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November 12, 2020

4 Revelations that Calm the Terror of Growing Old.

My friend Anna and I like to get together and talk. Usually, the topics change, but lately, she’s had something on her mind, and our conversation always leads to the same subject: aging.

Anna didn’t seem too concerned with her age until recently. Now she’s terrified of growing old. Something changed on her 35th birthday, and now this topic is always at the center of her thoughts. She has repeatedly asked for advice and reassurance, probably because she knows I don’t share the same concern. I’ve tried to give her a different perspective to alleviate her anxiety, but it seems that she is still worried about the future.

I try to be positive because I understand where her feelings come from. Society places immense pressure on women to stay young and beautiful, and I don’t think Anna realizes all of the outside forces that influence her feelings. It takes practice to learn to ignore societies’ influences and not allow them to convince you that your age is an issue.

I think it’s easier for me to spot these outside pressures in our society, because I didn’t grow up here. I grew up in a small town in Portugal, and didn’t have all of the pressures we have here. Growing up somewhere else gave me the opportunity to take a step back and not allow all of these pressures to affect the way I feel about myself.

Below are the topics that we discussed in our conversation. As we spoke, it seemed to help her have some revelations about the future. I think I was able to break through to her, and help her enjoy her life without too much worry. I hope this may help others realize the same.

Cosmetics and Media

The worst manipulation, in my opinion, arises from the media and cosmetic industries. Words like “flawless” or “age rewind” are plastered on billboards, commercials, and labels. According to the media, getting older is something to be avoided at all costs. Actors have seemingly perfect skin, perfect bodies, perfect hair. No smile lines, no wrinkles, no fat!

I pointed out to Anna that these are unrealistic standards! Models and actors have professional nutritionists, professional chefs, personal trainers, fashion advisers, makeup artists, and photoshop! Remember, it’s their job to look good, and they invest a lot of money to maintain their appearance.

Please don’t compare yourself to celebrities; it’s unrealistic.

What to focus on instead:

Those small lines around your mouth are testimonies to a happy life. Smile lines mean laughter and happiness. Those tiny wrinkles tell your story; try to think of them that way. Your face doesn’t need to be flawless to be beautiful, trust me.

Work

Anna fears that her best working years are almost over. She worries she might outgrow technology, be a victim to age discrimination, and lose her stable employment as she gets older.

As I told Anna, our generation grew up without much of the modern technology we use today, yet we learned how to master it. As we age, things may take more effort, but we won’t forget the skills we have learned thus far. The confidence you gain from years of learning new technologies is incredibly valuable and only increases as you age.

What to focus on instead:

Work on something you enjoy. There are thousands of careers out there, and with the amount of time we spend at work, it needs to be enjoyable. Although it can be intimidating, switching industries might be the best decision. I switched a few times in my life, and every time, it was a great move. If you hate every minute you spend at work, is that worth it?

Once you find work you enjoy, learning new technology won’t seem intimidating since you’ll have a drive and desire to learn. You won’t suddenly forget how to use computers, and experience is always in high demand.

Savings and Finances

Anna worries about the cost of living, housing prices, inflation, and sometimes seems focused on “keeping up with the Joneses.” Social media has created an unhealthy competition between friends—and strangers—of all ages to have the most elaborate birthdays, weddings, and vacations.

I remind her that there will always be variables out of her control, like the turbulent stock market, but she can take control by making educated and sound financial decisions to help safeguard her future. We also often discuss the unrealistic standards social media projects and recognizing that you shouldn’t feel the need to spend money to appear happy.

What to focus on instead:

Savings are essential, but stressing about them won’t increase your nest egg. Set aside what you can and be consistent. Start small, transfer what you can into a 401K, or throw loose change into a jar to be deposited at the end of the month. Have your bank automatically transfer $5 from your checking to your savings once a month. Every little bit counts. Try to be consistent with what you can set aside and don’t be tempted to spend money in order to compete with others.

Health

Anna is in excellent health. She watches what she eats and exercises often. However, she consistently worries about cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity. I remind her that staying active and eating healthy 80 percent of the time is a great success; but it’s also important to enjoy things. Restricting your diet to an extreme can take the fun out of life. Enjoy that cookie. It won’t kill you.

What to focus on instead:

Appreciate what your body can do and do things that you enjoy. Age should not hold you back from taking up a new activity, like paddle-boarding or hiking. Don’t work out only because you are afraid of what will happen if you don’t. Find something you enjoy doing and spend time doing it; this ensures you will exercise consistently.

I learned from my mother how important every moment could be. You need to pay close attention because every age brings something unique and beautiful. Every year you will gain some things, and you will lose others, but they are all worth celebrating.

Enjoy whatever age you are at this moment. Don’t let anyone scare you into believing that growing old is scary. It doesn’t have to be.

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