Do you have anxiety about aging? Do changes to your appearance and other everyday signs of aging negatively affect your confidence?
If you have trouble dealing with the effects of aging, whether gradual or not, then stick around! Today, we’re going to discuss how to foster self-confidence that is totally independent of your outward appearance so that you can finally free yourself of the fear of aging.
Our society is rife with cultural programming that undermines aging and negatively associates it with a lack of beauty.
In fact, this attitude is so pervasive that we barely even notice that it’s there anymore. It’s expressed in movies, news segments, social encounters, magazines, and a seemingly endless stream of anti-aging product ads on television.
All of this adds up to one story: “Aging is bad, and you need to fix it!”
While this message often seems to be geared more toward women than men, you can be sure that we all suffer from its malicious grasp. My wife, Candice, recently put the whole issue into perspective using a great metaphor. She said that she felt like a bright flower when she was younger—she got positive attention and felt valuable and special. After having two kids and moving into her forties, however, she feels like that beautiful flower has wilted.
Stuff like this is painful for me to hear. Firstly, I adore my wife, and she is endlessly beautiful to me, so I hate that she lets this societal obsession with age affect her perception of her beauty.
But secondly, I find it disappointing that we have gotten to the point where we allow our looks—and more specifically our age—to affect our sense of self-worth.
Age does not eradicate beauty, and beauty does not define your desirability.
There is a serious disconnect between the reality of aging and the cultural message surrounding it Take my wife, for instance: yes, she looks a little different since I first met her 10 years ago—but so do I! Not only do I love her just as much as I did then, but I would probably argue that I love her even more now that we’ve shared so many life experiences and deepened our connection.
The message is that aging should be avoided at all costs, but the reality is that it literally happens to everyone on the planet! The result of this is people creating ridiculously unrealistic expectations and going to extreme measures to keep a natural life process at bay.
For example, aging is inevitable, and yet millions of people spend thousands of dollars on plastic surgery every single year.
So, why do we fight so hard to stave off something that is completely unavoidable?
It is scary to feel like we have no control over what other people think of us.
Society has slipped these toxic messages into our psyches, and when we don’t live up to that ideal, we turn on ourselves—we decide that we’re the ones with a problem.
Instead, we must actively reject this stigma and work to reclaim our inner confidence.
Now, some of you may be thinking, “Hey, man, you’re 35—give it a few years,” and I can understand that. But I am also committed to a life of unlimited self-confidence, so I am going to work toward what I consider to be a much healthier ideal of inner worth.
In keeping with this declaration, I’ll use myself as an example:
A few years ago, I started noticing that my hair was thinning, and it’s gotten more severe since then. Now, having your hair fall out isn’t a pleasant experience . . . but the way I see it, I have two options: I can either hate myself because that’s what certain messages in society tell me to do, or I can be on my own side and continue to feel good about myself when something completely beyond my control happens.
Which sounds more reasonable to you?
Here’s the thing: believing there is something wrong with aging is a little like believing there is something wrong with the Earth going around the Sun.
In life, we can either embrace the inevitable or struggle in vain to deny it. When judgements or fears arise, we must simply deal with them in a rational way.
So, here’s how I deal with this issue: I step out of the cultural context and look at aging for what it truly is—a natural process that encompasses memory, life, and love.
Think about an oak tree. By the time that tree is 100 or 200 years old, it’s maybe 60 feet tall and 50 feet wide, right? We look at it, and we think it is beautiful and powerful. Now, the average lifespan of an oak tree is 1000 years. 1000 years! Does that mean that we look at an oak tree at 900 years old and say, “Ewwww, it’s so OLD”?
When we see an ancient tree, we admire its strong, thick trunk, and we marvel at the life it supports with its massive span of branches. It is truly magnificent, and no one in their right mind would describe it otherwise.
Why can’t we think about ourselves that way?
Why can’t we step outside the conventional purview of twenty-something celebrities and fashion models to see the beauty, privilege, and majesty of a long life?
We all have the ability to age gracefully—we just choose not to.
We can all exercise and eat healthy and find small pleasures that bring us joy every day—and doing these things has been shown to prolong a higher quality of life AND looks—but instead, we are always on the lookout for a quick fix or a miracle cure.
What if, instead, we disconnect from the cultural programming for a change and try something new?
Botox will only hold off the inevitable for so long (and probably make it more psychologically difficult to cope with in the end). Plastic surgery is insanely expensive, drastic, and is usually glaringly obvious to everyone around you (which sort of defeats the purpose, if you ask me).
Confidence, on the other hand, costs nothing and looks fantastic at ALL ages.
Real-life experiences are priceless, and old age is an honor that is not granted to everyone.
It’s time that we embrace our age, own it fully, and see it for what it really is: an irreplaceable sign of a life well-lived.
Move toward acceptance; re-evaluate your standards; and rediscover your true purpose (because it sure as hell isn’t to look like a cover model till the day you die). What are you here to do? Who are you here to love? What gifts do you have to give the world?
THAT is where your energy should be focused—not on the microscopic crow’s feet that only appear when you smile at the people you love. Focus on what really matters, and I assure you that your legacy will be far more lasting and flattering than youthful good looks could ever be.
This is a topic I find endlessly interesting, and one that I am always working on, myself. For that reason, I would be grateful if you would share your thoughts and challenges with aging in the comments below. What makes you feel old? How do you deal with that? What insights have worked well for you? Let’s all contribute some wisdom so that we can all learn and grow together!
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.