Let’s face it: No matter how empowered or successful you are, getting older is a tough pill to swallow. In our society, where women are constantly bombarded with messages that tie our self-worth to our ability to remain sexy, it’s really hard to completely soothe your anxiety about aging. That’s why what actress Téa Leoni had to say about her oh-so-common fears is refreshing—and hopeful.
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In an interview with More magazine, Leoni shared a disturbing epiphany that she had around age 34 on the set of The Family Man: “[Director Brett] Ratner—whom I really like, by the way—was going around telling people that despite my age, I was ‘still doable,’” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Do I still care about that?’ And at that time, I did. I felt that pressure to be ‘doable.’ It was the meanest thought I’d had for myself in a long time.”
But in the years since, the Madam Secretary star and producer, now 48, has learned to be much kinder to herself. “Thankfully, I’ve moved past all that. Chasing youth is a war I’m not going to win. It’s not like I’m thrilled to turn around and catch my can in the mirror, but I can see now how much of my happiness could be a victim of trying to stay young and desirable. And it feels like peace and victory to be relieved of that burden.”
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Indeed, shedding the youth obsession has allowed her to appreciate the sexiest result of aging: wisdom. “I’m getting much better at noticing that life is good. That everything passes. I tell my children that. Think about the now, not the then or later. That’s the art.”
Leoni said she cherishes her children, Madelaine, 15, and Kyd, 12, and how the time she’s spent with them is far more valuable than winning an Oscar or any other Hollywood accolade. These days, she turns inward for guidance and acceptance: “At this stage of my life, it’s not about contentment. Or appealing to 20-year-olds. Or awards. It’s about finding something more. As I tell my daughter, ‘Hear your voice first.'”