Reclaim the right to look yourself

Danielle Z. Hughes

“I discovered I can be more compassionate. I exercise more kindness with the others. I’m also trying to model people that I consider good example in aging”

Danielle Z Hughes, founder of the branding, marketing and copywriting agency that bears her name

Before I got in touch with Danielle Hughes, her words got in touch with me and struck me. Not only because writing is her business and, as the founder of a branding, marketing and copywriting agency, she knows how to use abilities skillfully. But also because of the message she conveyed. In a time when there’s a lot of talking about the need for teamwork and how women tend to be meaner to each other than men are to women, she put her finger exactly there: to the way we look at ourselves and therefore at the world.

Tell us about your a-ha moment during the “Inclusion by Design” conference organized by amazing.community.

I consider myself a feminist. I do not look at other women in a competitive way, but when Ashton Applewhite, the anti-ageism activist, gave a talk entitled “Aging While Female”, she got me. I realized that I used to take a lot of pride when people commented that I looked younger for my age. Ashton, instead, questioned what it means to look older or younger in relationship with what people think age should look like. I had never seen it that way before.

It seems you’re changing your perception about aging…

I still want to age as well as I can. I’m a woman with some level of vanity, I don’t believe in botox, but I count on the eye cream and enjoy using make-up within reason. Instead of feeling pressured to look young, I look at the long-term health outcome: I work to keep my body healthy to make sure I will be able to do all the things I want to do in the future.

Most of all, what has changed is my view of other women and people. I realized I was harder on them. Not with them, but in my brain and I recognized the need not to judge anymore. After all, I don’t know anything about their lives.

After modifying your perspective on aging, what unexpected/untapped resources are you discovering in yourself?

I discovered that I can be more compassionate. I exercise more kindness with the others. I’m also trying to model people that I consider good examples in aging, people who push back ideas of how one should look. I am also more vocal about these topics.

For instance, I recently met with a younger cousin at a family gathering and she asked suggestions for her skincare routine. Before, I would have lectured her about the strategies to use from her thirties, but my approach to the beauty counter has changed.

So, instead of pressuring her on doing what she can in order not to look old, I invited her to take care of herself, to choose a good moisturizer instead of taking the burden of a regime difficult to maintain. I think there’s a difference, in fact, in doing botox in your thirties and using a sunscreen to limit sun induced wrinkles and, personally, I cannot accept the idea of injecting a disease into my face to adhere to a stereotype.

How do we strike a balance in the way we take care of our look, then?

Everybody has her own threshold, if it makes you happy to dedicate thirty minutes to your hair every morning, that’s fine. If it takes part of your day away, maybe you should reconsider your routine. If it’s stressing you out, that’s another cause of consideration. Basically, evaluate if it adds quality to your life or not and reorganize your choices accordingly. 

How do you approach aging from a physical and a mental point of view?

I try to stop the negative self talk. I eat healthy and exercise, but I don’t beat myself down anymore. There’s a twist of mindset: I appreciate instead of criticize. For example, I realized I am loosing elasticity in my arm and I say, my mum has that!

What are the unexpected  “fringe benefits” that aging is bringing to you?

I don’t give a shit. I say what I feel, I stopped worrying so much about what people think. I do not need to impress anyone, people like or don’t like me; it’s up to them. I’m seeing a shift from selfish to selfless. I’m more confident. I’m a mum, a business woman, I have a life, why would I need to worry so much?

What is the single most important aspect of age related discrimination that the women should address and why?

The discrimination against aging women in the workplace. Women are more marginalized than men. There’s a double standard for aging men and women and it shouldn’t be like that. The results are lost revenues for the companies and a loss of quality of live for the families if a woman’s earning capacity fades for socially conditioned reasons.

Is there a way you have decided to give back to society?

As a business owner, I am collaborating with Stela Lupushor, founder and chairperson of amazing.community. But it’s not about me. It’s about the fantastic, motivated, passionate people that gravitate around the community.

Finally, how would you describe your philosophy about aging?

Constantly growing and learning. It is a blessing, it’s a chance to improve. It’s all about experiences. I see no need to reduce it when it gives so much.