Do you ever catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror as you're coming out of the shower or getting dressed — and your eyes zero in on “that part?” You know the one that's shape-shifting and so obediently obeying the laws of gravity?
That wasn't there last week was it? Or last year? You KNOW it wasn't there five years ago. ARGHHHHH!!! What's happening here?
Maybe it's on your face or thighs or midsection. Whatever you do, do not hold up a mirror to get a rear view!
There's some small part of everyone that believes aging won't happen to US. That's for old people. Inside we still feel 30 (or whatever the youthful number is for you). And if we feel that way inside, why oh why is our outside betraying us so cruelly?
Aging can really take its toll on your self-confidence, especially in this youth-oriented, appearance focused culture. (Have you seen the latest news stories on the trend of women wanting a “thigh gap” where their thighs don't touch even with their feet together? Really??)
No matter how young you feel, how healthy you may be, how well you take care of yourself — aging happens without your permission or input. You can stave it off for a time with creams and surgery and exercise and hair pieces, but eventually all of those efforts blow out the window, along with a good chunk of your self-confidence.
This realization has hit me hard in the last few years. This “thing” that once seemed so far in the distance is now upon me. And I don't like it. I pouted about it for a while and still find myself wanting to stomp my feet at the unfairness of it all. Isn't there something we can do to put the brakes on this slippery aging slope?
So much of self-confidence is wrapped up in how we look and how we think others perceive us. As we see the signs of aging, not only do we deal with the pain of physical changes, but also the stress of accepting we have little control over the situation. It's a double blow to self-confidence.
For the most part in the last year or so, I've worked to befriended aging and have tried to look on the bright side of getting older. (It's either that or have myself cryogenically frozen and hope for the best when I thaw out in a few hundred years.)
Appearance isn't everything. In fact it's not much of anything when it comes down to what's truly important, sustainable, and valuable about life. The things that foster long-term self-confidence are accessible to us whether or not we have wrinkles, saggy skin, or little hair.
In fact there are many reasons to feel more confident as we age if we can unhinge from the unsettling physical changes and appreciate the benefits of aging.
Here are 5 ways to help you love your wiser self and feel more confident as you grow older.
1. Self-esteem increases as you age
A long-term study reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association, reveals that self-esteem improves as we grow toward middle age and peaks around the age of 60. It may be the peak in self-esteem happens because people have achieved some professional success, have learned how to manage personal relationships and have some leisure time.
2. 40, 50, and 60 aren't the same as our parents' 40, 50, and 60
When you were 20 and thought of yourself at midlife, you probably imagined retirement villages and elastic-waist pants. But this generation of mid-lifers isn't the same as our parent's generation. We are more educated about health and exercise, take better care of ourselves, and have many more options for staying active, connected, and engaged in life. We don't have to buy into preconceived notions about getting older. We can find our passions, begin new careers, run marathons, and reinvent ourselves completely.
3. Our brains are getting better
According to CNN.com, “Research details a number of ways in which the brain actually improves with age. And what's even more interesting is that many of these advanced abilities correlate with key conceptual elements of innovation and creativity.” As we get older, we are better able to see the big picture, be more empathetic, make important mental connections, anticipate problems, and reason things out. There's not a shrinking but an enlargement of mental life and perspective.
4. Greater self-awareness
As you get older, you have more experiences and time for self-reflection on what you have learned through those experiences. You grow in emotional maturity and self-awareness, and as you gain more and more self-awareness, your experience of life will expand exponentially. You have learned to align your life with your integrity, your values, your purpose, your passion, your spirituality, and connect with the core of who you are.
5. More focus on what's truly important
During our young adult years, we tend to focus on ego-driven superficial pursuits — making lots of money, accumulating material things, appearing a certain way to others. But as we get older, we have learned what's truly important and valuable in life. These things include our relationships, meaningful work, interesting and fulfilling experiences, continued growth and learning, and joy in simple things.
Getting older can impact self-confidence if we focus on the physical changes and the loss of youth. But why struggle against something we can't control? Instead, choose to focus your attention on the positive aspects of getting older. You may find your self-confidence gets better and better with each passing year.
How has aging impacted your outlook? Do you find yourself focused on the changes in your appearance or do you appreciate your wiser self? Please share your thoughts in the comments.