Our fear of aging is no accident. It’s the intended result of a culture of anti-aging—a highly profitable culture at that.
We’re conditioned to believe that aging is the enemy and that the only way to feel any kind of peace with the aging process is to try to turn back the clock. We’re bombarded with miracle cures to combat the supposed crime of aging, causing us to seek solutions for what is a completely natural process. In short, we’re encouraged to spend our way to self-acceptance.
This anti-aging agenda is pushed on us from a very early age. Clever and consistent marketing strategies from a billion-dollar beauty industry are instrumental in shaping a view of aging that is rooted in struggle and stress.
We learn to equate youth with beauty and worth. We learn to equate aging with loss and decline. Is it any wonder that we’re uncomfortable with the idea of getting older?
What we’re really scared of is that our best years are behind us. We’re afraid we’ll never look better, feel better, or live with more joy, purpose, or passion.
Here are some of the common fears about aging, along with the facts we often overlook:
1. Fear: “I’ll never look better than I did in my twenties.”
Fact: According to whose standards? The beauty industry’s? Remember that their success is built on the back of our insecurities. Of course they’re going to glorify youth and flawlessness. That’s how they get paid.
Pay attention to the language used in beauty commercials, especially for skincare. Are they describing aging as a problem that requires fixing? Are they using much younger models to promote the benefits of their latest anti-aging line? Who determines what “better” really looks like?
Get curious about how we’re encouraged to define beauty1 and who is best served from us reinforcing those definitions. Curiosity creates awareness, and awareness leads to power and liberation.
2. Fear: “I’ll never feel better than I did in my twenties.”
Fact: Really? Did you feel constantly amazing in your twenties? Did you never have any mental or physical health challenges that you had to overcome? Did you have a constant stream of high energy and a life of zero stress? Or could it be that you’re looking back through the lens of nostalgia and remembering everything with more than a little bit of rose-tint?
While it’s true that there are some aspects of aging that can feel challenging, it’s also true that sometimes we cherry-pick the pieces of the past that bring us the most comfort. But the present moment will also one day be a past memory. Don’t be so focused on looking back that you miss out on the life that’s happening now.
3. Fear: “I don’t have the same drive or passion that I did when I was younger.”
Fact: It doesn’t have to be the same. After all, you’re not the same person you were at 25 or 35. How you respond to life now is bound to be different than you did decades ago because you’ve had much more life experience.
Maybe you’re operating at a different pace at this stage of your life, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. Perhaps the drive and passion you remember from your youth was actually fueled in part by the immense pressure we put on young people to have their lives all figured out.
Once again, check those rose-tinted glasses. Allow yourself to change. Permit yourself to explore a new experience without making comparisons. Honor where you’re at now and find ways to meet yourself in this moment.
4. Fear: “The future is boring and bleak.”
Fact: That’s simply not true. Unless of course you continually affirm this to yourself, in which case it might well be.
If you’re feeling unmotivated about the future then conduct a review of how you’re spending your time now. Are you surrounding yourself with people who inspire and uplift you, or are you keeping company with those who find opportunities to constantly complain? What you do today creates fertile ground for the future. You cannot reap what you haven’t started to sow.
As Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption: “You either get busy living or get busy dying.” The future has the potential to unfold in thousands of amazing ways. Anything is possible. Don’t place limits on a life you haven’t yet lived.
5. Fear: “I won’t be able to control what happens in my life as I age.”
Fact: The idea that we’re completely in control of our lives (at any age) is somewhat of an illusion. However, we can absolutely steer our lives in the direction we’d most like them to go in and lay the foundations for the best possible outcome. Being proactive in all areas of our lives, from finances to physical health, offers a much greater opportunity to enjoy the years ahead.
Ask yourself whether you’re being an active participant in co-creating the life you want, or are you burying your head in the sand and hoping it all magically comes together? Create a daily practice that involves visualization and action. Decide on the future you most want and then take consistent steps towards creating it.
What wisdom and knowledge has aging gifted you with so far?