While looking at one of my favorite websites, I couldn’t help notice the similarities of the models. I applaud the site for the diversity. This particular site has done a fine job of inclusion. But, there was something else that was strikingly similar about the models, their age. They all appeared fourteen years old. Mind you; I was shopping on a grown ass woman’s website. Why were the models so young? These youths got my mind racing. Am I…old??? When did that happen? Earlier on this particular day (when I was browsing my favorite website) I was patting myself on the back; I had become so self-confident. After finally coming to terms with my age and growing older; I am at long last comfortable in my skin. Now, this fresh hell has been thrust upon me.
I’m not mad about it. I don’t mind being older. Well, maybe I am a little hurt. My body hurts in a way it didn’t when I was young that’s for damn sure. When you’re young you can fall out of the back of a truck, jump right back in, swim all day in the creek, and tell ghost stories around a campfire at night (I’m from the South, that’s what we do ’round here). Your muscles do start to change in your 30’s, says Alan Hayes a muscle and exercise physiologist. So it’s biologies fault! I have nothing to do with what’s happening to my body, right? Yes and no. There are so many factors, and I’m no scientist so I can only guess what the hell is going on. It could be my activity level. It could be hereditary. It could be my lifestyle. It could be the phases of the moon. Or it could be a combination of these things. Some of these things I can control, some of these things I cannot. That’s life’s way of separating the weak from the strong or something sinister like that.
As I was looking at these beautiful young models, I got lost for a moment thinking about my youth. When I was young, I was so insecure. I worried so much about what the world thought about me. Now that I am 40ish, I realize that nobody is thinking about me or looking at me. They are too concerned about themselves. That’s a privilege of age. Everyone gets a life of their own and no longer has time to be concerned with mine. I also realized that regardless of what people thought about my life, it would continue to go forward. I’m fortunate enough that my livelihood does not rely on public opinion. A wise person once told me that when we’re unhappy with the behavior of someone else we’re projecting the unhappiness we feel about our behavior. Dr. Ashlee Greer confirmed that when she wrote, “9 times out of 10 when you’re worried about what other people think – it’s a projection. You’re projecting your fears and your own internalized self-judgment onto other people. You’re pinning on them what you think. So when we take responsibility for letting go of other people’s judgments we empower ourselves to stop being harsh and judgmental with ourselves too.” Well said wise people, well said.
Now that I’m feeling older and looking older, do I have to start acting older? I’ve already tried to be Martha Stewart (read about that here), and that was a huge failure so now what? My forced early retirement, my marriage(s) ending, my son growing up (why God why?), put me in a transitional stage of my life. While I am looking for the next step; I do not believe I am going through a midlife crisis (although a new sports car would be great), but I am searching. I feel smart, capable, qualified, but I also feel crippled. Crippled by my car accident (you can read about that here), crippled from being “retired” for 11 years, and crippled from not knowing what in the hell is going on in the world anymore. So I decided to start taking some risks. They all paid off. Maybe? I registered for a class at Parson’s, I joined The Community (of Us), and I started this blog. I was transitioning from my youngish age to middle age, and I was stuck. According to the HuffPost, I was doing something that was beneficial by overcoming fear, getting to know myself better, stimulating my creativity, and becoming more marketable. If I’m on the same page as the HuffPost before I even look at it, I’m a freakin’ wizard or something, js.
All this to say that I’m 40ish, and I’m looking better than ever because I’m feeling better than ever with who I am in this world. I never dared to do that when I was young, which is heartbreaking. Having felt less than for a long time, I didn’t allow myself to pursue my own goals because I felt inferior to others. I accepted unpleasant treatment from others based on how I felt about my worth. When I was younger, my low self-esteem was partly to blame on placing the opinions of others above my own. My low self-esteem was also brought on by my negative body image. Like so many young girls, I thought that if only I were thinner, I would be happier. One study reports that at age thirteen, 53% of American girls are “unhappy with their bodies.” This grows to 78% by the time the girls reach seventeen. I only wish I had my seventeen-year-old body now. How many 40ish-year-old women can say that? Why are we so hard on ourselves when we’re young? It hit me one day like a ton of bricks when I read a quote by Elsa Schiaparelli, “Women dress to be annoying to other women.” The only person who ever notices how I look is another female. And comparison made me F’ing nuts. I’m much happier now that I let that sh*t go.
My youth may be (almost) gone but so are my ridiculous insecurities. Another great benefit of being just a little bit older is the positive shift in priorities. I can see what’s important in life. I no longer have time to focus on the pettiness. I am old enough to know that peace of mind, health, and happiness are the good life. While youth is beautiful and should be enjoyed to the fullest, a weighted blanket and the new Brené Brown book are just as enjoyable on a Friday night, sometimes.
Do you ever look at advertisements and feel less than? Do you wonder when the years passed away? Are you happier now than when you were younger? Tell me how you feel about aging in the comments.