The Beauty Culture and Age: What’s Wrong with Christine Lagarde?

A coaching client recently asked me for the names of older women who are public figures and could be role models for her. She had just turned fifty years old and realized that her self-image was of a much younger woman, which was getting in her way professionally. She was struggling to “find her voice” and speak out more at work. Her boss had recently given her feedback that she was viewed as lacking confidence. Through reflection, she became aware that her self-talk, reflecting her “young self,” undermined her confidence by telling her that she did not know enough or had not yet earned the right to express her opinions. In addition to having a young self-image, she felt pressure to color her hair to hide the grey and to dress like a much younger woman, all of which may have reinforced her own perception, and the perception of others, that she was less experienced. The only woman in public life whom we could both think of, though, who embraces her age and is seen as powerful is Christine Lagarde. Christine Lagarde was appointed in 2011 to be the first woman to head the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She is fifty-nine years old and has beautiful white hair. She is a great role model for my client—she is confident, powerful, and attractive, and she embraces her age. Having role models as we age is important, especially in the United States, where our youth-focused culture can be dismissive and even discriminatory toward older women and older men in terms of hiring and promotions. While these economic challenges are real, feeling good about your life experience and having the confidence to draw from it to find your voice and demonstrate leadership presence is also important. I recommended that my client develop a ritual with her friends to embrace and celebrate her inner Chrone. She’s not a little girl or a young woman any more—she has wisdom to offer that she needs to embrace. What’s wrong with Christine Lagarde? Nothing. I’m sure she has critics and detractors, as all powerful people do, but she also has beautiful white hair, projects confidence and a strong leadership presence, and provides a great role model for women on many levels. Who are your role models?   Image credit: Image courtesy of International Monetary Fund


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