving into a positive emotional state is allowing myself to fully feel whatever emotions I’m experiencing in the moment. It can be very challenging to sit with these feelings — it doesn’t always feel safe, comfortable or flattering. Yet, if I trust that change is the natural way of things, then I can allow myself to feel the seemingly unbearable emotional depths of many less-than-pleasant feelings: guilt, despair, sadness, remorse, anger, jealousy or hatred. These emotions then transform into a whole new cycle of feelings.
We are not given a guidebook on how to maneuver ourselves through these less-than-positive feelings, yet they must be felt and expressed, not ignored. They are a vital part of being alive, and resisting these emotions drains your vitality. It takes a lot of work to repress intense emotions.
While it can be difficult to admit to many of these feelings, avoiding them simply delays processing them. Eventually they will come back when you least expect it, catching you and those around you by surprise.
You must move through the negative feelings before you can truly move into the positive. Keeping your emotional vessel emptied out by consistently feeling and acknowledging all your emotions is being fully alive.
As very young children, we are fully expressed. Yet, as we grow up, we get the message that we should just “get over” bad or negative feelings or that they are wrong. Well, I say phooey! We were born human and we stay human with the whole spectrum of emotions from birth to death. To deny we have negative feelings kills our passion; to put a lid on any single emotion dampens them all.
If I am feeling really frustrated, I let it out. Angry? I let ‘er rip! Sad? I let those tears flow until they are all out and down the drain. Underneath those negative feelings are rich and wonderfully positive ones waiting to be revealed, including hope, faith, and the innate knowledge that everything will turn out — that life always delivers another opportunity for fun and wonderful adventures.
So as you let yourself feel every emotion that comes up, watch them shift and change. You may be surprised and delighted by where they take you: Those negative feelings can lift away and be released when they are felt and expressed, making room for the deep satisfaction of authentic joy.
To be fully alive, we must be fully expressed. Once you experience the exhilaration of feeling all that you can and the freedom of expressing all that you feel, your life force and energy will be unstoppable!
Getting connected, feeling connected and being connected are the most important things in my life — I believe they are the most vital and critical elements to living happily and with satisfaction. Though I don’t know all of the science behind the need for connections, I know instinctively that humans thrive in company, and are meant to have companions in life, be it family, friends, coworkers, or fellow community, spiritual congregation or club members. People want and need to relate with each other; it seems people would rather fight with each other, i.e., relate in a negative way, than not connect at all.
Personally, I feel connected when I am alone and do not feel alone; when I am an integral part of a group; when I’m feeling part of a bigger whole, like a family, a group project, a neighborhood or community initiative, a work force. I recognize that each individual creates the larger whole, proving the value of everyone involved. I also see my connection to the planet by acknowledging the role I play in the balance of Mother Nature — humans are critical to the ecosystem.
Connection is a state of mind, a knowing that I am a unique and vital part of this universe. It’s knowing all of humanity is my family — a “we are all in this together” kind of thing. The feeling comes from my own point of view. It’s a decision to acknowledge the truth of how things are.
For me, feeling connected is feeling valuable.
So how do I get connected if I’m not feeling it? First, I must reconnect with myself. I take the time to check in and just feel my feelings: I often find that when I’m disconnected, I’m anxious, worried, annoyed or tense. Once I take a little inventory, then I can do what I need to do to relax, be it intentionally breathing deeply, releasing my body tension or stretching. Once I relax, then I start to feel appreciation for my life, and the tension disappears. I feel safe, calm and hopeful. When I do that, I feel connected to myself. Once I feel connected to myself, I start to feel the connection to others. And that brings me to feeling I belong here, to an understanding that I am a part of everything.
Getting connected, for me at least, starts from within, and from there extends to the external world of family and friends. Eventually, it makes its way to my community, country, the world and, finally, the whole universe.
How do you get connected? I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
Like happiness and joy, the “blues” are part of our genetic makeup. Yet in our society, we are commonly led to believe that these feelings should be excluded from our lives — it seems trying to avoid the bad is also human nature. Instead of feeling these emotions, we’re told to “keep a stiff upper lip”; “bite your tongue”; “don’t cry, smile”; “don’t be sad”; “don’t worry, be happy.”
But as difficult or uncomfortable as it is to get in touch with feelings of shame, fear or sadness, it’s more valuable than we are taught: Ignoring the yucky feelings and just “stuffing them under the rug” only delays processing them and, subsequently, getting back to feeling good. Trying to ignore or eliminate the blues is a futile battle.
We live in a success-oriented culture that stresses being ambitious and getting things accomplished — that’s difficult to do if we are feeling down. Yet it’s easy to pack so much activity into a day that we don’t have time to get in touch with our feelings, much less process them. By the end of the day, we just want to relax and have fun, getting straight to feeling good. To get to positive, however, we sometimes have to go through the negative.
We all know that children surrender very quickly to their emotions. We’ve all witnessed, for instance, a child getting his or her feelings hurt and breaking down into tears on the spot. They cry their little hearts out with passion, and then, just minutes later, are up and playing. That’s a clear demonstration of how allowing yourself to fully express negative emotions can quickly transform into more positive ones.
That transformation does not happen on an intellectual level. In the emotional state, there is no analytic observation and no logical thought. Emotions are felt. Yet as we grow up, we learn to control our emotions, often burying them inside.
I believe, as adults, we need to create an appropriate place to express the emotions we put on hold. And though allowing ourselves to completely surrender to our emotions can be terrifying, and trusting the process takes courage, as well as time and practice, it’s worth every ounce of effort. (I’ve found that using a professional to help guide me to those feelings can be of great help.)
Finding a path to a balanced and healthy emotional life is what I strive for — and thanks to strategies learned in therapy that I’ve practiced time and time again, I can attest that it can be done! Rather than deny the blues or any of the emotions we judge as negative (anger, jealousy, frustration, shame, fear, etc.), I’ve discovered there can be a very positive use for them, and that they offer a great many benefits. For one, facing and fully expressing them brings me to new levels of self-knowledge and creativity.
When I try to avoid feeling the blues, they always come back to haunt me. I find that the negative feelings stack up over time, and eventually I have to deal with them one way or another. If I don’t, I end up in a general, unspecific depression, and it’s much harder to get to the bottom of what instigated it in the first place. I’ve also noticed that if I don’t express sadness, anger, shame or any of the negative emotions with passion, I can’t fully express positive emotions either: Putting a cap on one emotion limits the expression of them all. When I get in touch with what I am truly feeling, however, it always leads to a positive transformation.
As a result of dealing with the backlog of repressed emotions through therapy, I can now handle my feelings on my own. When negative feelings arise, I sing the blues, figuratively and literally. I face them head on, sinking into them and doing whatever it takes to bring them on full force. I may read poetry, watch a movie or listen to music to trigger more expression. For me, embracing the blues and feeling them completely is the most powerful step toward feeling better. It allows my energy to move; it allows the transformation toward personal growth and evolution.
I keep in mind that happiness includes all emotions and that the whole spectrum makes my life richer and more passionate. Once you find the blues righteous, life starts to look brighter!
It’s helpful to remember:
“What you resist, persists.”
“If you don’t dig the blues, you got a hole in your soul.”
What do you do to handle the blues? I’d love to hear from (and learn from) you . . .