I celebrated my 45th birthday on Saturday, 19 February. I am not self-conscious at all about my age, and I have no shame in telling people how old I am. As I grew older, I realized that my age doesn’t seem to carry the same weight it did in the past. So, you might be thinking my “middle-ageism” is debuting at 45. It sounds old and in a state of decline. We have been conditioned to believe that “middle-aged” people are labeled with pessimism – we are old, losing it, over the hill, past our prime. Language has power, and it can be brutal to our self-esteem.
But things have changed tremendously. Today’s realities of women in midlife are far different from what our mothers experienced. Women in their fourth, fifth, or even sixth decades of their lives live entirely different experiences that are filled with vibrancy. Our best lives are not over.
But we are living in a culture that overidealizes youth. We see youth as an image of perfection, and this has a negative impact on midlifers. We struggle to find our best self and our groove in a culture that idolizes all things youthful. We struggle with negative inner dialogues based on unrealistic comparisons. We look at our lack too frequently until we fail to see ourselves accurately with faults and strengths that are worth celebrating. A 2014 study done by researchers from Yale University found that people who felt and believed they looked young were more effective during exercise than those in the same age group who did not feel that way. Do not underestimate the power of negative thinking. This study proved how perceptions of age are more convincing than reality. Your negative thinking can drastically skew the perceptions of your limitations as well as your future.
Society’s fascination with youth leaves some women feeling anxious and out of control at midlife. We fear we are no longer relevant in the world obsessed with youthfulness. Our natural tendency of fast-forwarding our perception of the future doesn’t help either. In our negativity, we look far to our seventies, eighties and imagine what life will be like then. We grow despondent and give up on ourselves before we even try. “I am old; why bother trying?” seems to be a common thought in our heads.
At this stage of life, we begin to rethink our choices in life and the impact those choices have on others. These thoughts often surface because this is the first time we confront our own mortality. We all knew someone from the same age group who had passed away, and we understood the finalities of life. We have acquired wisdom, and we can use that wisdom to rebalance and reinvent. We have the privilege to finally look back at what we have or have not accomplished and continue to dream big about what is in store. The next stage of our life looks good, but why are we still so dissatisfied sometimes?
I guess it has something to do with our underlying belief that we never change. The person that I am today, at 45, is still the same person I was at my 25. But that is not true! Life experiences and lessons we gleaned from them have made us different people. Our priorities and convictions change over time. And this is good news because we are not bound and shackled by our past self. Nothing can stop us from changing towards a more polished version of ourselves.
I am a Gen Xer. And like so many people of my generation, I constantly reject the status quo. And why should that stop now? At 45, I finally have the courage to find the real “me” despite all the labels I carry – wife, mother, sister, artist. I can look beyond cultural expectations on me and start to embrace the person that I truly am.
This is the stage of life where we can truly flourish. We are equipped with life experiences and wisdom that only age could give. We are free from the self-consciousness of youth where being accepted is the key to socially surviving. We are privileged because our next choices in life are no longer dependent on what everybody else thinks, well, unless we let them.
Thank you for visiting and reading my post. I hope you like it!
My First NFT Collection – Stencil 2017 – Is Now Available On OpenSea
Note: This post is originally posted on my Hive blog.