When you notice the lines around your eyes, how do you feel?
When you imagine your next birthday milestone, what do you think?
Chances are if you’ve been socialized in our culture – particularly as a woman – your thoughts about aging may be causing you some stress.
It’s no surprise when you consider the youth-obsessed culture we live in.
We prize flash and novelty. We herald youth as the epitome of beauty.
We are taught to regard older people as irrelevant and out of touch.
Who would aspire to that?
And beyond that, we are taught that a woman’s value is explicitly tied to her sexuality – and specifically, her youth.
We are taught that a woman’s value is in her physical appearance and sexuality and that we peak in our teens or 20s (so a woman’s physical appearance and sexuality have a short shelf life).
In other words, we’re taught that the most important thing about us is whether men want to fuck us and that men only want to fuck us for a short period of time.
Is it any wonder women become obsessed with their appearance and dread the signs of aging?
It’s not vanity or frivolity. It’s a reasonable response to what you’ve been taught. As long as you believe your value or worth depends on how you look, you will be obsessed with how you look.
And if you believe your age is a part of that, you will be obsessed with aging.
At its core, the anxiety, insecurity, and fear about aging is a fear about the loss of approval and about the loss of power and control.
Women are taught that our appearance is our power.
We are taught that our most valuable asset is how we look.
Even if your parents taught you otherwise, you grew up in a society that surrounds you with these messages.
Add that to the general disrespect of older people our society exhibits regardless of gender, and you have a potent poison cocktail of thoughts.
The fear of aging and an obsession with our appearance isn’t about aging itself.
It’s about power and relevance.
With thoughts like these, of course we would fear aging!
The fetishization of youth makes us dread being older, and we accept these fears as the Truth About Life.
We accept the narrative that being young is inherently better than being old, and we dread obsolescence.
But I have some good news for you.
All this fear and anxiety around aging isn’t because aging is inherently bad or awful.
It’s because of what we are THINKING about getting older.
But your power does not, in fact, come from how you look.
Think about it: what is power, anyway?
It’s not a circumstance, because it can be defined so many different ways by different people.
It’s not how other people regard you.
Plenty of people have all the external markers of power and success, and yet they feel powerless. Just ask the 17 year old cover model subsisting on coffee and cocaine, who’s terrified of gaining a pound. She may be booking magazines and making millions of dollars, but I can guarantee you she doesn’t feel powerful.
That’s because powerful is a FEELING.
You want to feel powerful.
You want to feel empowered.
You want to believe in your own power, within yourself. You want to feel like an agent who can act upon the world, rather than a passive item the world acts upon.
Who is the opposite of that model, whose “power” depends entirely on her youth and beauty and who probably feels powerless despite her success?
(Stay with me).
In many cultures there are three archetypes of women: the maiden, the mother, and the crone. They relate roughly to age (young, middle-aged, old) and sexuality (virgin, sexually active for procreation, past the age of sexuality).
We are currently culturally obsessed with the maiden and the mother.
But we need to pay more attention to the crone.
The crone is powerful.
The crone lives outside society’s little boxes.
The crone doesn’t give a fuck about her fuckability.
The crone has no fucks to give.
Imagine what you would do in your life if you weren’t worried about what other people thought and who would want to sleep with you.
Imagine what you would do if you weren’t invested in the tyranny of conventional beauty norms.
Imagine if you just did not give a fuck about what other people thought of you?
This is the power of the crone.
This is why I don’t fear getting older.
For one thing, learning to love my body as a fat woman whose body is regarded as disgusting by mainstream society has taught me that feeling attractive comes entirely from your own thoughts – and that people will always be attracted to you at any size or shape.
But for another thing, and more importantly, I find that the older I get and the more I learn to manage my mind, the less I care what other people think. The less it matters to me whether I’m conventionally attractive or fuckable or not.
Getting older has meant becoming more and more in love with myself, and giving fewer and fewer fucks about what other people think.
How did I get here?
Thought work, of course.
My power comes from my thoughts and my ability to decide for myself what to think and how to feel.
I choose to accept the reality of aging instead of resisting the reality of life – which is that we all age, and are aging every moment we are alive.
When we aren’t willing to get older, when we try to seem younger, we are rejecting our current selves and our current life.
So of course that feels terrible!
People say that youth is wasted on the young.
But I think it’s more accurate to say the present is always wasted on us, at any age, when we are not stopping to appreciate and experience it.
No matter what age you are, your experience is created by your thoughts.
Your current thoughts about aging were programmed into your brain without you even realizing it. But it’s your job to rewrite that code.
And that requires that you decide for yourself how you want to value yourself.
How do you want to spend your time on this earth?
Do you want to spend it trying to stay fuckable in conventional society’s eyes for as long as possible?
Or would you rather spend that time and energy on going after your wildest dreams, on creating your macramé masterpiece or going on safari or starting your commune or whatever else you want to do?
You get to create your own value, for yourself, at any age. When you create your own value, when you embrace your power to create value for yourself, you won’t care what anyone else thinks.
And when you are living a life you love with purpose and intention, you don’t fear what’s to come.
Because you know you have lived on purpose, and that you can create your experience with your thoughts no matter what circumstances you are in.
I can’t wait to meet the version of myself I’m going to become.
You can feel that way too. It’s up to you.