Not long ago I received a note from a woman in her mid twenty’s expressing her fear of aging. She felt it was out of control and only keeping her from growing into the woman she is meant to be. She does not think poorly of older women, and in fact started her note with “I have seen many gracefully aged women and thought they are fantastic.”
However, she then continued listing some of the things that she is fearful of such as weight gain and the loss of identity, youthful looks, attractiveness, freedom, style and personality (especially around becoming a mother. There are also those unknown fears which she sums up as the “loss of God knows what.”
Sadly, this young woman’s fears are not unfounded. Many cultures in our world are youth oriented. We are bombarded daily with advertisements to look younger, thinner and more hip. TV, magazines, and music videos dictate our hair styles, fashions, and behaviors. Not only that, but if we happen to be old enough to have gray hair or any FINE lines around our eyes, we are directed to the appropriate product to erase any signs of aging.
Is it any wonder that many of us are fearful? The stereotypes around us are so misleading!
We see images of “little old ladies” that may walk hunched over, are poor, and at the mercy of dishonest people. While some images show men aging with distinction, we also see women who are just old, dry and helpless. Hogwash!.
While it is true that our bodies and minds do change with age, I happen to believe that we really do get better as we mature. So, allow me to address some of the fears listed above.
• Loss of Identity. I’ve only, in the past few years really begun to learn who I am. I’ve come into my own. I’m more self confident than ever before (and I still have a way to go!).
• Loss of Youthful looks. I’m going to be 49 in a few days. I do not wish to look like 25. Granted I don’t have lots of wrinkles (only a few very fine lines…they are staying, thank you!) and have only a bit of gray hair that I’ve been cultivating for many years.
• Weight gain. Yes it’s common, but it’s not the rule of thumb. You might notice a slight change in figure even without gaining weight. There is actually a health benefit to being a few pounds heavier, rather than be very thin as you age.
• Loss of attractiveness. I’ve found that my own definition of beauty changes over time. I happen to think that women are actually more attractive. There is a depth and beauty that comes only with age.
• Loss of freedom and personality. I’ve heard many women say aging gives them a freedom that is just not possible when we are younger. I think this is especially true for those of us that are mothers. When we become mothers, we take on a role that is 24/7. However as our children grow, we begin to carve out time and activities that are just for ourselves.
• Loss of style. While I’m not sure I understand this fear, I do know that with age, I find freedom to create who I am without the dictates of the latest, greatest fashion. Since we are more sure of ourselves, we have the freedom to experiment and play with who we are, and the image we want to put out there for the world to see. Personal Style at it’s best!
While some look at growing older as a time of loss, many women see this time of their lives differently. There is so much growth that happens as we age especially in the emotional, spiritual and yes, physical arenas. In order to make the most of getting older, it is vital that you live your life in a vibrant and healthy manner. Smile and laugh daily. Read. Eat well. Sleep well. And always engage in stimulating physical activity or at the very least exercise. Most of all, celebrate your journey through this life.
Barbara C. Phillips, NP, is the founder of NP Business™ and Nurse Practitioner Business Owner™, and works with NPs to get started and grow their own business. To learn more and to become a member of "Nurse Practitioner Business Owner," visit Nurse Practitioner Business Owner.