Several days ago, a friend in her early 40s and I were talking about navigating websites and what made some so much easier than others. Neither of us could remember the word for the “thingies” at the top of the browser window that open additional pages. As she said, “Oh, I just have too much on my mind,” I was thinking, “Uh-oh, incipient Alzheimer’s.” I finally said, “Buttons,” and we went with that. Sometime later I said out loud to myself, “Tabs.”
How Do You Explain Yourself to Yourself?
Does this sound familiar? We can laugh at it because it is sort of funny, but how you explain yourself to yourself affects how you see and feel about yourself, and it also impacts your behavior. If you consistently say “Another senior moment” every time you can’t remember something, or “Well, at my age what can you expect,” you will begin to see yourself as an older person. You will begin to walk like an older person. You will begin to limit your activities and possibilities, perhaps long before it’s physically necessary.
On the other hand, how does it feel when someone says to you, “Wow, you don’t look your age!” Feels pretty good, doesn’t it? And then you can tell yourself, “Well, I don’t look my age!” And that feels pretty good again. Except you are your age. So, denying that isn’t the answer. As Ashton Applewhite says, “You don’t look your age” is a very ageist comment. And I would add that the degree to which it makes us feel good is an indication of how ingrained gendered ageism is in our society since these comments are typically aimed at women.
What Can You Do To Break This Cycle?
To start, become alert for any ageist, self-deprecating things you say. This is tricky because for many of us it is very habitual and therefore transparent. You also can begin to call others on ageist things they say. A very common one is “senior moment.”
And you can reframe your thinking by finding reasons to be grateful for getting older—a real luxury that isn’t available to many people in the world. Here are some tips to help:
- Consider this whenever you’re feeling grumpy about your advancing age, do you really want to go back to being age 35 and doing the whole thing over again? I certainly don’t.
- You might also make a list of all the things you treasure about getting older like a growing sense of personal freedom, and of not caring so much about what others think of you.
- Or think of all the things you couldn’t do until now! You may finally be able to start your own business or spend more time working for a cause you feel very deeply about.
- And finally, identify a woman who is older than you whom you admire. What is it about her that you find admirable? Does she have qualities or aspects that you would like to develop further in yourself?
Champion Your Fantastic Qualities
At this time in human history in affluent societies, being a woman over 55 can be a very exciting time! If you’re healthy, you have endless opportunities open to you. You’ve been through a lot and know how to thrive in tough times. You’re getting clearer and clearer about who you are and what you want. Don’t let the messages you get from other people dampen your enthusiasm for life and for making the next ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or even fifty years the best years of your life. So How Do You Explain Yourself to Yourself? Listen to how you’re describing yourself, and make sure you are championing all the fantastic qualities you’ve developed so far. Make the decision that the best is yet to come!
The Prime Spark Membership Community is designed for women 55 (or close) and older to support one another, learn and grow together, and further the mission of Prime Spark. Membership is closed for 2021. If you’re interested in joining in 2022, please send an email to [email protected] and ask to be placed on the waitlist.
Sara Hart, PhD, is an author, speaker, and coach. She is leading the charge to change how older women are seen and treated in our society. She is the creator of Prime Spark, a movement to transform how women over 55 take responsibility for their futures. Sara is the author of three books. She also has over forty years’ experience in leadership development, coaching, and building thinking environments. She was director of training and development for a Fortune 100 company and executive director of the Institute for Women and Technology. To learn more about claiming your power as a senior woman, visit Prime Spark today!