My grandma Grace always used to say, “No matter how old you are on the outside, you always feel about 12 years old on the inside.” She also told me that acting like a 12-year-old when you’re not is a great way to put your reputation at risk.
And she’s right. We do feel young at heart. But what do we actually project? How do others see us?
Unfortunately, we live in a fundamentally ageist society. Our culture values the mythology of eternal youth, which explains why Stevie Nicks still looked 40 when I saw her in concert last month. For her, and the rest of us, the pressure to stay young looking as we age often permeates all other areas of focus.
Here are some of the misperceptions associated with the aging process and the facts:
- The older you get the less you care about others’ opinions. Perhaps. But since your world and connections have grown dramatically through children, friends and colleagues, how you are seen by others actually becomes even more important.
- The only good thing about getting old is Social Security. OK, so there’s a kernel of truth in that. But there are other benefits, too. For starters, you feel more comfortable in your own skin. On top of that, emotions such as sadness, anger and fear become less pronounced, as opposed to our roller-coaster drama-filled younger years. We also gain clarity on our priorities.
- You don’t have to fight as hard to prove your credibility. Since everyone knows this isn’t your first rodeo, you get the benefit of perceived experience, which instills trust. Nevertheless, you have to work harder to tell the right story about who you are and what you bring to the table. By always focusing on the results you’ve achieved, you’ll help overcome prejudices that come with outside indicators such as gray hair and “crinkles.”
I dismissed my dear Gram’s notion that acting your age impacts your personal brand, but now I know she was right. And you can change other people’s perceptions of aging to viewing it as a fine-tuning process. You just have to believe it yourself—and act accordingly.
Knowing that our time on Earth is limited should motivate us to seek adventure, to take risks, to make the most of every moment. That’s why a growing number of people are living young (even without Botox injections).
Before you act . . .
Regardless of your age, keep an open mind, be willing to learn new things and build meaningful relationships. The last thing you want out of life is a pile of regrets about what might have been.