I recently held a survey on whether ageing is positive. I was shocked when 42% of respondents claimed to find it a negative experience. It may be surprising to hear it from a woman in her 50s, but I LOVE my age!
Of course, I’ve had those moments of wishing I was younger and not labelled as 'middle aged’ - feeling invisible, no longer attractive and with no real value. But I’m ever mindful that you can’t turn the clock back – and trying to will only leave you disillusioned and unhappy fighting a futile battle you’ll never win.
My attitude comes largely from my own beautiful mum (who would have been 82 today) who always said ‘focus on what you have and not what you don’t’. Nowhere is that so true as with getting older.
I live every day by her values, embracing the changes and truly valuing the experience of age.
I do have my down days though and when I do start to struggle I take time to remind myself of the things I’m most grateful for.
That’s not some ‘psycho-Grace approach' to cheering myself up though, it’s deep-rooted in science; 40 separate studies demonstrate that acts of gratitude improve our mood, relationships and even enhances our longevity.
Ageing brings a lot of positives; physical, emotional and psychological. I was delighted, for example, to read that we’re smarter as we age; a fact I wasted no time sharing with my somewhat cynical 18-year-old daughter!
Our vocabulary, spatial orientation and problem-solving abilities are better in our 40s and 50s than our 20s.
And there are other, less measurable things to be grateful for. Here are my top three;
I’ve really come to appreciate and accept 'who I am’. I allow myself the freedom to be myself and I recognise that takes courage.
I don’t spend time and energy trying to be someone else, recognising my weaknesses as well as strengths, and I feel good about me.
I worry less about what people think of me, am more confident in my decisions, and have a real sense of my true value and worth, which has little to do with how I look or what I do.
The biggest thing I do to manage the super-high expectations that I’ve always put on myself is to have a sense of self-compassion. I’ve stopped being my worst critic, which just chips at your self-worth and self-esteem.
Time is precious as we get older. My time is the most important thing I have. I really try hard to let go of the trivial and focus on what and who matters. Not always easy with the fast-paced and frantic lives we seem to lead!
It was two years ago this week that I lost my mum. I’d have given anything to have more time with her.
It really hits home how precious time is and how easy it is to take it for granted.
I feel I’ve become more positive and have less negative emotions; especially when compared to my younger years of roller-coaster filled drama. Maybe it’s because we become savvier at navigating the stresses, challenges or conflicts we face?
I also feel much stronger emotionally, and I think a big part of that is that I’m OK with being vulnerable, showing my emotions and asking for help. Being able to come clean and admit ‘I’m not OK’, knowing it has nothing to do with weakness, is really quite liberating.
Brene Brown’s Ted talk on the power of vulnerability is one of my all-time favourites, and I love her view that ‘what makes you vulnerable makes you beautiful'.
That’s my list, and I'd love to hear from you with yours.
Every day I work hard not to be part of the problem, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, focusing on the negatives so much that it becomes part of my thinking and conversations.
Instead, I remain positive, refusing to engage in society's endless ‘older women’ bashing and appreciating every day - always grateful.
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