Men age like wine and women age like milk.
How does that statement make you feel? Doesn’t it make you cringe, knowing that the societal norm dictates that a woman should be unable to accept and even embrace her natural journey through life as comfortably as a man is allowed to?
I think this statement sums up, quite nicely, why women fear aging. But let’s pick apart the reasons behind why such statements even exist and consider some alternative views to aging that allows us to feel more in control of our reactions to a completely uncontrollable experience. Because aging is something that we all encounter, from the day we are born, day in and out until the day we are no more.
First and foremost, we need to understand that we all naturally have a proclivity towards rejecting the very idea of aging. Aging is associated with disease, helplessness and eventually, death. But a disinclination to consider something is somehow very different from fear.
Business creates profits from fear. In the anti-aging business, we are talking like a $200 billion kind of profit. Through clever marketing, women are shown and repeatedly told that aging is associated with failure. It is a process that is cause for embarrassment and your age, once over 21, like other digits you own such as your weight and measurements, are never something to divulge.
A Dermstore poll recently conducted showed that women are using anti-aging products earlier than their elders and in addition, younger generations are experimenting and wearing makeup at a much younger age than was previously considered acceptable. 30% of women under the age of 35, which one in five of these being under the age of 24, are using anti-aging products regularly. Your average millennial began using such products when they were 26, compared to your average 55 year old who began at around the age 47.
At age 40, women can easily become invisible to their employers. The glass ceiling is still a very real barrier with women already earning less than their male counterparts and when you couple sexism with ageism, it can make it extremely difficult for a woman’s worth to be seen.
Likely, a woman has already put her career on hold to raise children and when coming back into the workforce is disadvantaged by several factors of discrimination, including her age which can not only have a negative financial impact but also a negative impact on her emotional wellbeing as well.
Magazines, ads and Hollywood:
Obvious enough to warrant significant placement in this article, following the lives of celebrities can laden us with huge emotional baggage. Actresses and famous models seem to freeze at 35 and those that don’t either fall off the radar or off the wagon, just looking at Demi Moore for example.
The unrelenting pressure of Hollywood whilst dealing with her breakup with younger Ashton Kutcher does make us feel sorry for Moore, but we are all afraid of rejection and watching one’s deep dive only serves to terrify us more, knowing that this could just as easily happen to us.
Speaking of the accumulation of pressure that Demi Moore faced, abandonment is often associated with a woman’s fear of aging. Because many women are at least somewhat financially dependent on their partners, the associated societal acceptance that women do not age as well as men does leave many afraid of the implications of being alone.
Can we find someone else? Can we cope on our own? When looking at the impact of aging on our careers as discussed above, the accumulated concerns easily begin to manifest into a fear which all stems from aging.
So why do women fear aging? Because we have been programmed to believe that our worth is skin deep. It is difficult to fight the bombardment of advertising that hounds us, having us believe they care. Beyond the mirror, aging invokes discrimination that has very real implications on our financial and mental stability, all giving reason to fear the inevitable.
We have some good news.
Although middle aged people are found to be the most unhappy statistically, we do get happier as we get older. “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter”. Thanks, Mark Twain.
Just quickly, simply recognising what your belief systems were when you were growing up can do a lot to help you shift your perspective. If you grew up preparing for the burden of age, the weight of accumulated years on your back, this is exactly how it will feel for you.
Rather than viewing life as a wave that peaks at 40 before riding a steep decline towards the end, perhaps see it as a staircase where you ascend with wellbeing, spirit and wisdom so that you can better lead a life with intention.
As you would have often heard, you are a human being, not a human doing. The value you have in your career does not define you and retirement should not be the end of your worth in society. Leave off asking ‘what do you do for a living?’ and ask instead ‘what do you like doing?’ or ‘what makes you happy?’
Finally, work at recognising that you are not your body. With age comes certainty in yourself, power that is attractive to the right people, wisdom that gives you a deeper understanding and self-love that should have no expiration date.