Aging is a privilege – I bet we all have heard that at one point in our lives. And it is true! As someone whose sister died when she was only 22, I cherish every year that I get to live – come next year I will turn 44 and will have lived twice as long as my sister ever will.
But while I appreciate living longer, I do struggle with getting older sometimes. Not with the birthday per se, any reason to be celebrated, but with the things that happen to me and my body as the years pass me by, and the more I immerse myself in the topic of well-aging, the more I feel the need to look at my own attitude here.
What inspired this post
This blog post was triggered by talking to a friend whom I have known since 5th grade. We mainly connect via Instagram and after I shared a story of me using a LED mask in a desperate attempt to find non-surgical options to prevent jowls, he told me the story of his last visit to the hairdresser and how much it had affected him when, suddenly in the mirror, he realized just how much his hairline was receding.
Now he is an amazing, intelligent and successful man, happily married with two great kids, he surely doesn’t have to worry about thinning hair – men lose their hair eventually, it isn’t a big deal.
But it wasn’t as much the fact of thin hair that bothered him. It was seeing something on himself that he associated with being old.
And the same is true for me – I am not bothered by lax skin as much as I am by the fact that it is something that older people have, and that this somehow doesn’t fit with how I feel inside. Because I don’t feel old, I sometimes even struggle with feeling like an adult, yet then I look in the mirror and there are signs of “old” on my face that startle me.
The role of our society
A lot of it surely has to do with how we as a society view aging and older people, with the fact that we associate youth with beauty and that it is rare that we see older people, especially women, represented in the media. Yes, a lot has changed here and there is finally some backlash when a 17 year old model is the main face of a skincare campaign aimed at people 60+. But simply because we talk about something, because we are aware of something, doesn’t mean that our attitude has changed.
I mean, I have seen many young people die way too early during my days on ICU, why on earth am I still afraid of getting old? Dying young isn’t really something to strive for either.
What does being old mean to me that it scares me so much? Is it just vanity, could I get rid of my negative thoughts with a face lift? Or is a sagging jawline just an external trigger for something much deeper?
What lies beneath my fear?
The more I think about what being old means to me, the more I realize that for me it is linked to a loss of opportunities, a loss of possibilities, a loss of adventure. It feels like once I am old – whatever and whenever that may be – I no longer have the means to change my path, to reinvent myself, to explore new things. It feels limited, like things ending and nothing new there to replace them.
And I don’t really understand why.
If we take illness and frailty out of the equation – you can get ill at any age – I don’t think I have ever been more limited in my possibilities than I have been in the last 8 years. (More info: The main risks to well aging you need to be aware of)
Fellow parents will agree, the first two years with a first newborn and then toddler you have basically no spontaneity left in your life, you are completely controlled by someone elses wants and needs, and for me the first two years with my daughter were followed by the first two years with my son and then, after a short period of slow readjustment, just as he turned four, the pandemic hit and my day job took over my life. (More info: Looking back at 2020 – How it has changed me)
If I look at my parents, my father is well over 80, my mother 72, they have much more means to do whatever they want and whenever they want. Spontaneous trips to France for a few weeks? Sure. Accepting a book deal on a topic they propose? Why not!
They are the perfect example of people being old, but not limited, so where does my fear come from?
Truth is: I don’t know for sure.
I don’t think it is vanity, despite this being a channel dedicated to beauty stuff. I think it is much more a twisted perception of what being old means, fueled by ageism that I have internalized to a point where I exhibit ageist behavior towards myself, fearing a stereotype I get demonstrated every day by the example of my parents isn’t true.
They say being aware of the problem is part of the solution, so that is one step I have taken. And while I contemplate possible ways to change my deep set beliefs – while still trying to prevent jowls, because other than my wrinkles that don’t bother me at all, those really get to me – while I try to figure out ways to deal with it, I would love to hear what you think about this topic and if it is something that ever crossed your mind.
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