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Candice Bergen on Why Beauty is Terrifying

Candice Bergen and husband Marshall Rose (image courtesy of US magazine).
Candice Bergen and husband Marshall Rose (image courtesy of US magazine).

So the other day my new issue of Time magazine arrived, and I immediately did what I always do – I turned to the back pages to read the arts and culture editorials.

On the very back page I found a short 10 question interview with Candice Bergen.

Apparently she has a new memoir out and she has been doing quite a lot of interviews lately to promote the book.

Since the book is about her private life and family, she discusses all kinds of juicy topics, including her own celebrated beauty as a model and actress.

So the Time interviewer asked her, “Why do you write that beauty is ‘terrifying’?”

Candice Bergen on the movie set (image courtesy of Pinterest).
Candice Bergen on the movie set (image courtesy of Pinterest).

Bergen’s response:

Because it’s so vitally important to people, and they treat you very differently from other women. You have to work a little harder to find out who’s underneath your face. You have to make people comfortable with you. Of course, I’m grateful beyond words that I had it, but beauty’s very often the elephant in the room, and you’re the elephant handler.

The interviewer then asked, “Is there any cure?”

Bergen replies:

Getting older helps.

Can I just say how much I loved reading this?! 

So many times over the years in my own work as a mentor and recovery advocate, I have showed up to speak and share my recovery story, only to first have to wade through confrontational questions about my post-eating disorder weight, shape, and size.

As well, ever since 2004 when I began this work, I have been challenged on a regular basis as to whether I am really recovered from an eating disorder or not – based solely on what people see when I walk in the room (or even in pictures taken of me by others).

Individuals who are curvier or heavier than I am tend to think I’m not recovered….and so do individuals who are less curvier or lighter than I am.

No matter which side of the scale I fall on, I am still considered suspect (although much less so these days as my body has rounded out with age).

While this isn’t precisely the same as what Bergen describes with the issue of her beauty, it has often felt quite the same – like the elephant in the room.

Like it wasn’t going to be enough to say I was recovered and to share my recovery story. I had to do something extra to make people comfortable with me first, to handle the elephant of “thinness” that was always rampaging about the room and get it to calm down before I could hope to connect with others on any level past that of the surface physical.

As it turns out, these days Bergen is on her own rampage against those who question her right to enjoy growing old. Thank goodness.

In a quote from Us magazine, Bergen says:

….people complain about getting old. It’s a privilege to get old….the reality is that I don’t look like I used to look. I just don’t care enough, and in a way it’s saved me.

This reminds me of what my mentor always says to me when I start to get frustrated with my changing body, which is now in its fourth decade.

She tells me, “If you are comfortable in your own skin, it won’t matter what others think or say.”

She is right.

Bergen may or may not have the usual legion of body-shakers and body-haters that seem to doggedly pursue any public figure who refuses to put shedding body fat above quality of life, enjoyment of food, and the human right to inside-out self-esteem.

But she just doesn’t care.

This – the not caring – saves and protects her when nothing and no one else can.

In fact, while reading more of Bergen’s comments, I found myself growing ever more protective and supportive of my own body….and also growing a second similarly protective safe skin around any commentary about its ever fluctuating shape and size.

The truth is, I mostly like my body today. I am mostly okay – sometimes even happy – in my own skin  – if for no other reason than I can be, it is a choice to be, and I am making that choice.

Also, often these days I wonder who on earth thought up the idea of hating our bodies in the first place? Who first made the assumption that the size of one’s thighs could possibly have any impact one one’s ability to find love, joy, success….and who then first believed this hypothesis?

I wonder if they still believe.

Because I know I don’t.

And Candice Bergen apparently never did….which makes her a natural addition to my own growing list of body image and happy life mentors.

Today’s Takeaway: Do you ever find yourself worrying about growing older – or about “aging gracefully” (whatever that means?!)? If you weren’t at all worried about your weight, shape, or size, would you eat differently – yes or no? Would you enjoy life more – or less? Do you think your life dreams would change if you looked different – or your ability to attain those life dreams?

Candice Bergen on Why Beauty is Terrifying

Shannon Cutts

Parrot, tortoise & box turtle mama. Writer. Author. Songwriter. Champion of all people (and things) recovered and recovering.

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APA Reference
Cutts, S. (2020). Candice Bergen on Why Beauty is Terrifying. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 14, 2020, from


Last updated: 30 Mar 2020
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