Let’s just get it out there. You are old and so am I. No matter what your real age is, you’re definitely older than you were yesterday. The reality is that your aging process starts as soon as you are born. We just don’t usually think of it that way. Besides, babies, puppies and kittens are too darn cute to even imagine them any differently than they are now. But blink and they seem to age right before your eyes and eventually they do grow older. So what does being old mean to you?
Midlife finds most of us struggling with the concept of aging and more specifically, with the acceptance of our own aging process. Intellectually we understand that people do get older. Emotionally we don’t want to think that it’s going to affect us. How often have you thought it must just be for other people? After all, you feel at least 10 years younger than you are. Suck in that gut when you walk past the mirror, squint your eyes and no doubt you’re just a shade over 40.
Despite what your mind wants you to believe, you are getting older. It’s a tough reality to acknowledge. The two most difficult things to accept about aging are knowing that you are old and other people’s perception that you are old. Typically we fight these beliefs as long as we can.
Society tells us that being old means our bodies are collapsing and our spirit is fading. In addition, we’d find ourselves becoming sick, lifeless and lonely. Sounds just great, right? In fact, when we were younger, we never even thought old people had a life. They acted like they were old forever. Any of your relatives come to mind? Who’d want to live out a life that’s this depressing? With thoughts like these, no wonder we dread aging and try to avoid it.
Just as bad as believing you are old is recognizing that other people think you’re old, too. Between injections for wrinkles and wearing a ball cap to hide your bald spot, do you really think you’re fooling anyone? Seriously, do you think you can hide it forever? You can’t, but we keep trying.
So what does being old mean to you? Are you ready to buy into society’s stereotype of becoming a doddering old fool? An irritable, cranky senior? Are you working hard to postpone being perceived as old? Does old age mean a life of conformity, routine and with nothing left to look forward to?
Hold it. If you accept these ideas about aging, then welcome to the oldster’s club. Do the happy shuffle because once you get in, you are guaranteed a spot for the rest of your life. Yes, you may be getting older, but you don’t have to fall for society’s stereotypes. And you don’t need to keep trying to stay young. At some point, just accept that it’s okay to just be your older, wiser and imperfect self.
If you believe all the negativity about aging, then surely you will find yourself fulfilling your expectations. On the other hand, if you begin to look at the aging process as a way to expand yourself and experience personal growth, you’ll be much more content.
Dealing with the mind games associated with your own aging can really wear you down. So wallow in it and be that annoying old person who always tells stories about how better life was when there were three TV stations and phones had handles.
Once you’ve had enough of a pity party, move forward and accept your age. Feel the power of being smart and capable. After all, by this point you’ve learned a few things about life. Let go of the expectations you’ve created for your younger self and just enjoy who you are. It’s so much easier.
So what does being old mean to you? I hope you’ve thought more about it and can look past the number and look forward to what’s next. It may not all be great but that period when you were struggling with adolescence wasn’t always perfect either. Accept that getting older is just another phase of life and you’ve got one more chance to live it like there’s no tomorrow.